In a previous article, I help you identify your company’s sustainability type.
Before messaging sustainability, it is important to know your company type.
To recap, there are three types of company categories:
- Sustainability in the DNA
- Sustainability integrated into the business and vision/mission
- Traditional, with no sustainability plan*
(*a sustainabilty related product, such as solar panels or energy efficient homes, does not qualify as category 1 or 2 listed above; usually these companies fall into category 3 with no integration. But, by default, they are a sustainability related product.)
The 5 most common sustainability pitfalls often occur when a category 3 company attempts to market their sustainabilty efforts. When reviewing the stories and web sites of Category 3 companies, they almost always fall into two or more of the following sustainabilty marketing pitfalls:
1. Overstating or exaggerating their efforts, usually characterized by saying things like, ‘saving the world’, ‘good for the planet’, ‘change the world’, or ‘revolutionary.’
2. Not reporting of weaknesses, and little or no transparency; no looking upstream or analyzing supply chain.
3. No sustainability reporting.
4. Wrong words, lingo, or graphics
5. No CSR → no NGO alignment. The message often focuses on the greatness of the company, awards, and very little about stakeholders.
It is what it is
How does a category 3 company avoid these 5 pitfalls?
The easiest way for a category 3 company to avoid the above pitfalls is to call a product exactly what it is, stay clear of environmental language, and default to the fundamentals of good marketing.
When the above pitfalls are made, it can cause more brand damage than bad PR. For Category 3 companies, sometimes the best sustainability narrative is no sustainability narrative.