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Greenwashing Sustainability Social Media

Influencers avoiding climate content for fear of being branded greenwashers


By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

September 13, 2023 | 4 min read

84% of content creators on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram feel they need to refrain from posting sustainable content, according to research from Unilever.

Influencers caught up in greenwashing politics amid rise in green-led content

Influencers caught up in greenwashing politics amid rise in green-led content

A new study from Unilever has found that 76% of content creators want to talk about climate issues but over a third (38%) are afraid of greenwashing.

The research, which polled 232 global content creators across YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, found that a majority (84%) felt they needed to hold back on posting sustainable content for one reason or another.

It makes for disheartening reading considering the power influencers hold in changing consumers’ green behaviours. Research has shown that social media content has the potential to drive more sustainable behaviors, with 78% of consumers claiming influencers have the biggest impact on their green choices. The same study found that 83% of people think TikTok and Instagram are good places to get advice on sustainable living.

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Sustainable-led creator content has been on the rise with trends like de-influencing, food waste chefs and those promoting low-carbon lifestyles. 63% of those polled have created more sustainability-led content in 2023 compared with 2022, while 76% said they wanted to produce more in the future.

Along with greenwashing fears, creators reported other barriers to producing green content, with many feeling they weren’t educated enough on sustainability issues to be a voice on the topic and some fearing being canceled by their followers for getting involved.

Creator Council

In a bid to address the issues exposed in the research, Unilever has set up a Creator Council to help influencers and brands navigate the complex political and regulatory environment. The founding partners are in the midst of drawing up a framework that would give influencers guidelines that would ensure content was up-to-date with the latest climate science.

The council will partner with the sustainability experts from Count Us In, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Rare and Futerra Solutions Union. It will be led by a community of social media content creators across the travel, beauty and lifestyle sectors.

The study comes a week after The Drum reported on growing greenwashing concerns around influencers being used by fossil fuel companies to help improve their image and win the trust of younger generations.

Greenwashing Sustainability Social Media

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