How sustainable brands can communicate value to consumers during a recession

Environmentally friendly living is a major concern for consumers all around the world. The Global Risks Report 2022, published by The Economic Forum, has highlighted that unless we jointly endeavour to keep global temperature increases below 1.5 °C by 2030, the future of our planet is in grave danger.

In the past 12 months, the UK population has started to make amends and work towards a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, with 75% of consumers recycling or composting waste, whilst 64% have limited their consumption of single-use plastic.

But whilst climate change is a concern for consumers, so is the cost-of-living crisis, with consumers now needing to weigh up their impact on the planet with being frugal.

A staggering 83% of consumers told Go Compare in a recent survey that their purchasing habits have changed as a consequence of the cost-of-living crisis.

With this in mind, the problem for sustainability brands is that their products often cost more than their conventional counterparts due to the expensive raw materials that are used and their ethical manufacturing practices.

So, the question is, how can sustainable and environmentally friendly brands help communicate their value to consumers amidst one of the biggest recessions the UK has faced in decades?

Understand how to communicate your value and showcase what makes the brand different to its competitors

Sustainable and environmentally friendly brands need to make sure they communicate their story and purpose clearly. There is a lot of media attention currently around the rising levels of inflation and UK spending habits, which can mean it can be difficult for both the media and consumers to spot something that is genuinely unique, provides value and is truly impact-focused.

Working with an agency can help brands to identify and settle on the key messages that will ensure they resonate effectively with target audiences. These key messages can then be communicated via a multitude of tactics to effectively reach the right audiences, and this can include everything from thought leadership and media interviews, to product reviews and social media campaigns.

To be able to cut through the noise and showcase what makes your brand different to its competitors you really need to be doing something unique. An example of this is the recent news that Yvon Chouinard, founder of global clothing company Patagonia, has given the business away in a bid to fight the climate crisis.

Consider how your brand/ business could go one step further than the ‘new norm’ and then build your communications strategy around this rather than wasting time communicating the same things as your competitors.

Know what the new norm is

It is now expected that brands have made at least some progress on sustainability – either by actively reducing their carbon footprint or at least be on the road to doing so.

These actions are now generally seen as ‘hygiene factors’ for brands and are considered the norm by both the media and consumers.

Sustainable and environmentally friendly businesses should endeavour to put the time in to do research and understand what is the new industry standard for their respective sector and make sure that they are on top of this before trying to shout about policies or updates that aren’t ‘new news’ to their target audiences.

Be prepared to have to educate your audience

Many consumers do not yet understand the nuances of sustainability so its important to consider how you might need to educate your target audience on your key messages related to sustainability.

This won’t necessarily happen overnight and is likely to need a long-term strategy in place to ensure that you are clearly communicating your sustainability credentials.

Media and influencer strategies can be incredibly helpful in this respect, ensuring that you are regularly talking to your audiences across multiple platforms to drive this education element for your business.

For example, we recently worked with Alchemie Technology to raise awareness of one of the biggest, yet widely unknown, causes of pollution in the fashion industry.

Our strategy spanned four pillars of activity, engaging with the fashion and textile trade industry, targeting consumer press to generate awareness in national publications, launching a social media strategy, and public affairs activity to brief government officials on the issue at hand.

Back up your claims 

One major consideration that sustainable businesses need to be on top of is being able to provide evidence and communicate how and what makes you a sustainable company.

Being found guilty of Greenwashing is a surefire way of tarnishing your business reputation, so ensure you have done the necessary work, before making tangible claims and promises.

Don’t jump on the bandwagon

If you’re only planning your big stunts around Earth Day, you’re going to struggle to get your voice heard without some serious spending, strategy and manpower.

If you’re sustainability communications plan is authentic you should be able to communicate it year-round and not only during big awareness days. However, you also shouldn’t ignore these days completely of course!

If you would like to discuss how our award-winning PR and social media specialists could help your business communicate its value to your target audience, get in touch with our Sustainability PR team today.

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