Strategic Positioning in the Age of Greenwashing

Strategic Positioning in the Age of Greenwashing

As consumers become increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their choices, companies have responded by boasting their green credentials. However, whether intentional or not, not all sustainability claims are genuine. Greenwashing is so prevalent today by acting on this practice, you risk losing all credibility in a blink of an eye. Even companies that do right by their people and the planet are finding this task challenging.


As you navigate this balance, we’ll frame how purpose-driven organizations can strategically position themselves while implementing genuine sustainability practices that build trust, meet legal requirements, and, most importantly, protect the environment.

What is strategic positioning?

… and why are we talking about this? 

Strategic positioning refers to a company’s approach in differentiating itself from its competitors. In essence, it’s the question we all ask ourselves – “How am I unique?

For most, positioning is seen as what makes my product different from the others. But a positioning strategy can encompass elements such as branding, customer experience, values, integrity and so much more.

With the greenwash rise, companies must demonstrate their genuine sustainability data to stand out from those jumping on the eco-bandwagon. Yes, its still not too late! By ingraining a sustainability-driven positioning strategy, companies can not only stand out through all the noise but also contribute to a more just and equitable future.

This is all great and good, but what does this look like in practice?

1. Conduct a sustainability audit 

First things first, you have to identify what you are going to measure and track, to then, communicate. Although a sustainability audit may already be in the works in one a department, most do not evaluate overarching impact.  As an example, your organization may be focusing on CO2 instead of mitigation or maybe the percentage of diversity in leadership without evaluating practices of exclusivity in culture.

Need help assessing the current state of sustainability in your company? 

To identify what to measure, start on the Quest Impact Scan. Inspired by the B Impact Assessment, the GRI framework, and the ISO standards, you can use this framework to self-assess and visualize the current state of sustainability in your company.

This first step is time-intensive yet integral to getting it right. Keep in mind, it’s wiser to set up a sustainability audit for your claims than it is to explain your sustainability claims in an audit.

2. Set a tangible sustainability strategy 

Yes, we know you’re here to read about strategic positioning, but setting a tangible sustainability strategy is the foundation to build from.

And a sound sustainability strategy is all about goals and their execution. Now, if we were in business school, we’d say that setting goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant to your business sector. Now, this is not wrong, but our advice when it comes to the impact strategy is for these goals to be ambitious, met with data, strategic, and interconnected across industries. These sustainability goals should align with all elements of your strategy and, honestly, need to be more ambitious in execution.

If your goals are far-fetched, do you have the data to back them or a strategic action plan to achieve them? For example, every business in our feed has claimed to go carbon-neutral by 2030. Great goal! But what is your transition plan for the energy you are producing in the meantime? If the answer is offsetting, try again.

Additionally, your goals should be all-encompassing. We keep seeing claims to be 50% recycled materials. If your current capabilities are at 35%, then this is a SMART goal. But is there a transition plan for the recyclability of those materials? Where does 50% fit in the purpose and broader business goals on recyclability anyway?

All this is to say that incorporating sustainability goals into the company core can position your company as a leader in your industry, building a strong reputation and competitive advantages that can be beneficial in the long term instead of the two-second internet celebration.

Need help aligning business efficiency and profitability?

We help you create a more positive impact faster with an impact strategy that perfectly balances purpose with profit and strengthens your image. Based on the sustainability audit insights, with Quest Impact Accelerator we co-create an actionable impact strategy tailor-made to your company’s needs while upholding your bottom line.

3. Be transparent

Want to have a strong positioning strategy? Be transparent. And yes, this means the downfalls too. Being transparent is your time to earn credibility for all the work put forth. Openly sharing your sustainability practices, goals, and progress shows stakeholders the honest commitment to reducing environmental impacts and creating a more sustainable future.

Now, this brings a lot of uncertainty to businesses that have risk-averse investors, but it is proven that communicating sustainability practices does a lot more for organizations than posting about their ambitions.

In 2021, B Corp-certified eyewear company Ace & Tate issued a humbling press release, “Look, we f*cked up,” addressing mistakes made around sustainability and its efforts to change.

This radical transparency has been proven to be effective in building trust with stakeholders by providing them with all the information they need to make informed decisions.

How effective is it? On Instagram alone, Ace & Tate’s post disclosing these shortcomings boasted higher engagement than the preceding B-Corp Certification announcement the day before—representing +450% higher engagement than the average post for the trailing 30 days.

Yet, doing this efficiently is easier said than done. Start with your framework to report this. Select your themes to explain your action plan, share ALL progress updates (or lack thereof), and always include an avenue for feedback.

As impact marketers, we can assure you that standard content creation that celebrates wins is no longer enough to impact the bottom line. People and businesses want genuineness; meet them where they are.

Does your brand need help standing out?

At Quest Studio, we are on a mission to help scale and accelerate impact-driven businesses, and we truly believe SEO is crucial to standing out in this overcrowded market tainted by greenwashing.

4. Partner with others

Many companies share the common sentiment that they’re too small to influence their entire value chain.

Yet, many treat partnerships as a growth-only opportunity where industry or cross-industry partnerships could lead to sustainable transformations and, in turn, a stronger position in the market.

By collaborating with others, you can leverage your business strengths, pool resources, and share knowledge to achieve common goals that may be difficult to achieve alone Diana Garcia, Quest’s Head of Growth

This can lead to increased efficiency, reduced costs, and improved innovation, all of which can help you stand out in your sector. Additionally, through partnerships, you can gain access to new markets, technologies, and expertise, which can help you expand your company’s offerings and reach new customers.

Take ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s and chocolate manufacturer Tony’s Chocolonely, for example. United by a shared passion for social justice, their latest partnership is taking both companies’ sustainability journeys to the next level. By adopting Tony’s 5 Sourcing Principles, Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry’s is pulling its weight in the effort to ensure a fully traceable cocoa supply chain while addressing poverty, the root cause of social injustice for cocoa farmers.

Now, what does this have to do with positioning? Consumers are looking for those leading the way in terms of sustainability, and by having a partnership approach, you can reach and communicate the transformation faster than doing it alone. From a B2B perspective, organizations are looking for those open to collaboration and sharing resources for an even faster industry transformation. Being a leader in this collective action is always a great position to be in, no matter your growth goals.

5. Verify

The do-it-yourself sustainability evaluation is no longer credible or viable. Collaborating with credible third-party organizations can help verify your sustainability efforts and help you strategically position your company as a sustainable business. These evaluations can include sustainability audits, certifications, or nonprofit-led movements, such as B Corp Certification.

Now, this would not be true to our values if we just said, “Verify and be done with it.” Organizations should have third-party audits to prove their work, but that is not the end of the story.

Assessments, certifications, and frameworks should not be a checklist item, but a learning exercise to act and improve.

Take the example of fellow B Corp Willicroft. After conducting an initial Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), the plant-based cheese company found their core ingredient, cashew, to be highly emitting and highly water consuming – Willicroft’s cashew-based Italian Aged was only 2.5 times less emitting than dairy Parmesan. Ultimately, the Amsterdam-based company switched to white beans as its core ingredient, as it would lead to major emissions reduction and can be grown locally.

We strongly believe that this is only the beginning of the endless ripples of change to come.

Ready to start your sustainable positioning strategy?

Convinced in what you see and ready to scale your purpose-driven organization. Let’s connect with our free hour consultation to help.

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