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8 Environmental Branding Trends to Follow

8 Environmental Branding Trends to Follow

Environmental branding has become an increasingly important focus for companies looking to showcase their sustainability credentials and connect with eco-conscious consumers. As we move into the 2020s, several critical environmental branding trends are emerging around marketing to highlight ecological commitments.

Growing Importance of Authenticity

With more brands making various “green” claims, there is a simultaneous growth in consumer scepticism about the authenticity and truthfulness of these messages. Establishing genuine environmental credentials is becoming more complex but also more vital.

Statistic On Branding Authenticity

Transparency Around Supply Chains

There is an increasing focus on transparency, especially for large corporations. Consumers want to peek behind the curtain to understand the end-to-end process and supply chain behind the brands they support.

Supply chain mapping and showcasing renewable sourcing, ethical production, and efficient distribution can be key proof points. Technologies like blockchain are also beginning to provide immutability and traceability.

Spotlight on Lifecycle Impacts

Looking at the entire lifecycle impact of products instead of just a company's discrete “owned” operations provides more legitimate information to assess brand sustainability.

Mapping out accurate emissions profiles with lifecycle assessment data, water usage across the value chain, recycling supports post-consumer, and other factors contribute to better lifecycle understanding. This demands more sophisticated brand tracking but bolsters credibility.

Clean Energy Targets

While operational impacts are just one of the sustainability puzzles, companies still need to “walk the talk” with fundamental environmental commitments. Setting time-bound targets to source significant portions of owned/operated power demand from renewable sources is an emerging hallmark.

Eco-Labeling Driving Purchase Decisions

Ecolabels and environmental certifications continue multiplying, with consumers' increasing reliance on these markers to inform purchase behaviour.

Eco Label Design Trends

Proliferation of Ecolabel Schemes

Consumer surveys reveal that buying decisions are strongly influenced by ecolabel information. In one global Nielsen study from 2018, 66% of respondents said they were willing to pay more for sustainable brands, which has likely increased even further.

In turn, dozens, if not hundreds, of eco-labels now exist—Energy Star, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, etc.—causing consumer confusion and feeding demand for simple visual cues. International standardisation efforts around “Type 1” lifecycle-based labels aim to elevate the most credible certifications.

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Linking With Rating Systems

Leading companies are connecting ecolabeling and environmental messaging to underlying scoring/rating systems that benchmark sustainability performance more objectively. B Lab’s B Corp Certification, EcoVadis ratings, and CDP disclosure scoring represent efforts to embed more robust analytics and data credibility behind branding claims.

Playing Offense With Sustainability Marketing

For leading companies in industries like consumer packaged goods and food retail, pursuing aggressive environmental messaging is no longer just about playing defence and managing reputational risks or pressures from campaigners. Instead, branding focused on sustainability, health, and ethics is viewed as a competitive advantage and market opportunity.

Starbucks Sustainable

Premium Positioning

Brands devoted to environmental sustainability often charge premium pricing, with consumers willing to pay more for the “halo effect” of perceived social/ecological benefits. Market testing shows willingness-to-pay increases of 5-15% above comparable products without sustainability attributes baked into branding.

Channel Incentives

Big retail chains are increasingly preconditioning shelf space access on sustainability performance, as benchmarked relative to science-based environmental targets, lifecycle indicators, chemicals management criteria, and ethical sourcing standards. Branding that taps into this trend secures favourable distribution and channel incentives.

Value-Based Consumer Targeting

Detailed consumer segmentation modelling allows brands to target buyer groups motivated specifically by sustainability as a primary value proposition. Brand identity anchored around ecology, transparency, ethics, health, etc., attracts and builds enduring relationships with these high-lifetime value consumer cohorts.

Leading CPG companies see mid-to-high single-digit annual growth rates driven by activating environmentally oriented customer segments.

Grassroots Brand Ambassador Programs

More brands recognise that showcasing sustainability commitments only from the top down via traditional advertising and marketing has limitations regarding authenticity and channels. In response, many companies are nurturing grassroots “brand ambassador” networks.

Red Bull Brand Ambassadors

Employee Engagement

Employees themselves represent one vital constituency to engage around environmentally-focused branding efforts. Not only can staffers activate their personal/social networks as influencers, but failure to motivate employees can lead to external scepticism.

Brand ambassador training, sustainability committees amongst workers, employee ratings of corporate green progress, incentives for community activities, and internal communications highlighting environmental metrics represent best practices for “green” employee engagement.

Brand Partnerships

Similar to employee programs, cultivating networks of formal brand partnerships, sponsors, influencers, and other allies allows for more trusted and decentralised promotion of sustainability branding stories. Cause marketing funds donated to aligned nonprofits to feed into this partner ecosystem and indirectly strengthen branding claims.

For example, an apparel company getting product placement in YouTube haul videos from Gen Z environmental creators represents one way to tap into brand partnerships.

Hashtag Activism

Digital and social channels allow branding campaigns to leverage user-generated content, hashtags, viral sharing, and ambient influence. Instagram takeovers from green fashion bloggers or TikTok hashtag challenges showcasing consumers using branded reusable water bottles to avoid single-use plastics demonstrate the power of co-creating “green” branding through grassroots networks.

Ethics-Based Messaging Resonating More

With sustainability as a broader concept becoming somewhat overused to the point of cliche or “greenwashing”, brands are evolving messaging to more targeted topics like ethics, accountability, justice, inclusion, health, regeneration, self-actualisation, transparency, minimalism and related themes. This shift represents an attempt to connect with the deeper emotional and psychological drivers behind eco-conscious consumerism.

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Green Marketing Sustainable

Supply Chain Justice

Stories focused on ensuring fair wages, responsible sourcing policies, safe working conditions, community support, and development opportunities in global supply chains make ethics in environmental branding more tangible.

Data Privacy as an Ethical Challenge

For digital and consumer tech companies, baking commitments like data privacy, responsible AI practices, and software inclusiveness into brands resonate strongly with audiences.

Future Generations Focus

Invoking the moral duty to conserve natural resources, maintain biodiversity, and build sustainable infrastructure for future generations also powerfully taps into human psychology around responsibility and long-term thinking.

Experiential Events Driving Deeper Engagement

While digital/social platforms provide scalable channels, brands combining online sustainability messaging with experiential and sensory-based offline activations see dramatic results in consumer captivation and loyalty cultivation. The website offers only so much sensory bandwidth compared to events, pop-ups and immersive spaces.

Experiential Marketing Campaign Tropicana

Gamification

Gamified contests around goals for eco-friendly behaviours, such as completing sustainability challenges to earn rewards or combining fitness tracking with environmental data display, better engage audiences.

Punchy event brandings like leaderboards displayed on screens/projections, competition through mobile apps, and prize giveaways for top performers all enable gamified experiences.

Interactive Exhibit Branding

Creative branding through interactive museum-like exhibits, multimedia art, VR simulations of ecological impacts, and data visualisation spaces prompt audiences' more profound emotional reactions and memories.

Sample Giveaways

Distributing product samples at experiential events, especially for reusable water bottles, metal straws, renewable energy chargers, and others demonstrating functional environmental design, generates ongoing exposure opportunities.

External Certifications Boosting Trust

Rather than self-declared environmental messaging, brands increasingly turn to third-party sustainability certifications, rating systems, reporting frameworks, and data benchmarks endorsed by respected external organisations to substantiate claims.

B Corp Certification Gaining Adoption

B Lab’s B Corp certification has emerged as one of the foremost standards in validating comprehensive social/environmental accountability, transparency and performance by brands across metrics like energy, water, waste management, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) policies, governance structures, supply chain monitoring, lifecycle analysis and stakeholder relationships.

Assurance services

More companies pursue independent verification processes for major advertising claims around carbon neutrality, 100% renewable power, zero waste, responsible chemistry uses, sustainably managed supply chains, and related areas. Qualified assurance providers audit underlying data, policies and programs to backstop branding credibility.

Major accounting firms, specialist sustainability consultancies, law firms, AI analytics vendors and NGOs offer these assurance services to reinforce environmental marketing claims.

Connecting With Cultural Mega-Trends

Instead of existing in a separate “green” lane, brands intertwine environmental initiatives and messages with larger cultural mega-trends like social justice, diversity, health & wellness, authenticity, transparency, self-actualisation, premium experiences, disruptive innovation and more.

Sustainable Printing Going Green Brands

Climate Justice Branding

With awareness expanding around how marginalised communities disproportionately suffer climate change impacts, branding positively linking environmental sustainability pursuits with climate justice themes enhances relevance.

Minimalism Movement

The popularity of lifestyles and aesthetics focused on simplicity, decluttering, essentialism and restricting conspicuous consumption all connect with sustainability values around conserving resources, reducing waste, and focusing on experiences over physical possessions.

Conclusion

Environmental considerations are increasingly influential in contemporary branding and marketing across consumer sectors. As customer consciousness evolves quickly around ecological threats, brands must continue adapting sustainability messaging to align with leading mega-trends.

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Those companies that pursue creative, multidimensional and digitally integrated green branding with legitimate substance rooted in ethical practices and lifecycle thinking stand to forge strong market positioning for the future.

Environmental Branding Trends FAQs

What are some examples of successful environmental branding?

Patagonia (brand identity anchored firmly around environmental conservation, sustainable materials, and ethical production)
Allbirds (sustainable materials innovation in footwear paired with B Corp Certification)
IKEA (affordable home products meet expansive renewables investment)
Tesla (electric vehicle innovation intersects with aspirational brand)
Seventh Generation (eco-friendly cleaning products featuring ethical ingredients)

How is environmental branding regulated to prevent greenwashing?

Increased litigation around deceptive advertising means brands must back claims.
Third-party standards like B Corp Certification or ISO validations provide accountability.
Consumer watchdog groups actively screenwash for authenticity

What’s more impactful – environmental certifications or brand advertising?

Certifications offer more legitimacy, but advertising reaches more consumers.
In brand creative campaigns, layering the two together by prominently featuring eco-labels like FSC, Organic, Fair Trade, etc., can drive influence.

How can companies measure the impact of sustainability branding efforts?

Sales data, pricing power, and willingness-to-pay premiums quantified via consumer research
Brand value perception surveys and choice modelling analytics
Web traffic, social media engagement, earned media metrics
Employee sentiment shifts
Supply chain partner reviews

What environmental branding methods yield the highest consumer trust?

Spotlight manufacturing and operations transparency
Clear environmental targets with timelines
B Corp or similar multifaceted external certification
Complimentary brand partnerships and cause marketing
Provide data supporting claims

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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