The Drum Awards Festival - Official Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Environment Brand Strategy Greenwashing

Green messaging needs to be engaging as well as compliant

By Alicia Upton, Senior Marketing Executive

Media Bounty


The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

Find out more

April 4, 2024 | 6 min read

Most people are yet to be won over by green messaging, says Alicia Upton of Media Bounty. With more regulation on the horizon, it's time to ensure your environmental pitch is just right.

Scrabble letter pieces spell out the message 'consume less' against a green background

A majority of the population believes in climate change but hasn't been won over by green messaging. / Edward Howell via Unsplash

The world of green claims is changing fast. From evolving regulations to increased consumer scrutiny, brands in this space have their work cut out if they want to succeed.

At a recent webinar, the Advertising Association’s Matt Bourn joined my colleagues, Media Bounty’s own Jake Dubbins and Florencia Lujani of ACT Climate Labs. The key question: how can brands create compliant and engaging green claims?

A snapshot of green advertising

Let’s be honest, advertising hasn’t always been on the right side of history when it comes to climate. Decades of greenwashing haven't helped the planet or public trust.

But the tide is turning. Juniors refuse to work on briefs that do not meet their ethical standards. Agencies will call each other out. And regulatory bodies across the world are stepping up to enforce a better standard of advertising.

The panel covered emerging regulations. Under the newly passed EU Green Claims directive, brands will face fines of 4% of global turnover. The EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive requires brands to consider ‘double materiality.’ And the UN has an upcoming code of conduct on information integrity.

The panel looked at other global examples too, and Dubbins made it clear that there will be more legislation on the horizon.

‘The economic opportunity of the century’

If you’re a brand leader and these changes make you want to curl up and hide, you're not alone. But while the risks are high, the rewards can be too.

The evidence is increasingly clear that good business is good for business from B Corps outperforming ‘ordinary’ businesses in 2023, to the net zero economy growing by 9% in 2023, compared to 0.1% growth in the wider economy.

Lujani introduced brands to a key audience for green growth: The Persuadables. This audience believes climate change is happening but is yet to prioritize it in their daily lives. And they represent 69% of the UK. Unlocking the underlying support for sustainability presents huge opportunities for brands.

If we want to engage these key audiences and comply with new regulations, we need to change the way we talk about sustainability.

Suggested newsletters for you

Daily Briefing


Catch up on the most important stories of the day, curated by our editorial team.

Ads of the Week


See the best ads of the last week - all in one place.

The Drum Insider

Once a month

Learn how to pitch to our editors and get published on The Drum.

We need innovation, now

Brands have become increasingly reliant on tired green tropes. Any ad featuring verdant greenery or fluffy polar bears might as well be wallpaper. Bourn highlighted that: “climate doom is moving no one.“ Neither are lofty or complex claims.

It’s time to give our comms a facelift. Lujani shared several strategies to engage The Persuadables, from cracking cultural codes to normalizing new behaviors and using humor.

Bourne, who has recently written a book called Sustainable Advertising, encouraged brands to embrace ‘radical transparency and real authenticity,’ explaining that this is not only the key to compliance, it’s the best way we’ll rebuild the public’s trust.

There’s no doubt these regulations will change the course of advertising. It’s time for brand leaders to take this stuff seriously – and not just the marketing and sustainability teams. Hefty fines make this a board-level concern. Whether that means bringing in an expert third party, hiring a specialist employee, or making this a resource priority in your existing team.

Act now to connect more meaningfully with customers, and to build a greener future.

Environment Brand Strategy Greenwashing

Content by The Drum Network member:

Media Bounty

We’re Media Bounty. And we’re working to become the UK’s leading ethical independent creative agency by 2026.

Our team delivers award-winning strategy,...

Find out more

More from Environment

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +