Bridging the sustainability communications gap

Green shoots around a typewriter

Less than 5% of consumers understand terms like ‘carbon neutral’, ‘carbon offsetting’ and ‘biodiversity’, according to research 

With sustainability and ‘being green’ high on the agenda for many companies, and rightly so in our current climate, it is vital that your audiences understand your messages. 

Fleet Street, in collaboration with market research firm Trajectory, conducted a study to explore consumer understanding of commonly used sustainability terms. The findings revealed that audiences value straightforward and easy-to-understand language. Something we, as an agency, value too. 

Terms like ‘recyclable’ and ‘locally-sourced’ landed more positively than ‘sustainable’ or ‘circularity’. Those in the sustainability space would do well to remember the impact their language has. Done well, you take people with you. Done badly, you create a gap – or worse.

Bridging the gap with clear communication in sustainability messaging is vital. 

Why is this language used?

So, why are these terms now more widely used? Simply put, because people care. 

Consumers are increasingly interested in companies’ environmental credentials. Potential employees seek eco-conscious employers. And stakeholders demand robust environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices. 

Companies should take pride in their genuine environmental efforts. Positive steps to enhance business operations, promote eco-friendly practices, and support green initiatives deserve to be celebrated – and communicated effectively. 

Communicating your sustainability efforts

To effectively communicate sustainability, embed it into every aspect of your practice and ensure you are genuine in your efforts. Consumers are increasingly sensitive for insincere green claims.  

Don’t just create a single webpage or a stock line in your communications. Ensure your sustainability message permeates all your content. 

And authenticity is key; back up your claims with data and evidence. Show, don’t just tell. If you want to avoid ‘greenwashing’, be transparent about your initiatives. And don’t talk about your impact if you’re not genuinely making a difference.

Those who think they can spin, take note: regulators are cracking down on green claims too, so you need to have your house in order. See the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) scrutinising Unilever as an example. They investigated whether Unilever is overstating how green certain products are through vague and broad claims.

If you’re confident your claims can stand up to scrutiny, choose your language carefully. Explain complex terms, consider images or graphic to illustrate initiatives, and don’t assume knowledge.

We’ll give your communications the green light

Need help crafting your sustainability messages? We can assist in identifying your key messages, ensuring clarity, and selecting the right communication channels. 

Get in touch if you think we could help you. 

Written by Arianne Smart.


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