From CSR to ESG: Define your data-driven green marketing strategy
The world is changing at a pace that is difficult to cope with. Not a day goes by without worrying news about climate, health, or social issues. The general consensus is clear: we have to do more, and faster.
Corporate social responsibility is becoming the number one priority for an increasing number of consumers and investors who expect companies to think about their social and environmental footprint before thinking about profit and growth.
A study by Deloitte in March 2021 discovered that 28% of consumers have stopped buying certain products due to ethical or environmental concerns. For companies, collecting and organizing consumer intelligence data on social and environmental matters is essential in meeting their consumers' expectations and thus, gaining a competitive edge.
Today, everyone is talking about CSR and promoting ESG performance, but what does this mean and how do they do it?
What is the difference between CSR and ESG?
It is easy to confuse CSR and ESG. Let's take a minute to review what these acronyms stand for before we deep dive into the topic:
- Corporate social responsibility (CSR) covers the overarching social, environmental, and economic concerns in a company’s policies, practices, and decision-making.
- Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are used to evaluate sustainability practices within a company.
In short, CSR is the action plan and ESG is the tracking and evaluation of the actions.
Understanding the difference between #CSR and #ESG is imperative to businesses' sustainability efforts. @NeilGaught explains, "CSR sets the intention, ESG ensures that these intentions are not only achieved but (that) they are measured." #Sustainabilityhttps://t.co/W8rLswuGZ5— MugenKioku (@mugenkioku) July 12, 2021
In the last 13 months, the conversation around ESG has doubled, showing the growing interest in this topic. The acceleration of events and discussions on this matter will only amplify this trend.
This chart was generated with Talkwalker Quick Search designed to show you the top trending topics for any given category, country or language, right as they happen.
For transparency and ESG investing purposes, independent organizations like Sustainalytics rate the sustainability of listed companies based on their environmental, social and corporate governance performance.
The Sustainalytics website is one of the few websites providing an ESG rating for the world's largest companies.
This provides the first level of information. However, it is often not enough and the company would need another tool to gather and organize more data, and build an actionable market or industry research. Talkwalker can equip your company with insights and so you can make informed business decisions, with market research tools and tips. Ready?
The Race to Zero is accelerating sustainable marketing
On September 20, 200 new companies including Twitter, Salesforce, and Procter & Gamble pledged to achieve net-zero emissions of carbon by 2040. These companies join hundreds of others such as Microsoft, Starbucks, and Nike that have already announced their commitment to achieve the same goal by 2030 and aligned with the 2°C scenario of the Paris COP21 climate agreement. The race to net-zero is on.
With Talkwalker's Quick Search, we can see in seconds that Net-Zero conversation is a crowded space.
A recent report from Aflac says that 77% of consumers are more willing to purchase from a company with a CSR pledge or “committed to making the world better” and 73% of investors believe efforts to help improve society and the environment contribute to return.
In order to stand out in the net-zero conversation space and keep sustainability as a market differentiator, companies are adjusting their marketing strategy by increasing their sustainable marketing expenses. In a recent survey by Environmental Leader, 82% of firms plan to boost green marketing spending.
IKEA has recently announced they will begin selling renewable energy from solar and wind sources to households. The news was received with 15.4% positive sentiment, as consumers across the globe appeared to show support for the initiative.
The article from Reuters on this new commitment from IKEA got over 700 engagements in 10 days, from a wide array of countries.
According to our Conversation Clusters, IKEA’s plan was the most discussed in conversations around renewable energy sources, followed by actions from multiple governments and brands.
A change in consumer sentiment for some or the consolidation of brand loyalty for others is expected for companies that move in this direction.
Are you wondering if your company should jump into the net-zero race? Find out what consumers think of your brand.
COVID-19 and the importance of the 'S' in ESG
When one thinks about sustainable development, the environmental side of it comes to mind first. But COVID-19 happened with what appears to be an endless catalog of variants and companies suddenly realizing that they had at best neglected, or at worst ignored, an entire dimension of ESG: the ‘S’ for social responsibility that includes the ‘H’ for health.
My French grandmother used to say something that I would roughly translate to "As long as you're healthy, nothing can beat you", when anyone dared to complain about what she thought was insignificant. The crisis we are facing has shown us that companies should grasp a bit of my grandma's wisdom and adjust the saying to "As long as my employees, stakeholders, and customers are healthy, nothing can beat us".
Nike recently announced that they gave the staff at the head office a week off in recognition of the impact that the pandemic has had on mental health.
This announcement put Nike in the spotlight and increased the number of positive engagements about its social and health initiatives.
With Talkwalker’s Social Intelligence product we can see that the volume of conversation & engagements about Nike social actions (Nike ‘S’) over the last 30 days is more important than Nike environmental actions (Nike ‘E’).
Responding to employee concerns about returning to work has been a major challenge all around the world. Employees are the first ambassadors of a company, and their voice matters. Companies that are making transparent decisions for their employees are earning more positive social media mentions.
Less greenwashing, more green marketing
Emotions run high when a company speaks out on environmental or social issues. It's a real paradigm shift driven by the cognitive dissonance of for-profit organizations speaking out on social issues that makes audiences wary of green promises, at least at first.
There is a fine line between green marketing and greenwashing, and many companies fall on the wrong side of it. In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority has told British businesses they have until next year to clean up any misleading green marketing claims. In the US, the FTC provides guidelines called Green Guides “designed to help marketers avoid making environmental claims that mislead consumers”.
Patagonia’s marketing strategy stands out in the fashion industry as the outdoor gear maker holistically integrated sustainability into their DNA. Sustainability is in everything they do, and the entire company mindset is focused on developing a responsible business.
For the planet's sake, how can other companies follow Pantagonia’s footsteps, avoid accusations of greenwashing, and shift towards green marketing?
- Be transparent and present facts and accomplishments rather than promises.
- Balance the volume of content promoting green actions. Too much content will always look suspicious.
- Green marketing is data driven and brand stakeholders expect to have access to a wide range of continuously updated data.
- Accountability is essential and actions undertaken must show long-term meaningful impact.
- Open the conversation and welcome all questions, even when they are challenging to answer.
- Listen to the communities and take the pulse of what’s really happening on the ground. Employees' point of view might be radically different from customers and communities.
Brand inclusivity is brand critical
2020 was the year companies realized they couldn’t stay on the sideline of social issues and topics that matter greatly to their customers.
Well aware of this, the LEGO Group announced a new set in May this year, Everyone is Awesome, to celebrate diversity and inclusion during the upcoming Pride Month.
The announcement was discussed by more than 20K people during the week of its launch, and the official tweet from the company was liked, retweeted, and commented on by nearly 50K users.
Talkwalker’s Virality Map shows how LEGO’s announcement went viral, with 41K engagements from all around the world in two days.
Looking at conversations on social media we saw mostly positive comments with the rainbow and heart emojis leading those conversations.
During that week, conversations around the product gathered 64% positive sentiment. This perfectly timed effort reinforced LEGO as one of the world’s most loved brands.
We live in a post-COVID world ruled by new guidelines, requirements and consumer expectations. The growing mistrust of governments forces companies to be the drivers of social progress. Companies who manage to wear this hat will stand out from the crowd and build an extremely strong bond with their consumers.
CSR commitments and ESG performance are now the core values of a company. The success of an organization is no longer measured only by the profits generated but also by the contribution that a company is able to make to the communities.
Accelerating social and market intelligence is essential if you want to answer the new challenges presented by this deep fundamental marketing shift.
Are you wondering how to start? Let’s start by tracking your consumer behavior changes and find what makes your consumers' hearts beat faster!