Link back to all articles
back to All
January 9, 2024

The Honest Path to Sustainable Marketing: How to Go Beyond Greenwashing

Consumers are alive to the perils of greenwashing - so as we move into 2024, how can companies keep consumers’ trust when it comes to sustainability marketing? 

It’s 2024 and it’s fair to say that sustainability has officially joined marketing buzzword terms like integrity and transparency as a catch-all phrase that appeals to consumers (UK searches for environmentally friendly doubling in 2023). 

Naturally, companies have been quick to seize on the green allure of presenting a product or service as environmentally friendly. It’s a win-win for them: not only being seen to do their bit for the environment but also attracting the increasingly eco-aware consumer. 

But what’s largely been missing until now - and what we’d like to see much, much more of - is a much more nuanced and honest approach to sustainability marketing. 

Greenwashing regulations 

One of the real dangers comes when you position your whole brand as sustainable. Setting exceedingly high standards invites scrutiny, and failing to meet these standards can lead to severe reputational damage. 

And just as sustainability has entered the marketing lexicon, so has the term greenwashing, a practice where exaggerated or misleading claims about sustainability are made to appeal to conscientious consumers. Consumers are alive to the concept of greenwashing - just look at the reaction to marketing campaigns from Volkswagen, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, H&M and dozens more that have been torn apart and revealed to be little more than hollow promises. 

It’s not just consumer watchdogs and informed consumers that are keeping sustainability marketing claims in check. Thanks to the incoming FCA regulations, there will soon be new guidance ‘for FCA-authorised firms making claims about the sustainability of a product or service.’

This guidance, aimed at FCA-authorised firms but also intended as general guidance for industry and consumer groups, trade bodies and other consumers, is designed to ensure all ‘sustainability-related claims… about their products and services must be fair, clear and not misleading.’ 

Alongside that, in the EU’s proposed Green Claims Directive, those found greenwashing can be hit with fines of up to 4% of the greenwasher’s total annual revenue.

The future of sustainability marketing 

So where does that leave brands and companies who pride themselves on sustainability marketing but must comply with increasing regulations and a knowledgeable audience?

With a renewed importance on verifiable facts, traceability and disclosure. 

Headline-grabbing claims are still powerful marketing tools - as long as you can fully verify them. If not, as we’ve already seen, they’ll get shot down in gleeful flames.

Instead, by painting a truthful picture of what your product or service does or offers, brands can actively safeguard against greenwashing claims. Essentially, it’s about recognising that no business is flawless and that every decision involves trade-offs. 

And by being honest about your sustainability marketing, you’re speaking with nuance to a market increasingly alive to it. By making the customer part of your sustainability journey and by telling a truthful story about where your brand or product needs to improve, you’re creating trust and acting with relatable humility. 

Sustainability is rarely just a case of black and white - or white and green perhaps? The smart play is recognising that sustainability isn’t a destination - rather it’s a journey, and to take your audience on that journey with you. There’s little long-term benefit in binaries, in sustainable vs unsustainable. 

Instead, be honest, act with humility and integrity and take the conversation away from greenwashing.

It’s 2024, it’s time to be honest about sustainability. 

Get in Touch

One Nine Nine is about results – creative work and marketing support that does what you need it to. We work with global and local companies, creating and delivering effective digital, marketing and creative sustainability strategies to support your ongoing commercial and critical success. 

To find out how we can impact your marketing, please get in touch with our team at 01138444111 or email us at

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Please try again.


One Nine Nine
The Leeming Building
Vicar Lane, LS2 7JF