When it comes to environmental comms, brands must find their own shade of green, says Charlotte Nunes, director of communications at RVU (owners of Uswitch.com)

One of the latest movements taking place in our industry is the shift from media relations to green relations - and the positioning of brands as ‘sustainable’ in the media.

Many teams have been eager to align with the green agenda, whether that be through stunts, initiatives, or even plain old reactive commentary. But the challenge many have faced is in coming across as genuine and authentic. Outfits made from recycled plastic or beer distilled with glacier water may be superb creative plays on the surface, but these ideas can often run the risk of turning from green to gimmicky, unless a long-term strategy is also in place.

With PR teams being the main filter between a company and the general public, the onus is on us to act both effectively but with integrity, so that it’s clear which brands are actually making a positive sustainability difference to our planet and which aren’t. The price of quick-fix solutions, rather than deeply considered initiatives that actually do environmental good, is a damage to consumer trust and a risk of being remembered for all the wrong reasons.

From media relations to green relations

Context is crucial when planning any campaign. And in 2021 every press office team should run a ‘green’ review before any communication makes its way to the media.

At Uswitch, our research revealed that consumers are highly unsure when it comes navigating the ins and outs of products labelled as sustainable. When considering energy tariffs - our raison d’etre - we found that half of consumers reported confusion around what it was that made a deal ‘green’.

To address this, we opted to create a green accreditation scheme, categorising tariffs into Bronze, Silver and Gold, depending on the level of renewable energy that suppliers directly buy, and the level of investment they are making to support the growth of renewable energy.

It was the labour of deep market research, intense industry discussion, consultation with academic subject experts and 360 collaboration between internal teams that made the difference, and the media outreach happened only when we were satisfied that the timing was right. Even then, our strategy was written in pencil, meaning that it could be continually adapted and adjusted depending on both internal and external circumstances.

An industry first, this depth of consideration now makes it easier for people comparing energy deals to understand which are truly green and which may be a murkier shade.

Defining your own shade of green

As communications experts, we should think mindfully and strategically about a brand's reputation in the longer-term, and where this truly fits in the green colour chart. Far from being a hot topic or a flash-in-the-pan trend, we’re all trying to find a strategic way for the country to make its way on the journey together to net zero.

Ultimately, green comms isn’t a black or white issue. PRs need to uncover their brand’s own shade of green and stick to it. The teams who realise this, navigate context and don’t simply bend to external pressure, will be the ones recognised as winning the right way when it comes to their sustainable communications.

Written by Charlotte Nunes, director of communications at RVU (owners of Uswitch.com)