Generation Z already spends an estimated $44 billion a year in the US just on themselves. And the demographic influences an additional $600 billion in spending by others. In other words, it’s a group that sustainability marketing does not want to leave out.
This younger generation practically grew up on the internet. Not to mention, it’s already frustrated by the ramifications of climate change, many of which they’ll be around to experience. That’s why it makes sense that 62 percent of Generation Z prefer to buy from sustainable brands. And it’s great for companies that are doing actual environmental good to both further their missions. Fortunately, it’s also an opportunity to entice a market segment with huge spending power.
But while some brands do genuine good, others greenwash, hoping to run cheap marketing that Generation Z often sees through. After all, it has seen the implications of greenwashing play out directly on social media time and time again. But the muddy waters don’t just hurt the brands faking their sustainability work, it also hurts the honest brands.
Transparency is key to standing out in this environment, where the word “sustainability” is constantly thrown around, often without reason. Here are three key points that every brand should include in their sustainability marketing strategy.
Sustainability marketing needs detailed metrics
There are hundreds if not thousands of instances where companies announced they were making the materials used in product development more “sustainable,” shifting to “cleaner” energy to power operations, or committing to “sustainable goals” by donating to an environmental charity.
The truth is, “sustainability” doesn’t mean anything without the numbers. And without mentioning them, companies sound like they have something to hide — or no real progress to show at all.
For instance, H&M faced heavy backlash for its messaging in announcing its ‘Conscious Collection.’ Scandals aside, even companies that are well-known for their sustainable initiatives have faced their fair share of backlash for being too vague.
No timeline sounds like no action
Many brands have already adjusted for the first point — that the word “sustainable” needs to be accompanied by numbers in plain sight to back up the claim. But the one thing that I’ve seen all but a few brands miss is the inclusion of a specific timeline for meeting sustainable goals.
It’s easy to say that your brand will accomplish something by 2030 — and impressive if a big brand wants to go carbon-neutral by then. But without a detailed timeline as to how your brand will accomplish such a feat leaves the audience wondering what you have in mind. And what happens if we wait 10 years and the company doesn’t accomplish its goal? Well, nothing; there’s no legal accountability.
Announce how your brand is keeping itself accountable
Aside from not being transparent about the numbers, brands can’t expect to get Generation Z to buy if they don’t hold themselves accountable. For instance, are you hiring a third-party company to make sure you’re hitting certain performance indicators?
And what happens if you’re unable to keep up with the timeline? What’s the plan to catch up? And will the public know that you’re ahead or falling behind? Having these details available, along with how your brand’s audience can keep up with the progress it’s making, is not just good PR — it’s a great way to build long-term trust.
Lauren Beauban is an Editorial Fellow at theRising, where she covers sustainability news and influential people in the industry. She is also interested in environmental policy and how it affects people. You can pitch her stories at email@example.com