The Foodsteps Guide To Sustainability Marketing: Why Is It Important For Food Businesses?

 Siobhan O'Neill Siobhan O'Neill

By Siobhan O'Neill

{1} min read

With consumers increasingly looking to make greener choices, most brands know that sustainability marketing and messaging are vital to attracting eco-aware shoppers to their products.‍ This guide will show you how to create a fool-proof marketing plan for all your sustainable claims.

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Post-pandemic, consumers are more concerned than ever about making healthy choices for themselves and the planet. The 2022 Footprint Sustainability Index highlighted how 22% of UK consumers had boycotted a place to eat in the previous 12 months because of its ethics or environmental practices. In addition to that, 68% of 25-34 year olds said they would switch away from their favourite retailer if they felt they weren’t meeting their sustainability expectations.

Communicating your environmental credentials has therefore never been more critical. It’s time to spotlight your own sustainability efforts, and grow your customer base, while keeping in mind that consumers are becoming increasingly wary of greenwashing.

What is sustainability marketing?

Sustainability marketing - or green marketing - is about promoting products and brands based on environmental characteristics, values, and practices. Consumers are looking to make meaningful choices when shopping, travelling, or even choosing where to work. Today, customers want to see brands proactively taking action for the planet and its people. 

Although the terms ‘green’ and 'sustainability' marketing are used interchangeably, they have slightly different definitions. Green marketing tends to describe brands communicating their climate-friendly products or the impactful changes they’ve made to protect the environment. Meanwhile sustainability marketing reaches beyond green claims to include wider business action, including brands’ efforts to address social and political issues.

What sustainability information should your business communicate?

There are numerous ways for companies to share messaging about their responsible business practices, from a simple label on their packaging to a QR code. 

Labels like ‘carbon neutral’, ‘sustainably sourced’ or ‘100% recycled’ make for simple, impactful messages. But be aware that consumers might do their due diligence to verify your claims, so being completely transparent will help your brand gain long-term trust.

Customers might also like to know if your brand donates a percentage of its profits to charity, how it works with underserved communities, how it supports small producers, how it promotes biodiversity or what the carbon footprint is.

Getting sustainability marketing right

Sustainability marketing should be about guiding consumers towards more sustainable choices, not making grandiose and unreliable claims. That means claims should be supported by verifiable evidence. Public trust in brands is already at an all-time low, so no company can afford to be caught being less than truthful about the sustainability of their products. You should aim to comply with the Green Claims Code.

When it comes to food brands or producers incorporating carbon labelling, that data can be complex and expensive to collect. That’s why tools like the Foodsteps Impacts Database can support food businesses’ sustainability messaging. Our platform aggregates vast amounts of scientifically verified food impact data, all in one place. By inputting your recipes, you can quickly see the carbon impact of each food item or product. 

Have any brands fallen short of the Green Claims Code? 

Renowned brands like Oatly and Innocent have been caught by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for making misleading claims. 

Oatly ads claimed, “Oatly generates 73% less CO2e vs. milk”. On investigation this claim was only verified for their Barista Edition product, for which they had commissioned an independent LCA. The ASA ruled that “consumers would understand the claim that all Oatly products generated 73% less CO2e than any type of cows’ milk.”

This example shows that green marketing claims must be specific and evidence-based.

What is the Green Claims Code?

The UK government introduced the Green Claims Code as a framework for organisations to avoid ‘greenwashing’.

According to the code, all sustainability messaging must:

  • Be truthful and accurate
  • Be clear and unambiguous
  • Include all important information
  • Consider the full life cycle of the product
  • Make fair, meaningful comparisons
  • Be substantiated

Before claiming that your product is "better for the environment", check that you comply with these guidelines.

Let’s get started!

Now you understand how to ensure your sustainability messaging is meaningful and accurate; it’s time to build a campaign.

Decide what messaging to use and how you want to communicate it. Messaging on packaging can be an effective way to nudge climate-conscious customers towards your products. The Foodsteps carbon label, with its traffic light colours, is a valuable tool which helps consumers make quick and easy food choices in the context of carbon.

With your messaging in place, look for opportunities to share your sustainable products to the wider world. Occasions like Fairtrade Fortnight, Veganuary, British Food Fortnight and Compassion in World Farming’s Honest Labelling campaign all offer the chance to showcase your products to consumers who care about reducing their carbon footprint.

Foodsteps is a suitable data partner for food businesses working to lower their environmental impact, get started for free today and see how we can help you.

Join the companies who already use Foodsteps@ to measure, report and reduce their environmental impact.