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Sustainability communication is getting more reliable

Have you ever doubted the reliability of a company’s corporate sustainability messages? The new Greenwashing Directive of the EU will make life easier for consumers and force companies to show evidence for their sustainability claims in the near future.


Rilla Engblom

Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Annika Konttinen

lehtori, matkailuliiketoiminta
Senior Lecturer, tourism business
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 13.06.2024

According to Euromonitor (2023) consumers expect companies to become more transparent and disclose information about their sustainability actions openly. Consumers are weary of the greenwashing attempts of companies that try to convince that their products are sustainable when they are not. Generation Z, especially, does not trust the sustainability claims of companies. They are the most sustainability conscious generation and ready to stop buying from brands that are not sustainable. (McKinsey & Company 2023.)

EU aims to make it easier to buy sustainable products and services

The EU wants its companies to be responsible and its citizens to be well-informed consumers. The EU Greenwashing Directive came to force in January 2024. It means that companies are no longer allowed to market their products, services, and experiences with unfounded and false environmental claims. They also need to show reliable product information.

Companies need to show data and evidence for their sustainability claims and can no longer boast that their products are ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘climate neutral’ or ‘eco’ unless they provide proof. Consumers should be able to determine and compare the circularity, durability, repairability and recyclability of products easily.

Now all EU countries have two years to incorporate the new rules into their legislation (European Parliament 19.9.2023).

How to enhance your company’s sustainability communications

While larger companies have taken big steps in sustainability communication, there is still room for improvement. Here are five tips to enhance a company’s transparent and more understandable sustainability communication efforts regardless of the size of the company.

To show authenticity, encourage employees to be the ambassadors of sustainability. Authenticity resonates with consumers, so motivate your employees to share their stories, actions, and personal commitments. For example, let them introduce your workplace bicycle benefit and explain its impact on their well-being.

To make an impact, visualize the sustainability and show numbers. Show concrete real figures and comparative data. Use infographics, stories, pictures, and videos to show your progress and positive impacts of sustainable practices. For example, if you save some tons of food waste, you can visualize the tons by comparing it to the weight of something familiar.

To build trust, extend transparency into the entire supply chain. Consumers are interested in knowing the whole lifecycle of your service or product. Discuss openly your supply chain practices, fair labor, and responsible sourcing. For example, openly share your partnerships, processing methods, logistics and certifications.

To increase credibility, share sustainability certificates and standards. The certificates are worth communicating, but customers must have free access to their criteria. For example, share your certifications on your website and explain what they mean to your customers, do not forget to put a link to the certification body’s website.

To be memorable, create fun and rewarding sustainability communications. Challenge your stakeholders, use quizzes to enhance learning and reward your audience for sustainable actions. For example, invite your followers to take and share sustainable selfies while practicing sustainability, and reward the best selfies by public voting to enhance sense of community.

The EU’s Greenwashing Directive forces companies to provide proof for sustainability claims in the future. Firms rely on different actions, such as employee ambassadors, transparency in supply chains, credible certifications, visualization and engagement, to make their sustainability communications more reliable and authentic. It is important, that our students learn about the ways to avoid greenwashing and stop the growing consumer distrust towards sustainability communication.


Euromonitor 2023. 2024 Consumer Trends. Accessed: 6.6.2024.

European Parliament 19.9.2023. EU to ban greenwashing and improve consumer information on product durability. Accessed: 6.6.2024.

McKinsey & Company 2023. What is Gen Z? Accessed: 6.6.2024.

Picture: Shutterstock