From the Curious team: How to avoid ‘Greenwashing’ your brand

Curious designer Emma Clarke takes a look at what being green really means when it comes to branding…

Creating a sustainable brand is no longer a niche topic.  No matter where you look there will be something that mentions either climate change or sustainability. Finally people are starting to realise that our impact is becoming a significant threat to the planet. But if we don’t start actually addressing these issues now, will our planet still be around in 50 years time?

The time to step up is here

Most consumers in the past few years have started to incorporate sustainable practices in their day to day lives. This includes providing things such as reusable coffee cups, reusable straws and avoiding single use plastics (take note McDonald’s). And this has opened up a whole new marketplace for brands to grow into and for new brands to fill a gap. Consumers are becoming more clued up on where their products are coming from and the process behind how their products are made. There’s a rise in consumers seeking out brands which are more environmentally friendly. Companies are being forced to step up, listen and be more transparent. Brands who are failing to address these issues are losing out on a whole group of consumers.

Over the past few years, more and more sustainable brands have been popping up and growing in popularity. And a lot of these brands have been joining the market in a very disruptive way.

Here are a few that have been leading the way and making a positive impact…

Oatly

oatly sustainability report
Source: Oatly

Although Oatly has been around for years they have really started to dominate the sustainability market. Take their disruptive and playful slogan ‘like milk, but for humans’ as an example. They get across their message of doing everything they can to produce a plant-based milk in a way that’s the least harmful to the environment as possible.

For years Oatly has been releasing an annual sustainability report. This sounds like it would be a very dull, filled with pages and pages of technical jargon but Oatly has put their unique spin on it. Although the report is very informative, the pages are filled with illustrations and key stats pulled out in Oatly’s quirky tone of voice. This has made a document which would probably just be skimmed past into something which is actually enjoyable to read. Not only are Oatly producing a product which aligns with many consumers’ beliefs, they are educating people on ways in which brands should be stepping up and listening to those consumers’ beliefs.

KeepCup

KeepCup, a certified b corporation
Source: KeepCup

Another brand which has been pioneering the sustainable marketplace is KeepCup. Nowadays when you walk into a coffee shop you’ll almost always see someone getting their coffee in a reusable cup. KeepCup has created a product which makes having a significant environmental impact a very simple task. But their goal isn’t just reducing their consumers’ environmental footprint. KeepCup has a very detailed responsibility section on their website outlining all the ways in which they are trying to be as environmentally conscious as possible. A large part of this is how they manufacture their products. They have made a real effort to try and manufacture close to where they are selling, thereby reducing their transit footprint – “The savings are not financial; they are environmental.”

Teapigs

teapigs packaging breakdown
Source: teapigs

Teapigs is another great example of a brand really doing their bit for the planet. Their whole brand was built off trying to make every product they create either recyclable, compostable or made from recycled materials. With tea bags being a generally non-recyclable product, Teapigs have taken it upon themselves to create tea bags which contain no plastic. Their tea bags even come in a bag which looks like plastic but is made from wood pulp, so is also compostable. They were the first tea company to be certified plastic free. Even though they are no longer the only certified plastic free tea company, they led the way. Other companies, take note.

The new environmental changes and breakthroughs shouldn’t just be down to challenger brands popping up, the large corporations have a role to play too. Consumers are becoming more interested in knowing what large brands are doing about their environmental responsibility.

Danone

danone sustainability model
Source: Danone

Danone is a large corporation making big changes to adapt to the new sustainability conscious world. They are learning and growing from how their production journey impacts the environment, and ways to improve this. Over the last few years they have made a real attempt on reducing their emissions, from the very beginning of their production line all the way through to delivering to consumers. They’re even telling everyone when they believe what they’re doing isn’t enough for goodness sake! But this shows consumers that the brand is honest. It’s also a great step forward to show other brands that it’s okay not to get it 100% right first time (after all, we can’t all be perfect).

Put your money where your mouth (brand) is

Consumers are paying more attention to which brands are addressing the sustainability issues and which brands aren’t. If brands want to survive in today’s world, they’re going to have to do more than just talk about environmental issues. They are going to have to really work on them. Consumers want to see dedication to the plan. All these new businesses popping up have really helped to educate people on what can be done. But is this causing other companies to see what people want and start to greenwash? Or will consumers become savvy to this giving smaller companies the chance to keep proving themselves?