Expert Comment: Why must brands demonstrate transparent sustainability claims in 2024?

Categories: Research, Salford Business School

Following the news that ASOS, Boohoo and George have pledged more robust and transparent sustainability policies, Dr Magdalena Marchowska-Raza, Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Salford Business School, explains why this is so important to the consumer when choosing a brand in 2024.

Dr Magdalena Marchowska-Raza

In today’s world, consumers are more knowledgeable than ever about the impact of their purchases on the environment. Being eco-friendly continues to be important to consumers and for many a driving force in purchasing decisions. However, as sustainability becomes more widespread among companies, the authenticity and credibility of a brand’s commitment to sustainability is becoming an issue. Consumers are more distrusting than ever and are not taking these claims at face value but are rigorously evaluating the truth behind environmental statements made by companies.

This scepticism is not unfounded. Recent research, including impactful studies by Mintel Global Consumer Trends, has highlighted a growing distrust among consumers worldwide. According to the report, 59% of U.S. consumers are sceptical of brands' genuine commitment to being green, while 52% of German consumers question the honesty behind sustainability messages, and 77% of consumers in China believe that certain sectors, particularly beauty and personal care, need to shoulder a greater responsibility for their environmental impact. Larger corporations, in particular, face challenges in this area, as a PwC survey indicates that a staggering 94% of investors question the credibility of sustainability reports issued by corporations.

Addressing this challenge requires more than just surface-level transparency. It calls for a fundamental shift in how companies approach their sustainability goals—not just setting them but actively demonstrating their commitment to achieving them through tangible, measurable actions. Consumers are demanding visible proof of progress. They seek openness and honesty, with companies sharing concrete evidence of their sustainability efforts. Furthermore, the way sustainability communications are crafted matters significantly.

Brands need to ensure that their sustainability narratives are not only transparent but also clear and consistent across all platforms. This approach not only helps in building trust but also empowers consumers to make informed decisions based on a thorough understanding of a brand’s environmental impact and commitment.

It is also critical for brands to refine their approach to communicating about sustainability, ensuring that sustainability narratives are clear, consistent, and transparent. To effectively engage with today's environmentally conscious consumer, brands must back up their sustainability claims with verifiable action and communicate their efforts in an accessible and transparent manner.

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