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Green talk must not be full of rubbish

As retailers, we’re all familiar with the term ‘brand speak’. It is the personality our products exude when we want them to talk to consumers at an emotional as well as rational level.

. However, the increasing focus on climate change, responsible sourcing and sustainable products is presenting a communications challenge for many retailers.

Consumers old enough to remember the 1980s will be familiar with ‘green wash’ and will see through any attempt to make over-worthy statements about a brand’s eco credentials. Younger consumers are generally more “savvy” about eco trends and are not afraid to contest what they see or hear.

Historically, corporate and social responsibility (CSR) communications have focused on companies’ annual statements. Communicating CSR as part of the brand is a new ball game, and responsibility is passing from CSR practitioners to brand managers.

So here’s the challenge – communicate your brand or product’s green credentials without seeming preachy, superficial or simply jumping on the bandwagon. In the past, this has led many to keep their heads beneath the parapet. But with the proliferation of CSR messages, brands can no longer afford to be meek.

The most successful CSR communications apply some of the following principles: use the same voice as other brand communications; communicate CSR credentials alongside other product virtues, such as quality and value; avoid token images of nature, unless it is directly relevant; don’t preach; and finally, encourage consumers to take action as a personal choice.

Nicky Amos is a consultant and the former headof corporate responsibility at The Body Shop

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