Sustainability Branding Principles and Best Examples

Sustainability branding has become a divisive term among consumers.

On one hand you have the optimists applauding the change brands are making for the sustainability of the planet.

On the other hand you have the pessimists pointing to “greenwashing” and nothing more than marketing spin.

But without a doubt, brands and how sustainable they are is a topic that’s here for the long haul and its importance is ramping up.

So let’s dive into what it is, why it’s importance is growing and how to incorporate sustainability into the brands you build.

Sustainable Branding Principles & Process (7 Brand Strategy Examples)

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What Is Sustainability For A Brand?

Sustainability branding is the process of focusing and integrating identified environmental, economic and social issues into the operations of a business. 

These sustainability efforts involve creating, maintaining and projecting a brand that offers the benefits of sustainability to customers and the planet.

Generally, consumers are becoming more switched on to the damage brands are doing to the environment and sustainable brands are leading the charge to reverse that cycle to meet the growing appetite for sustainability from consumers.

While a traditional business will like to think about maximizing profit, sustainability branding emphasizes a greater purpose.

An effective sustainability program makes it clear to the target audience that their business model aspires to more than just boosting their bottom line. 

Why Sustainability Branding Is Important

People are now more concerned than ever about finding effective ways to address environmental, economic and social issues.

More eco-friendly brands are emerging putting the needs of the planet ahead of their profit margin.

Today’s consumers expect brands to become more sustainable in their business operations, and it is only those brands that support these ideals that will make a long term impact. 

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Consumer Spending Patterns Are Changing

According to Business Wire, 60 percent of global consumers rate sustainability as an important purchasing criterion

Everyone likes to put their money where their mouth is, and this is the case with consumers and sustainability. Consumers now seek out products and services that support the causes they care about such as using renewable energy and purchasing green products.

It is not enough to be a sustainable brand, you have to properly communicate your commitment to fighting climate change and facing environmental issues head-on.

Brands that take a stand on social issues and those who are proactive in their communication will easily win the hearts of their target audience.

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Principles of Sustainable Branding

Sustainable branding goes beyond using green-themed logos and designs or sticking eco-friendly labels around packages.

Your entire process has to reveal sustainability to be able to get the right message out.

1. Create A Sustainability Roadmap

According to Sustainable Brands, eco-friendly companies should have a sustainability roadmap that includes:

 System-wide brand influence

 Net-positive products and services

 Purpose beyond profit

 Regenerative operations which are evident in the use of recyclable materials and sustainable processes

A good road map will help businesses create sustainable strategies that will guarantee long-term impact and market relevance.

2. Understand The Process

If you are a brand designer or copywriter, sometimes you are working outside the organization or you are not directly involved in the operations side of things, and yet you are tasked with the responsibility of creating a brand image or voice.

Before you place a demand on your creative gland, you will need to understand everything that goes into the brand you are marketing and how those processes align with the mindset of the consumers in terms of sustainability.

Your job will then be to help create the connection between the processes and the purposeand then creatively communicate that to consumers.

As a copywriter or designer, you can help your clients find and build their sustainability branding narrative by looking at their entire process from material selection, to production, to packaging, and end-use.

3. Embrace Transparency And Integrity

Sustainability branding is not “greenwashing”

There is no need to put an eco-friendly label on a product when you can’t showcase what was done differently to make the product sustainable.

However, you want to be authentic and transparent and talk about what you are already doing to support sustainability efforts.

Even if you are not there yet, you can share your big vision and then talk about the milestones you are hitting.

Claims about your sustainable business must be noticeable and verifiable and the benefits should be directly relevant to the consumer. You don’t want the backlash that will come from claiming what you don’t do.

Therefore, the message you send out and your efforts towards sustainability must be consistent. 

When you have incorporated sustainable practices in your entire process, it becomes much easier to reflect them in your communications.

4. Put Purpose Ahead Of Profit

Being sustainable is being people and planet-oriented. This is in sharp contrast to the traditional goal of businesses which is to maximize profit and boost your bottom line.

A sustainable brand will have a bigger vision which is to create a lasting impact on people, economies, the environment, and communities.

How To Create A Sustainable Brand

Sustainability practices revolve around social, economic and environmental responsibilities.

They can be about reducing emissions, providing an eco-friendly packaging, using renewable energy, recycling, enabling the availability of clean water, or any number of other sustainable practices that will impact the planet positively.

Get Started By Engaging Stakeholders

Companies need to engage in conversations with their stakeholders and customers and be clear about

What sustainability means to them

What the expectations are

And how they can gradually commit to that expectation as a brand

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Promote Sustainability Practices In Operations 

Whatever happens in the production process is what becomes your sustainability branding story, therefore identify areas where you can be more sustainable than you currently are.

You can appoint a Sustainability Executive to oversee and implement your business’ sustainability strategies. 

Audit Existing Processes

Some brands are already sitting on huge sustainability credentials they are not reflecting in their communications to consumers. By auditing your existing processes, you can find areas where you have been exceptionally sustainability compliant.

What’s next?

Capitalize on that foundation of sustainable practices and reinvent your brand communications across email, social media, and other marketing channels.  

Partner With Other Sustainable Brands

Retailer brands, for example, can stick to products that have roots in sustainability practices and communicate that to their customers.

By showcasing and marketing only green products that have been produced from sustainable practices, they are showcasing themselves as sustainable brands.

7 Best Examples of Sustainable Brands

Here are some top examples of companies that have embraced sustainability branding and are communicating it effectively to their target audiences.

1. Starbucks

9. Starbucks - Brand Vision, Personalization

With their green-white-themed logo, Starbucks already showcases itself as an eco-friendly company.

Visit their website or social media profiles and you won’t need anyone to tell you that the company is 100% built around sustainability.

You will find images, graphic illustrations, and messaging that showcase plant-based menu options, reusable packaging, regenerative agriculture and better waste management.

As a way of transparency, they also invite consumers to track the way they produce their products, and how they are cutting emissions by 50%.

2. Dell

Dell, makers of computers, brand themselves sustainable by using renewable energy from solar panels in their plants to reduce emissions.

They have also committed parts of their profits to remove about 86 million metric tons of plastic from the oceans while also recycling those resources to create new products. 

In communicating these as a brand, you will see the green colours in the designs of their packaging.

In addition, Dell has a friendly recycling plan in place. You can send back your used equipment to Dell and they will safely destroy the potentially harmful parts at no cost to consumers.

3. Beyond Meat

Recognizing how the meat production industry impacts the environment negatively, Beyond Meat uses plant-based alternatives to create healthier products that taste just like real meat.

With illustrative graphics and green-themed photos, they communicate their green branding focus of saving the planet and helping consumers to live healthier at the same time. 

This toilet paper maker brands itself as the “toilet paper that builds toilets” and dedicates 50% of its profits to building toilets in impoverished communities in the developing world.

The toilet papers are either made from 100% bamboo or recycled fiber, and they pride themselves on producing extra soft toilet papers.

This is a good example of a green brand that combines both environmental, economic and social issues in its branding strategy.

5. Lush

Lush projects its brand image as eco-friendly and sustainable. Everything on their website and social media profiles mentions sustainability.

Its sustainable practices are clear to any visitor as they share what they stand for as a brand, especially with their showcase of 100% vegan, handmade cosmetics.

6. Pela

Pela produces 100% biodegradable products in a bid to reduce plastic wastes and “create a waste-free future”.

They make phone cases, air pod cases, smartwatch brands, sunglasses and other accessories from compostable and biodegradable materials which are also free from toxic chemicals.

To convey how eco-friendly they are in the mind of visitors, virtually every product displayed on Pela’s website and social media profiles feature

design elements around them that are green such as plant pots, and veggies.

7. Green Toys

Green Toys produces safe and green toys for kids that are made from 100% recycled products.

Visit their website or social media profiles and you will see how they use colours and images and carefully crafted words to pass across their message as an eco-friendly brand.

Green Toys didn’t just mention that they use recycled products, they went further to state what they are recycling to make the toys — milk jugs.

Over To You

Look, Sustainable branding is without a doubt a competitive be advantage where there’s weight behind the words.

Who Gives A Crap makes extra soft toilet papers from recyclable materials and then uses a chunk of their profits to build toilets in rural areas. You can see the connection between the initiative and the product they offer.

Let your brand designs reinforce sustainability.

Your logo, website, social media and product packages should all communicate your dedication to your sustainability program. Therefore, think about how you can creatively convey the message across your brand strategy.

Finally, sustainable branding — like every other form of brand building — takes time to implement since it sometimes has to do with re-aligning your goals and visions and adjusting your processes.

However, you can start right away by changing the narrative around your brand and initiate a new focus as a sustainable business while you implement the changes bit by bit.

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