How To Cut Through A Deluge Of Sustainable Marketing Claims

If you walk through any grocery store, you’ll find numerous brands touting their product’s eco-friendliness. Some of these marketing claims are completely legitimate, while others appear authentic, but actually obscure the product’s environmental impact.

As you evaluate methods of making your brand stand out in a sea of eco-friendly marketing claims, the first step is to create a strong, story-first marketing plan.

Explore our marketing consulting services to determine a strategic marketing plan and let potential customers know what sets you apart in every facet of your unique story.

When it comes to sustainability and social responsibility, standing out as a brand can be particularly tricky. Manufacturers have picked up on the fact that consumers will go out of their way to choose a more eco-friendly or socially responsible product, and many companies have tried to gain market share by simply painting their product as eco-friendly or overstating their efforts toward sustainability.

As David Gelles notes in his 2015 New York Times article “Social Responsibility That Rubs Right Off,” many companies started to employ greenwashing as consumer preferences began to shift toward environmentally responsible products and brands.

It is critical to avoid greenwashing by making a real commitment to your sustainable or giving-back component. Once you determine a course of action for the socially or environmentally responsible component of your business, you’ll have to find ways to backup your claims in the public eye.

Business Certifications That Set Responsible Entrepreneurs Apart

Many consumers have rightly stopped taking green marketing claims at face value, and instead seek out a third-party verification of the business’s claims. One strategy to consider for sustainable marketing is a certification for your business.

Below are three certifications you may not have heard of, which hold businesses highly accountable. These certifications are worth considering as an investment which clearly demonstrates to your community of potential customers that you are not all talk.

Living Wage Certification

Just Economics Western North Carolina is a member-driven, economic justice advocacy organization. They offer a Living Wage Certification which demonstrates to your community that your company pays employees a living wage.

In short, North Carolina businesses that offer 13.00 per hour (without employer-provided health insurance) or 11.50 per hour (with employer-provided health insurance) are eligible. However, there are nuances to eligibility, so be sure to check out the frequently asked questions section of their website. The organization charges between $50-200 for certification, depending on the size of your business. Non-profit organizations and faith communities can become certified free of charge.

Explore a growing directory of living wage certified businesses in Western North Carolina or seek out a similar certification program in your area. You can also check out Just Economics criteria for certification here.

Forest Stewardship Council Certification

Forest Stewardship Council Certification is for businesses who source products from forests and wish to do so responsibly. FSC promotes responsible management of the world’s forests and offers certifications for products so that consumers and builders have a way to seek paper and wood products made with stewardship in mind.

FSC certification is worth considering for green builders or other businesses that consistently source products from forests (like wood and paper) and want to seek a certification that ensures their products are actually eco-friendly.

To learn more, check out their certification process or read the FSC blog.

Cradle to Cradle Certification

Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard is one of the most rigorous certifications with extraordinarily high standards. Products are assessed across five quality categories, and product certification is awarded at five levels. On Cradle to Cradle’s website, the long-term economic and social benefit of choosing more sustainable design methods is detailed:

“Rethinking production and design processes is evidenced through higher sales performance, positive growth and increased profit margins, alongside significant cost savings related to water and energy efficiency improvements.”

To learn more about Cradle to Cradle’s in-depth and compelling philosophy, check out William McDonough’s TED Talk or buy the book.

Other Certifications And A Note On Legitimacy

Our goal with this post was to introduce a few socially and environmentally responsible certifications you may not have encountered. Depending on your business model and strategy, you might look into Fair Trade Certification, Non GMO Project Certification, Green Business Bureau Certification and more.

Just be sure you perform due diligence of any certification program you choose. Search for certifications with exceptional standards, processes, and who curate their organizations so it isn’t a “pay for play” certification. By strengthening the ethics and environmental responsibility of your company from the inside out, you can make legitimate marketing claims which weave seamlessly into your unique brand story.

Learn more about integrating your brand’s sustainable component into a compelling brand story that speaks to your community.