This post first appeared in Anthony Bullick’s Daily Post column.

Sustainability has become a popular word in 2021, which is giving rise to claims brands may be greenwashing during their attempts to convince stakeholders their actions are ethically and factually correct.

Greenwashing is a phrase first coined in the 1980s and at its most basic level means misleading consumers through a misrepresentation in what you say you do regarding environmental matters and what you actually do.

This leads to an erosion of trust and reputational damage, impacting sales, profits, and recruitment.

In addition, the spotlight will be on the green claims of organisations in 2022 with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) publishing its Green Claims Code, launching this in response to its own findings that 40 per cent of environmental claims online were misleading.

Ensuring PR representation in the boardroom will help mitigate risks on the topic. The PR team will take time to understand elements such as what stakeholders want, what behaviour they expect, and what they are willing to tolerate.

This issues management activity will also map out potential routes based on actions going wrong.

This two-way communication, which could include market research and surveys, will ensure the people that matter most to your company have had their voice heard as part of the decision-making process.

Greenwashing also includes presenting and implementing solutions that are no better than what was there before, for example removing plastic from a product with an alternative that increases your carbon footprint.

It’s quite clear that actions must match communications.

When it comes to sharing your work, devise an integrated PR and marketing communications strategy to repurpose content across multiple channels to increase audience reach and engagement.

Create a dedicated section displayed prominently on your website and keep it fresh and up to date to allow visitors an opportunity to see your latest activity.

Drip-feed content across your own channels such as social media and email marketing, with a consideration for paid social media advertising to place key messages in front of key audiences.

As well as drafting press releases and sharing stories as editorial with local, regional, and national media, consider whether you are a leader in your industry to further share with trade and niche media.

In addition, understand how your ESG (environmental, social, and governance) approach will impact the above. ESG could see the end of greenwashing due to the required critical thinking on sustainability practices in your organisation.

Involving your PR team or agency in ESG activities will help you navigate and tie together all related actions.