ESG Marketing: How to Communicate Your Strategy Effectively

By Tamara Davison on February 27, 2024
ESG Marketing: How to Communicate Your Strategy Effectively
Tamara Davison
Tamara Davison

Tamara Davison is a journalist who specializes in sustainability and the environment. Reporting from around the world, she's seen firsthand the direct impact waste is having on coastal communities and our oceans. As a diver trained in ecological monitoring, the changes Tamara has seen in marine habitats inspired her to action. She's previously written for The Guardian, The Independent and the Evening Standard. She's also produced environmental documentaries for EuroNews.

Over the last 20 years, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy has become a crucial topic for business leaders. 

By 2020, 96% of the world’s largest businesses (by revenue) were reporting their ESG and sustainability goals publicly, according to KPMG. Another study found that at least 80% of companies have plans to increase their sustainability investments in the coming years (WeWork, 2022). 

Ask most CEOs and brand leaders today, and they’ll assure you that ESG is a top priority for their company. Some businesses have a dedicated web page highlighting their ESG targets, while others have become ‘thought leaders’ helping peers implement ESG strategies themselves. 

But what are businesses actually doing with those three crucial letters? There seems to be a disconnect between claiming to be an ESG leader and showing the real impact of these initiatives. 

This is where ESG marketing comes in. Communicating ESG goals and outcomes can help demystify your business’ sustainable operations while connecting you with the customers and investors that count. Here’s how to get it right. 

Do you want your business’s ESG strategy to focus on reducing plastic waste? Speak to our in-house experts, who can assess your packaging and discuss which steps your brand can take to reach your goal. 


What’s on this page?

01 | What is ESG?
02 | How does marketing support ESG? 
03 | How to effectively market your ESG strategy
04 | Common issues with ESG messaging
05 | Why is marketing important in ESG strategy? 
06 | How to avoid greenwashing in your ESG strategy? 
07 | Summary
08 | FAQs


What is ESG?

ESG is an acronym for environmental, social, and governance strategy, and it’s designed to improve the way a business deals with these topics. It’s essentially a loose framework that helps organizations show their commitment to environmental, social, and governance issues through business operations. 

Since these topics are increasingly important to customers and investors, business leaders can use ESG strategy to measure their positive impact on the planet and people. 

Beyond just an environmental focus, a robust ESG strategy can help ensure long-term business success and profitability. Businesses can build resilience in their operations, establish loyalty among stakeholders, and contribute to a more sustainable future. 

Check out our complete Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) Strategy guide to learn more about implementing an impactful ESG strategy. 



How does marketing support ESG? 

Even with a fantastic ESG strategy in place, you need to know how to communicate and market this plan. By implementing an effective marketing strategy, businesses can better communicate ESG successes and goals with customers and investors while enhancing their brand’s reputation as a sustainable leader. 

Studies have shown that 88% of customers would be more loyal to companies that back social or environmental issues. What’s more, 89% of investors consider ESG when making investments. Marketing helps both customers and investors know which businesses really value ESG.

Internal marketing can also help spread your brand’s goals and missions with staff, encouraging collaboration among your team. This can lead to the development of more people-orientated initiatives, helping ensure you’re not neglecting the ‘social’ branch of ESG.


How to effectively market your ESG strategy

When it comes to ESG strategy, marketing is a powerful tool. It can promote your business’s values and inspire other brands to embrace sustainability and social responsibility. However, you also need to get your ESG messaging right to avoid greenwashing — and here’s how. 

1. Establish clear ESG goals 

Before deploying ESG marketing, you’ll need to have clear goals that help measure and track your company’s progress. This way, you can be confident that the data and information you share in your marketing material are accurate. 

When kickstarting an ESG journey, most companies start by assessing their existing practices to identify which areas to focus on. 

Brands may also identify key metrics, such as carbon emissions or plastic reduction, as part of their plan. It’s best to select several metrics across the three ESG pillars to cover all your bases. 

As well as conducting internal assessments, brands can refer to ESG standards, such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), to help build a framework that works for them. You’ll only be ready to launch your marketing campaigns when you’re confident your ESG strategy works. 

2. Know your target audience

Understanding your audience and how they interact with your company is essential to mastering ESG marketing, allowing you to tailor messaging and achieve the biggest reach. 

You may need to conduct market research or analyze competitors' marketing material to identify the best way to market to your target audience. It’s also worth looking at your social media analytics to see which age bracket interacts with most posts. 

By knowing who consumes your marketing, you can be more selective with the avenues to share this information. 

A Nasdaq report from 2022, for example, claimed that millennials and Gen Z are the driving factors behind the rise of ESG. Younger generations look for genuine interactions, meaning they’re more receptive to communication on social media rather than a monthly newsletter. 

3. Avoid ambiguous language

The European Commission carried out a study in 2020, looking at corporate environmental claims, and found that 53% of organizations used vague, misleading, or unfounded information. Another study found that 76% of other business leaders doubted their peers’ ESG initiatives, believing many focused on perception rather than tangible results. 

Not only can this lead to confusion around your marketing, but it could land you with some hefty greenwashing fines.

Steering clear from misleading language in your marketing isn't just about avoiding greenwashing; it helps build credibility in front of your audience and peers. Create a dedicated page outlining how your efforts align with the three ESG pillars. Review your messaging and check it's free of ambiguous wording, such as ‘planet-friendly’ or ‘green.’ 

4. Let the data speak for itself

According to a 2023 IBM survey, just four out of ten customers felt they had enough data to make sustainable decisions about their purchases and employment. On top of that, inadequate data was also the most significant hurdle facing business executives in achieving ESG goals. 

Real-time ESG data can help your team make important decisions while demonstrating transparency to customers. It’s also a great way to back up your claims, building trust in your ESG messaging while reducing the risk of greenwashing.

That’s why we use our trash-tracking technology, so brands partnering with CleanHub can have a paper trail of data on plastic collection efforts. 

Implementing an ESG reporting tool can streamline and consolidate the information gathered about your ESG initiatives. By incorporating these data points on your website, your brand can ensure further transparency by letting consumers see your ESG data themselves. 

5. Lead the way as an educator 

ESG marketing shouldn't just be about promoting your successes in front of stakeholders and customers — it should also provide value. Using your platform as a force of good shows you’re taking ESG targets seriously. 

Thought leadership, where you share non-promotional content that offers value to readers, can help establish your business as an ESG leader. You can share your insights in regular blogs and pitch expert perspectives to media outlets.  

Brand leaders can also present themselves as specialists by producing regular reports showing an overview of an industry's sustainability. Market analysis and reports on ESG topics provide value through marketing and help build deeper ties with stakeholders, industry leaders, and the wider community. 

6. Maintain regular internal updates 

Around two-thirds of employees don’t know the impact that a company’s environmental policy is having. If this is relevant to your brand, you’re missing an excellent opportunity to incentivize your team by failing to communicate ESG achievements with your employees. 

Internal marketing is often overlooked but is a crucial part of the ESG narrative. Ask for feedback, make your employees part of the conversion, and let them lead the way in crafting a social strategy that everyone benefits from. 

This can include having your staff talk about their own experiences of equality and inclusion in the workplace and shining spotlights on teams going above and beyond with their environmental efforts. 

7. Team up with sustainable partners

Luckily, you don’t have to embark on the ESG marketing journey alone. Many third parties and independent organizations can provide guidance and support for mastering marketing with an ESG edge. 

This includes PR companies that help you avoid greenwashing pitfalls, sustainable marketers committed to showcasing your ESG credentials to the right stakeholders, and even environmentally-driven influencers who can market your products to more conscious consumers

Organizations like CleanHub can help you communicate your ESG successes through impact-driven storytelling, reporting, and social engagement. Get in touch with our in-house team to discuss the broader benefits of plastic recovery and how to achieve ESG goals with our help.


Two people stood in an office with greenery holding their laptops


Common issues with ESG messaging

ESG marketing is increasingly common, but brands don’t always get the messaging right. Failures in ESG marketing can lead to criticism from consumers and the media. 

Some of the common pitfalls we’ve noticed in ESG marketing include: 

  • Focus on short-term gain: Promoting a temporary initiative without considering the long-term strategy suggests a lack of good governance. An example of this would be a company that celebrates Black History Month but fails to implement DEI structures after the period is over. 
  • Greenwashing: Whether greenwashing was intentional or not, consumers aren’t prepared to put up with companies caught out for anti-environmental behavior. Vague ESG wording puts you at risk of falling into the greenwashing category, and this can damage the credibility of your entire ESG strategy, while negatively impacting brand loyalty. 
  • Selective ESG successes: Climate change is now impossible to ignore, and the environment continues to emerge as a significant area of focus for business leaders. As a result, businesses often sideline social and governance strategies for more prominent environmental focuses. Even if your emissions are low, for example, don’t overlook other ESG branches like fair and ethical social structures in your supply chain.


Why is marketing important in ESG strategy? 

Little would be known about a company’s ESG strategies if no marketing existed. It doesn’t mean progress can’t happen, but it limits the scope of incentivizing others and raises questions about transparency. 

In 2023, there was a 70% jump in greenwashing incidents in the banking sector alone. Marketing can help companies report on ESG results, ensuring compliance with rising regulatory hurdles in this field. By being transparent with data and messaging, businesses avoid the pitfalls of greenwashing that often lead to hefty penalties. 

Most importantly, ESG marketing can help you connect with conscious consumers. PwC found that 80% of surveyed customers were more likely to support brands that stand up for environmental and governance goals. 

Around 76% of respondents also wanted to support brands that championed social issues. Communicating your ESG successes can quickly unlock a new (and growing) cohort of sustainably-minded customers and stakeholders. 



How to avoid greenwashing in your ESG strategy? 

It should come as no surprise that greenwashing negatively impacts the success of an ESG strategy and public perception. Unfortunately, this practice is on the rise. 

To counter this greenwashing narrative, brands must take the lead and actively show consumers that they’re taking sustainability seriously. Some of the best ways to avoid greenwashing include: 

  • Avoiding unclear language and vague phrases like ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly’
  • Being honest with your customers and stakeholders about ESG progress, even if you’re still working on meeting targets
  • Backing up all of your claims with data and evidence 

Read our complete guide to avoiding greenwashing in your business for step-by-step advice on setting an example with your environmental impact. 



It’s time to end the ambiguous language surrounding ESG and embrace being an environmentally and socially conscious business leader.

To do this, brands and businesses have to align their ESG targets with impactful marketing. You need to be authentic, take real action, and show your commitment to environmental, social, and governance goals. 

With the tips above, your brand can confidently navigate the ESG landscape and know its efforts are having a positive impact. 

At CleanHub, we’re committed to helping brands improve their environmental impact. Want to get involved? Get in touch with our experts today to learn about how you can reduce your business’s plastic footprint.



How do you communicate ESG strategy?

To effectively communicate an ESG strategy with your team, customers, and stakeholders, establish clear ESG goals and targets you can share with your audience. Transparency is vital, so communicating challenges and being truthful about ESG progress can go a long way. 

How does ESG inform a business strategy?

ESG should inform how your business looks at its environmental commitments, social impact, and governance strategies. There’s no cookie-cutter approach to getting ESG right; each company should develop a unique approach that suits its business goals. 

How can you ensure a communication strategy is sustainable?

Ensure your communication and marketing align with your company’s wider ESG goals and communicate your initiatives, targets, and successes in ways your audience can understand. 

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