Greenwashing: who's talking about it and what are their priorities?

Written by
Steph Saba

Insights by
Ben Montagu-Scott

08 Aug, 2023

In today’s digital age, consumers have never been more informed about their purchases. As it relates to a brand’s sustainable initiatives, it is becoming increasingly hard to hide behind blanket statements about positive environmental change. Audiences are calling out brands for ‘Greenwashing’ – promoting themselves as sustainable with little to no action or evidence to back up claims.

Fifty looked into the online audiences engaged in the Greenwashing discourse in an effort to better understand customers with an ‘eco edge’ and identify the areas where sustainability has a large impact for audiences and brands.

We collated terms associated with greenwashing (greenwashing, greenwash, écoblanchiment, ecoblanqueo and ‘green sheen’) using social data. Looking across the period of June 1st 2022- 1st June 2023, we identified 792k tweets relating to greenwashing – up 305% from the previous period of 196k. By sheer numbers, we can already see the growing attention greenwashing brands are receiving, especially with Environmental activists drawing public attention. The so-called ‘Greta effect’ showcases as much, with her tweets engendering massive conversational spikes.

Figure 1: number of mentions of greenwashing and associated terms
Figure 1: number of mentions of greenwashing and associated terms

Extracting data exclusively from the UK, we set out to uncover the British audience and their sentiment around the conversation. We’re digging deep to identify the different tribes within it and why they’re important for brands thinking about new marketing strategies.

Progressive City Dwellers:

The tribe of Progressive City Dwellers is the largest audience in the study, an eco-conscious audience who make a wilful effort to make an impact. They’re engaged with a range of interests, and are intellectually curious with everything from popular culture to technological innovations. This tribe is crucial for brands to win over, as it signifies a major milestone into mainstream acceptance.

It’s important to note the distinction between this tribe and our smaller group of Progressive Activists. While similar to the City Dwellers, they are much more values-driven, with the environment being a core passion point. Progressive Activists are not just engaged with Climate change, but most societal issues including LGBTQ+ rights, racial justice and women’s rights. This group takes pride in holding governments, corporations and individuals accountable for their environmental shortcomings. They may be sceptical of a brand’s intentions at first but if you can successfully engage them, they have the potential to be a core, loyal, audience.

Digital Innovators:

Digital innovators are forward-thinking, technologically-savvy and constantly on the cutting edge of the latest advancements. A significant amount of the audience will work in tech itself as engineers, programmers and developers, as well as more creative professions such as media, communications and advertising. Often the early adopters of new trends and technologies, they can identify true potential in a brand and are a major catalyst in pushing it towards a wider audience.

Animal Rights & Sustainability Advocates:

Both tribes are deeply passionate about their respective causes. Animal Rights Advocates engage with a wide range of animal-related issues, including animal testing, factory farming, and wildlife conservation and are committed to the welfare of animals.

Sustainability Advocates are known to implement eco-conscious practices in their own life, as well as in their community and the wider public. This audience follows and engages with a multitude of environmental organisations, activist bodies and individuals passionate about protecting the planet, with top topics within that of climate change, conservation, wildlife, waste, carbon neutrality, fossil fuels and pollution.

As socially responsible audiences, it is crucial to engage with both tribes in meaningful ways, as they can be a powerful force for positive change in the treatment of animals and the environment around them.

Becoming a reputably green brand takes more than just a simple claim. To be publicly acknowledged as such means first gaining the support of key audiences that are knowledgeable, passionate and have the reach to spread awareness on sustainable causes. Fifty are experts at understanding the granularity of these audiences in order to activate them, grow and future-proof your brand.

Figure 2: number of mentions of greenwashing and associated terms by country
Figure 2: number of mentions of greenwashing and associated terms by country

Drop us a line or visit our website to find out how you can better understand your audiences.

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