How Brands Can Address Sustainability Issues

As the call for brands and business leadership to become more eco-conscious grows louder, companies face an even tougher challenge than bringing green practices into the workplace, namely, building authenticity behind their efforts.

Recently, Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Nestle have all taken a step forward into the eco-conscious sphere to the tune of critics and consumers alike, with accusations of greenwashing being hurled against their brands.

It’s fair to say that no good deed goes unpunished. However, that shouldn’t prevent brands from stepping up to do what they think is right. To avoid much of the backlash and public scrutiny, your actions should speak louder than words. Get inspired by the following best practices.

Go Public with Sustainability Efforts

There are countless ways for companies to become more eco-friendly.

Whether you’re eliminating plastic straws from your stores or participating in community cleanup, don’t let the fear of backlash stop you from sharing your mission with the public. There may be some consumers who think your actions are purely for publicity, and that’s okay. There will be countless others who acknowledge your efforts and perhaps follow your lead.

By going public, you’re spreading awareness — a critical element of change. No matter which side people take, they’re joining the conversation on the issue to continue building awareness, and that can only be considered a step in the right direction.

Back Up Promises with a Plan

Help others see the big picture.

Many companies are accused of greenwashing or spinning sustainability efforts solely for PR purposes and not for the improvement of the environment. This is one of the biggest risks for business leadership teams who want to go public about their efforts, and many may feel discouraged to make certain changes.

To combat this, don’t sum up your intentions in a headline.

Instead, also share details of your plans, including your timeline for implementation, to show you’re walking the talk. Provide solutions and reasons for your decision, give a backstory, and share what you hope will come as a result.

Build Sustainability into Brand Culture

No step toward sustainability can truly do the brand justice without somehow shaping eco-conscious decisions into its culture. It’s easy for any company to plant a tree or start a recycling program, but unless green thinking is woven into your culture, there’s nothing to separate your efforts from your other one-off PR moves.

Instead, take a page from the playbooks of companies with a truly eco-friendly culture. For example, German search engine Ecosia promises to use 80 percent or more of its profits to plant trees. Grove Collaborative sells only eco-friendly or natural home and personal care products and has a goal to plant more than one million trees within the next three years.

Sustainability is simply part of their culture, which makes their efforts to give back to the earth more authentic. While taking on a complete eco-conscious transformation might not be the best fit for your brand, you can make your efforts more authentic through consistency.

As long as you’re making sustainable decisions for the right reasons, then nothing that any consumer group says or does can diminish the bigger picture.