By Kate Halliday
Sep 2019

Consumers are becoming ‘greener’ in their purchase considerations.  Various data shows Millennials are leading the way, with Gen Z swiftly following and Gen X, Baby Boomers, even the Silent Generation displaying significant engagement.


Companies are expected to play a key role in driving ‘greener’ behaviour, with brands at risk of missing out on critical consumer groups if their ‘green’ credentials are not up to scratch through what they offer and practice.


These trends are increasingly highlighted in surveys.  Companies are being placed high up the list in relation to where environmental responsibilities lie e.g. The Conference Board / Nielsen’s 2017 global survey found over 80% of Millennials and Gen Z believe ‘it’s important for companies to implement programmes to improve the environment’ and over 70% of Gen X and Baby Boomers.  And a 2018 GlobalWebIndex survey (UK/US internet users) shows 52% selecting ‘companies’ as ‘most responsible for the future of the environment’, second only to ‘individuals’ and positioned ahead of National and Local Governments.

Whilst The Charisma Index*, June 2019, shows that ‘environmental’ performance impacts on a brand’s perceived integrity, and that brands with a particularly low integrity rating are those that have a poor environmental record (e.g. VW, BP, ExxonMobil). And 2017 saw considerable growth in green(er) consumable sales, with this against a backdrop of UK retailer sales falling for the first time since 2013.


So, the challenge today is how to successfully deliver ‘green(er)’ initiatives – in a way that consumers actively engage with, work to positively elevate brand standing AND ensures a healthy ROI.  How do companies get it right?

The identification and implementation of ‘greener’ initiatives by brands is not that straightforward.  There have been lots of examples in the press of those who have got it spot on, but those who’ve also gone so wrong!  So the following tenets are offered as food for thought on how to be ‘greener’ successfully.


5 tenets for being ‘green(er)’ successfully . . . 


1Be clear in mind – where are we taking the brand, what are the intentions

Clearly defining not just the activity but how it will fit and work with the overall brand promise, values, attributes and planned ROI from the outset is vital.  Nailing this up front means ‘green’ plans can form a natural part of the overall decision-making framework, and play an integral part of future brand planning – rather than an encumbrance hovering on the edge.


2. Be inclusive – reach out to those we want to engage with before change happens

People don’t like sudden change and can be vocal in their criticism!  Remember the recent McDonald’s plastic to paper straws fiasco.  Sharing ideas and seeking feedback, taking target audiences on the journey with you, will ensure they are more onboard when change happens – with colleagues better equipped to champion change to consumers, consumers more receptive and stakeholders more supportive.


3. Make it worthwhile – green initiatives should offer a clear benefit

While consumers can verbally support new ‘greener’ ideas, many are not prepared to adopt on altruistic grounds alone, and if something proves more a hindrance than a help they’ll quickly turn away. Yet when done well, it can engage consumers and transfer positive values, positioning brands ahead of the competitor curve – for example bio-degradable supermarket bags (e.g. Co-op, Waitrose) and postage bags being introduced by some magazine titles (e.g. National Trust, RSPB, Which)


4. Deliver on brand promises – be consistent, committed and true to promised intentions

Demonstrating strong delivery on a brand’s promise creates successful brands and brand value, as discussed in Viewpoint article ‘Brand promises should drive serious decisions’, by Insight Leader Pamela Green (  And it’s critical for a brand to take responsibility for ensuring this consistently happens to avoid risk of consumer cynicism.  An example here being Boots and the outcry when they outsourced prescriptions to a third party using plastic bags and subsequent accusations of hypocrisy with their recent shift to paper carrier bags in-house – possibly an opportunity missed re. inclusivity (see point 2)


5. Know your target audiences – use great insight to understand how to engage them

Different sectors afford different relationship drivers and people will shift allegiances to ‘greenness’ reflecting how they believe it’ll impact on them.  And there’s a minefield of ‘green’ descriptors attracting various meanings across different sectors.

So understanding the primary drivers for sector engagement, the degree of elasticity afforded ‘greenness’ against this and the interpretation of different descriptors is imperative for defining the most effective way to introduce ‘green’ initiatives.


In Summary

The need for companies to be ‘greener’ and more environmentally responsible in their offer seems to have finally gained traction and is set to bed in further.

The area of real opportunity for brands in relation to ‘greener’ initiatives, however, exists for those who not only introduce such activity but take the time to truly understand and define which initiatives are most relevant to their consumers and brand and that they can most effectively and credibly deliver on – and hopefully these 5 tenets will provide useful food for thought along this journey

  1. Be clear in mind
  2. Be inclusive
  3. Make it worthwhile
  4. Deliver on brand promises
  5. Know your target audiences

*The Charisma Index, measuring brand resilience, rigour and leadership.  See next Viewpoint Article For further information and contact Juliet Strachan, an Insight Leader –