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Brand Purpose Greenwashing Climate Crisis

CIM study: 49% of marketers weary of sustainability ads amid ‘greenwashing’ backlash


By John Glenday, Reporter

October 13, 2021 | 5 min read

The Chartered Institute of Marketing has provided fresh insight into the quandary faced by UK marketers seeking to promote their sustainability credentials, with half fearing that they will be tarred with the ‘greenwashing’ brush.


The findings dovetail with the Competition and Markets Authority’s ’Green Claims Code’

Marketers tread on egg shells

  • Consumers have become more engaged on sustainability issues than ever before, demanding insight into the policies and agendas of those they do business with.
  • The survey drew responses from 200 marketing professionals and 2,000 consumers to arrive at its findings, revealing that 63% of the public wished to see better communication around the sustainability of products and services.
  • This enthusiasm is at odds with the 49% of marketers, who are weary of working on sustainability marketing campaigns. Many fear they will be accused of ‘greenwashing’ – championing environmental causes for commercial rather than ethical reasons.

Skills shortage

  • The situation is further clouded by 40% of marketers admitting that they lack relevant sustainability marketing qualifications, exposing a worrying skills gap at the heart of the crisis.

  • More concerningly, 76% of marketers say they have been involved in some form of sustainability work over the past five years, despite a lack of formal training.

Sustainability is of paramount importance

  • Despite these drag factors, 55% of marketers’ companies and clients made sustainability a business priority, with 51% fearing that climate change represents an existential threat to their business or clients.

  • Concerns are elevated particularly among the younger cohort of 18-34-year-olds, who have most at stake from climate change, with 59% of this group more likely to buy products or services from a brand that promotes sustainability v just 31% among those aged 55 and over.

  • CIM marketing director Gemma Butler said: “We see regulation is coming to try and stem the volume of ‘greenwashing,’ and this is a good thing. To really make progress in tackling the sustainability challenge, we must see businesses be more open and transparent about their impact on the environment as consumers, employees and indeed investors are all asking for it.”

Breaking the deadlock

  • The findings dovetail with the Competition and Markets Authority’s ’Green Claims Code,’ which seeks to make brands more accountable for their environmental pronouncements by encouraging upskilling in tools and knowledge.

  • Butler added: “Every marketer should remind themselves that their job is not just about driving click-throughs or marketing a product. They are in a unique position to influence social change, mediating the relationship between brands and their customers. They should act as a catalyst for positive change and have an important role to play in making sure that brands have sustainability high up on the priority list.”

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Brand Purpose Greenwashing Climate Crisis

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