How to go green to combat code red
Updated: Jan 13
“Don't it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi came out over fifty years ago and feels more timely than ever. They have indeed paved paradise and put up many a parking lot. António Guterres, the UN’s secretary-general, described our global situation in frankly frightening terms last year with: “code red for humanity”. So what positive action can we take to try to change the way we thrive, without continuing to cost the earth?
As the Warc team neatly surmised in their 2022 Marketer's Toolkit, marketing has “the paradox of achieving infinite growth on a finite planet.” We need to reframe what we mean by growth and actively use frameworks like the ‘double bottom line’ which gives equal weight to profits and the ecological impacts from your company’s activity. Hey if we are really going to shake things up, let’s go for the triple bottom line which weaves in a third measure; activity which improves society from Corporate Social Responsibility programmes to supporting small local businesses. The time is most certainly now.
We know from working with clients launching greener versions of their products and services that education is still the fundamental starting point. We can’t assume that the sustainability agenda will inspire every mainstream consumer to act. Eco products have expensive reputations, feel out of reach, complex to understand or require more effort to use. Tailoring the message to lead with more easily understood benefits like the durability or ease of use can help break down some of the barriers.
Bafta backed charity We Are Albert champion climate change storytelling in the screen industry. Their planet placement campaign is all about encouraging production companies and entertainment networks to bring the planet into the plot line from Eastenders to Attenborough. It’s a great example of how to normalise the conversation, talk about solutions in accessible ways and inspire hope.
We caught up with CIM Marketing Director and co-author of ‘Sustainable Marketing, How to Drive Profits With Purpose' Gemma Butler to get her take on how us marketing folk can be part of the change.
“Sustainability gives marketers an opportunity to champion getting back to the ‘core of the brand’, sharing not only what your brand does, but how it can make a difference beyond its products and services. By placing a different lens over marketing’s remit and applying the knowledge and skills marketers have, they can start to use their voice and powers for ‘good’. Marketing is well placed to shape new behaviours, breaking our unhealthy relationship with consumption. They can use their voice to reach and to educate, and ultimately deliver what customers, employees and society want in a way that does less harm to the environment.”
There’s also a handy manifesto you may want to sign up to (we have) which breaks down 3 simple pledges to becoming a sustainable marketer, check it out just here.
The Competition and Markets Authority published the Green Claims Code in September 2020 aimed at businesses making sustainability claims when selling or promoting goods and services. With greenwashing a go go and over 450 eco labels in circulation, the confused consumer is looking for a trusted path through. This handy checklist from the CMA is a useful tool to help reset things:
Green claims MUST:
1. Be truthful and accurate: Businesses must live up to the claims they make about their products, services, brands and activities
2. Be clear and unambiguous: The meaning that a consumer is likely to take from a product’s messaging and the credentials of that product should match
3. Not omit or hide important information: Claims must not prevent someone from making an informed choice because of the information they leave out
4. Only make fair and meaningful comparisons: Any products compared should meet the same needs or be intended for the same purpose
5. Consider the full life cycle of the product: When making claims, businesses must consider the total impact of a product or service. Claims can be misleading where they don’t reflect the overall impact or where they focus on one aspect of it but not another
6. Be substantiated: Businesses should be able to back up their claims with robust, credible and up to date evidence
Being authentic and transparent in everything you do and claim to do is the simple rule of thumb. You could also crank it up a gear and find out how to become a BCorp. Zoe Wishman, sustainable brand consultant and founder of The Good Edit knows a lot about this and has kindly unpacked it for us.
Although B Corp started life in the US in 2007, the social and environmental certification only hit the UK 6 years ago. In that time over 500 UK businesses have become B Corp certified - committing to use their business as a force for good. B Corps are companies verified by B Lab to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.
These businesses are as focused on their social and environmental impact, as they are on the bottom line - and B Corps rigorous Business Impact Assessment (BIA) reviews 5 key areas to assess their impact: Community, Governance, Environment, Workers and Customers. The assessment process isn’t a one off - you’re expected to re-assess every 3 years, and will be expected to show progress over time.
Deciding to go for B Corp status is a big undertaking. Completing the assessment can take months but is a fantastic tool to assess your business from every angle. If you’re keen to explore if B Corp is for you here are some tips for getting started:
Use the framework - Even if you’re not ready for full certification, using the BIA as a framework to evaluate your current impact and support your development is a brilliant place to start.
Take inspiration - There are over 500 certified B Corps in the UK. Follow your favourites, review their B Corp Assessment results (here) and be inspired!
Start as you mean to go on - If you are a start up who has been trading for less than 12 months you can apply for ‘B Corp Pending’ status. You’ll be required to meet the B Corp legal requirement - by updating your Articles of Association to include mission-aligned legal language - but then won’t be fully assessed by B Lab UK until after your 1st birthday. It’s a great way to publicly declare your intentions to be a socially and environmentally responsible business from the outset.
And for all the info, check out the BCorp site here.
While we need to radically change how we live and do business we can at times feel overwhelmed and a touch bamboozled about what to take on first. Us smaller business have to prioritise and focus on things we can work towards and achieve. Educating ourselves and our clients is a positive first step, being conscious about who we work with, how we produce creative, our carbon footprint and the suppliers we choose is all part of the process. If we bring it all back to our personal and business values, creating new habits that reduce the harm and change the world for the better can only be a good thing. Happy days ahead.
If you want to chat about all things sustainability or just chat, drop us a line here.