Sustainability matters: how to connect with Australian consumers through ESG and net zero initiatives

October 12, 2023

Over the past decade, being ‘green’, sustainable and planet-loving has become more important than ever – both for consumers and organisations. We’ve all heard the stats about the state of the environment. Doing right by our world is no longer just for brands who want to promote that granola and tree-hugging aesthetic. It’s a necessity for any business that wants to genuinely connect with consumers.
From earth-friendly fashion to electric cars, eco-friendly credit cards to carbon-neutral banks – everyone seems to be doing something eco-ish, but what does it all really mean? How can brands in Australia move past the buzzword frenzy and create genuine positive change while authentically engaging more customers? It all starts with knowing your stuff.
What do net zero and ESG mean?
According to Climate Council Australia, ‘net zero emission’ refers to achieving an overall balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced and greenhouse gas emissions taken out of the atmosphere.
Taking a position on net zero initiatives shows consumers you are serious about the impact your business makes and gives them tangible evidence you are doing something about it. Back in 2015, world leaders came together at the UN Climate Change Conference and established the historic Paris Agreement to address the challenges of climate change. The Net Zero initiative evolved from that agreement and countries across the globe including Australia are aligned in achieving its goals. Those goals are that greenhouse gas emissions will “be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050”. The way a business can demonstrate its commitment to the Net Zero Initiative is by detailing their efforts in their ESG strategy.
ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance and has become embedded into the corporate landscape in recent years. ESG is driven by a set of criteria that assess risk and value in a company, outside of the typical balance sheet evaluation. It’s a way for companies to show how their business is impacting and considering its environmental footprint (E), how they value the people that work for them and with them (S), and how ethically and responsibly they run their business (G).

These kinds of actions are critical for businesses today with consumers actively choosing brands aligned with their own values. Demonstrating your genuine commitment to social responsibility, fair governance and a strong environmental stance can create a competitive edge and build lasting loyalty. Brands in Australia are cottoning on to the fact that customers, employees and investors now expect them to address these areas in their business, rather than sweeping them under a green-washed rug. In fact, to thrive, brands must authentically incorporate ESG considerations into their business to connect with customers, stay competitive and contribute to a more sustainable world.

How can brands communicate sustainability to customers?
Wherever we look, we’re being inundated with sustainability and social responsibility messaging from brands leveraging earth friendliness to connect with us. So how can you ensure your brand cuts through the noise and gets it right?
Be honest, be credible
Twenty years ago, putting a green tick on your packaging might have pulled the wool over the eyes of customers, creating the impression that it was made from recycled materials. These days, it’s not about trying to appeal to your customers by coming across as ‘green.’ It’s about communicating the tangible ways you actually make an impact – even if your efforts are still a work in progress.

When you’re trying to align your brand with ESG principles, using phrases like ‘net zero’ might seem reasonable, but how can you ensure your customers believe what you’re saying? The answer is to educate them and be authentic. Use facts and stats, display your certifications, and detail where possible even the smallest efforts – but don’t go rubbing it in people’s faces, no one likes a show off.

Patagonia offers a great example of sustainability messaging:

“7% of our wool materials are made with recycled wool. As a result, we reduce our CO₂e emissions from those fibres by 95% compared to virgin wool; that amounts to more than 56,000 pounds of CO₂e.”

“A Certified B Corporation, Patagonia’s mission is to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

If you’re trying to connect with your customers through sustainable initiatives, think about the credibility of your statements and be honest above all else. Even small change is a step in the right direction so it’s ok to start to tell your sustainability story before it’s complete. “From little things big things grow” as the song goes.

Simplify your message  

To create connections with your customers through your ESG and Net Zero initiatives, don’t make things more complicated than they need to be. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t underestimate the intelligence of your audience, but endless streams of data about your positive impact can be off-putting for even the most environmentally conscious customer.

All aspects of your brand messaging should be easily digestible, impactful and enjoyable to consume – and the same goes for your sustainability messaging. Consider using infographics or short video content to engage your audience, rather than lengthy reports about your impact.

Stay informed
To make genuine connections with your audience, it’s important to gather feedback. Learn what social and environmental issues matter to them and how your brand can help now, and as the world changes. Staying informed can mean consulting with non-profit organisations or other expert groups to help you improve your sustainability practices, or just taking time every quarter to delve into the latest ESG developments and expectations.
Put your ESG goals into action
Although connecting with Australian customers through your ESG initiatives should be a key part of your branding – it isn’t a marketing strategy – it needs to be a core part of your business model if you want to impress them with your actual positive impact. Whether it’s expressing your remarkability, making you visually stand out, telling arresting stories, or creating unforgettable experiences that put your ESG goals into action, Taylor & Grace are here to help.

“To create connections with your customers through your ESG and Net Zero initiatives, don’t make things more complicated than they need to be.”