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Insights

RETAIL’S #RACETOZERO & CRACKING GREEN CLAIMS

As #RaceToZero speeds up, greenwashing concerns heat up. Just yesterday, the Norwegian Consumer Authority called out fashion giants H&M and Norrona for misleading claims in how they are using data.

Across the board there’s growing concern and conversation amongst marketers in how best to communicate sustainability credentials. This week’s 52INSIGHTS brings you some of the latest marketing stories and developments around responsible and impactful sustainability communication and spotlights some of our recent work to help guide retailers in this space.

GREEN CLAIMS DRIVE DEBATE

At Thinkhouse, Green Claims have been the main focus at our internal Planet ‘Fridays for Future’ training sessions over the last few weeks. Currently, there are no set definitions for terms widely used such as ‘eco friendly’, ‘sustainably produced’ or ‘natural’ in consumer law. Internationally, marketing professionals can take best-practice guidance from the World Federation of Advertisers environmental claims principles here, which reflect advice also given in the UK CMA’s ‘Green Claims Code’ – which sets out 6 key points to check your environmental claims are genuinely green. The key takeaway? Evidence, evidence, evidence.

For example, Tesco was recently rebuked over claims that a plant-based burger was more environmentally friendly than their meat equivalents. The UK Advertising Standards Authority notes that the Ad “did not hold any evidence in relation to the full lifecycle of any of the products…” Read more here.

On Tuesday evening Prime Time (Ireland’s investigative TV show on national broadcaster RTÉ) dedicated a whole programme to the issue. THINKHOUSE Founder Jane McDaid was invited to share her expert opinion on the matter. (watch a 2minute highlight reel Here ). The episode explains, and explores, what a move to a circular economy would mean (for Ireland) highlighting the progress made in Amsterdam. It also addresses live issues around ‘debatable’ claims coming from companies and different forms of regulation that exist. Answering the interviewer's questions, McDaid comments on the generation coming through, who are demanding more from brands and businesses: “We’re at the point right now where we really need to make it simple, understandable and also motivating and compelling for people to choose a greener path.”

RAMPING UP SUSTAINABILITY ROADMAPS

When it comes to communicating sustainability targets and goals - credibility and trust is built with clear and defined roadmaps (with investment to match ambition). For example, this week Irish Distillers announced a roadmap for its distillery to be carbon neutral by 2026 via a €50 million investment over the next 4 years to fund transformation projects.

Commenting on the announcement, Conor McQuaid, CEO and Chairman said: “Today is a hugely significant day for Irish Distillers as we announce our ambition for Midleton Distillery to become the first and largest carbon neutral distillery in Ireland by 2026. This announcement is reflective of our commitment and ambition to reduce our environmental impact. We understand that our long-term future depends on reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. This plan was many years in the making, and we understand that there are many more years ahead to reach our goal…”

ACCELERATING INDUSTRY AMBITION & TALKING ABOUT ‘BRAIN PRINT’

Collective efforts to transform the creative communications industry to align with global Net Zero ambitions continue to gain momentum. The UK’s Ad Net Zero initiative went global this week with Ad Net Zero launching in the Irish market. Within this guidance is a clear vision for the creative communications industry to not only transform itself, but to use its substantial influence to impact positively on accelerating societal transformation too via the work it puts out into the world. As the Cannes festival approaches, a number of groups are inviting greater urgency in action around this transformation. Solitaire Townsend, founder of Futerra comments: “My big fear is that we talk about the sustainability footprint of the industry and that everyone’s very enthusiastic about recycling their rosé bottles, and that we don’t talk about the ‘brain print.’ If we’re not dealing with our role in consumption, overconsumption and greenwash, it’s a massive miss.”

SUSTAINABILITY 101 GUIDANCE FOR RETAILERS

“​​Your customers are essential in your sustainability journey. Communicating with them effectively is hugely important—not only for brand building and reputation, but also to drive the solutions and impact on behaviour change that you want to encourage.” - Communicating Your Retail Business Sustainability Journey, by THINKHOUSE for SIRA.

Of course there’s a lot of work that goes behind developing ‘green claims.’ But the challenge doesn’t begin or end there. Recently, a new group - Sustainable Irish Retail Action (SIRA) - developed a free e-guide (available here). No matter what market or category you operate in, there are relevant, actionable nuggets of information that will guide your sustainability journey. As part of this project, THINKHOUSE developed a short guide on communicating your sustainability journey, supporting all retailers in having more effective impact at all levels and stages of this. Yes, often sustainability can feel like a difficult and expensive uphill battle, but here, we aim to break down the rationale and steps to make it feel more approachable, actionable…and exciting! The guide includes notes on greenwashing and behaviour change.

BRAND TAKEAWAYS

From an audience perspective, when people buy ‘green’ products, they need to be sure they are worth it. This, coupled with the increasing guidance and regulation around ‘green claims’, means that there is a need to communicate the ‘how’ behind your brand’s sustainability story and create compelling and digestible opportunities for people to discover more about your transformation/sustainability credentials.

The bar for leadership in this space is getting higher and increasingly focused on Scope 3 emissions (emissions which result from activities not owned or controlled by the reporting organization, but that the organization indirectly impacts in its value chain). It’s important to continuously read and engage in training that develops your own literacy in these areas. For example, the latest UN #RacetoZero criteria for marketing and advertising now includes Client Disclosure Reporting and Advertised Emissions (the emissions that result from creative work).

Big established brands need to undo, unlearn and invest quite a lot to embrace a more circular, regenerative way of designing, developing and communicating. It’s critical to collaborate with sustainability and corporate communications experts to level up on literacy around green claims and sustainability language and leadership in general. Upskilling and developing sustainability literacy is no longer a ‘nice to do’ for marketers, but an essential responsibility of anyone working in business today.