Agile Insights Blog

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Guilty of Greenwashing (and other CSR-related offenses)?

Jun 27, 2022 12:42:56 PM

If there is even a chance that your customers think that your company spends more time and money marketing how socially responsible it is than actually investing in such efforts, this post is for you. There has been a lot of attention in the press lately on businesses that are suspected of greenwashing, or “CSR-washing”, and it would be wise for companies to take a deeper look into their sustainability and ethical practices and investments before they themselves land in the negative spotlight. 

The words “sustainability”, “eco-friendly”, “diverse”  and “green” have become major buzzwords on the shelves, in press releases, and in marketing campaigns in the last few years - especially as statistics show that consumers are becoming more and more likely to say they will pay more for brands that are socially responsible and focused on protecting the environment. In fact, almost 90% of Gen X consumers said that they would be willing to spend an extra 10% or more for sustainable products, compared to only 34% just two years ago. (Forbes, March 2022). It’s no wonder that companies are trying to capitalize on this growing customer priority, eager to develop and promote more natural products made responsibly and promote an increasingly diverse and accepting workplace culture. But even with the best intentions, many companies aren’t actually practicing what they preach - and are now being exposed for it. 

Gone are the days when brands could just stick a green label on their product and call it “natural” or businesses could tout workplace equality simply because they subscribe to yearly diversity training.  Consumers today want to see receipts and if companies can’t prove themselves to be trustworthy, they will move on the next. A 2021 study by the Havas Group notes that we’ve entered an ‘age of cynicism’ where 70% of consumers are tired of empty promises from companies and feel that less than half of brands are trustworthy. 

“Listening more closely to the voice of the customer will enable retailers and brands to offer more than just performative measures when it comes to ESG priorities.” - Forbes, March 2022

With brand trust at an all-time low, but consumer expectation at an all-time high, it would be beneficial for businesses to get an accurate picture of how their consumers view their corporate responsibility efforts. Authenticity and honesty are key, particularly with younger generations who are gaining more and more buying power. 

Here are the steps we recommend taking in order to gut-check if your marketing matches your actual efforts and to build more brand trust with your customers:

Perform a voice of the customer research study to determine how your customers really view your brand versus the competition. Vennli will partner with you to develop a custom study that provides insights into how trustworthy your brand is perceived to be and where there may be gaps.

  1. Determine if your communication strategies and messaging really align with your brand’s core principles and values. If not, it’s likely you are coming across to your customers are inauthentic. 
  2. Identify which causes and initiatives your brand can genuinely align with and consider taking greater action. You should look for a few easy ‘wins’ instead of trying to force multiple brand attributes that just don’t align organically.
  3. Find genuine ways to connect your customers with your causes and content.
  4. Test new messaging prior to launch to ensure you will get the positive reactions you are hoping for. 
  5. Using the Vennli Fame Index, continue to monitor consumer brand associations as they will inevitably contribute to a potential customer’s decision to consider and ultimately purchase.

Tracy Corry
Written by Tracy Corry

Digital Marketing Strategist with 20 years experience, dedicated to helping brands create meaningful connections with their customers.

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