Perhaps you’ve seen them? Plastered all over our towns and cities, Burger King’s posters promoting its new reusable tableware for the benefit of the planet have generated a “bad buzz” on social networks. Since the 1ster January 2023, the law prohibits the use of disposable tableware in commercial catering.
Burger King has turned a legal constraint into a marketing argument. A commendable initiative, but one that backfired on the brand, which was accused of taking advantage of the situation to engage in “greenwashing”. A misstep that reminds us that the line between CSR and greenwashing can be a fine one…
Greenwashing, a practice that’s still relevant today
Burger King is obviously not the first (nor the last) to suffer such a misfortune. However, one might have thought that this practice had been relegated to the dustbin of communications, so much was it denounced in the years 2000-2010, when the phenomenon was at its height.
As a reminder, greenwashing is a marketing method that consists of communicating with an audience using deceptive ecological arguments to enhance one’s image. This can involve both content and form: visuals, colors, speech, naming, etc.
Nevertheless, some brands are more innocent than they appear. In fact, despite their obvious good will, they sometimes come in for criticism!
5 tips for communicating CSR without risking bad buzz bad buzz
So should we stop communicating our environmental commitments at the risk of being nabbed by the Web “police” or the French advertising regulator? Absolutely not. At a time when informing the public about one’s CSR commitments is an argument of preference, many companies are committed to the cause and have every interest in making it known.
The key is to strike the right balance between communication and reality. Here are a few simple rules to keep in mind when communicating your CSR commitments transparently:
1/ Make sure the information you distribute is true.
In this context, transparency will be fundamental. In particular, we need to check that the figures provided, which often accompany this type of publication, are accurate and, if possible, validated by a third-party organization for added credibility. This doesn’t mean you can’t communicate your objectives, but they must be part of a realistic roadmap.
2/ Keep your claims consistent throughout your value chain:
It’s no longer enough to sell organic produce from the ends of the earth, claiming to respect the planet without taking into account the carbon cost of transport.
3/ Avoid over-promising:
It’s better to make a small, truthful advance than a big announcement, if you know in advance that the promise will be hard to keep. Even if an isolated CSR action can be elevated to the status of a global message as part of a brand campaign, it must really be part of the company’s reality.
4/ Communicate about things you really know, without overusing ecological terms.
“Green”, “ecoresponsible”, “impact” are all words that attract attention, but they also have very specific, even legal, meanings that you should be aware of before using them!
5/ Respect the reality principle.
Don’t be afraid to assume that a minor ecological element is just a first step towards reducing the more general impact of a product or service. So it’s best to avoid talking about an innovation “green if you’ve only developed a half-recyclable bottle.
6/ Don’t hesitate to have your CSR content checked
Specialists in sustainable communications can identify any signs of greenwashing.
As you can see, transparency, consistency, verification and sincerity are the four pillars of successful green communications that add value to your brand. At FHCOM, we’ve been working with Lactel® for several years, in particular on its Recyc’lait operation, which aims to promote sorting among the general public, while at the same time placing its action within the framework of the circular economy.