What Is Green PR? How to Promote Environmental Initiatives and Avoid Greenwashing

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The global climate crisis is (and should be) at the forefront of so many people’s minds, which is why so many brands, regardless of niche, are prioritizing and implementing eco-friendly practices. For PR pros, this means adapting your strategy to incorporate these environmental initiatives, even if it’s outside your comfort zone.  To execute green PR correctly, you’ll have to avoid greenwashing and remain committed to true sustainability. 

What Is Green PR? 

Green PR is a form of public relations focused on a brand’s environmental impact. It highlights sustainability initiatives, any eco-friendly switches the company’s making (like in packaging, shipping, or manufacturing), and climate-focused philanthropy efforts. 

As with all PR, the main goal of green PR is to increase brand visibility and improve your client’s reputation — the only difference is the focus on the client’s sustainability

You can use green PR tactics in conjunction with your usual press strategies to maximize the impact of your pitches and campaigns. Focusing on eco-friendly practices opens up a whole new world of media opportunities, from sustainability-focused press placements to awards from organizations working to improve the climate crisis. And you can even leverage these results to further cement your client’s status as a green company and position them as a leading force of sustainability within their niche. 

Wait…Is Green PR Different From Greenwashing? 

Greenwashing is when a brand uses sly marketing strategies to look sustainable…when it’s really anything but. 

Usually, a company that’s greenwashing:

  • Uses vague language (Ex: saying something is “natural” or “made with clean ingredients”)
  • Avoids transparency around their supply chain
  • Focuses on one small sustainable change to distract from other harmful practices (like calling out their use of organic cotton even though the majority of their products use polyester)

Greenwashing sometimes originates from a client’s marketing team and not PR pros, so you need to be on the lookout for these tactics and nip them in the bud! 

As the climate crisis continues, audiences are getting more and more educated on true sustainability and greenwashing. They know what to look for and will stop supporting brands that engage in greenwashing. It’s like red flags on a dating app — people will spot those icky tactics and immediately move on. 

Instead, stick to authentic, value-based green PR strategies. These will help you avoid greenwashing accusations and build a loyal, eco-friendly customer base.

Related: Why Brand Positioning Matters More than Ever (+ Where to Begin)

Why Is Green PR Important Regardless of Your Niche? 

One of the most powerful parts of green PR is that it applies to every niche. All businesses have a responsibility to the environment. But if you’re not sure of the connection to your corner of the industry, here are three ways green PR is essential to success in any niche. 

Consumers Want to Support Brands that Align with Their Values on the Climate Crisis 

Consumers aren’t okay with buying products based on first impressions anymore. They want to support brands that align with their values and will do the research necessary to ensure their purchases feel true to them. PR pros can grab their attention (and make that research much easier) by focusing on green PR and getting your client’s sustainability initiatives into the biggest publications. 

It’s all about creating compelling, engaging stories that show how the environment is at the top of your client’s priorities. Focus on the positive impacts of your client’s initiatives, both on a global and personal level. 

Sure, some people don’t particularly care about purchasing sustainable products. But you will have far more success as a PR pro when you focus on the people who do care. And honestly? Those indifferent folks will come around to team green eventually.

Your Client Will Reach New Audiences 

People who are truly committing to a sustainable lifestyle are ready to jump ship from their tried-and-true brands if their practices aren’t up to snuff. Your green PR efforts could convert new customers who may have never made the switch but are looking for eco-friendly brands. 

You can also add environmentally-conscious consumers to your client’s target audience once you start to implement green PR practices. Say you represent a beauty brand targeting people 18-30 who want a dewy, minimalist aesthetic. With green PR, you can go beyond that group to capture the attention of eco-conscious consumers regardless of age demographic or desired look. 

It Improves Your Client’s Reputation 

Adding “environmentally friendly” to your client’s list of attributes is huge in creating a positive brand image. Both existing and potential customers will appreciate this update and will recognize the good your client is doing for the planet. 

When green PR is done effectively, you can earn your client the stamp of approval from publications and organizations focused on healing the planet. If sustainability initiatives are rare in your niche, you’ll solidify your client’s status as an innovator in the industry, which will help you maintain the spotlight far beyond the next news cycle. 

How to Avoid Greenwashing In Your Green PR Efforts 

Green PR is incredibly effective, but you run the risk of greenwashing when executing a new strategy. Forget preventing greenwashing from your clients — you could greenwash a developing campaign unintentionally! Read on for five ways you can avoid accidental greenwashing in your green PR efforts.

Use Concrete Data in Your Pitches

Using concrete facts and data is always a good idea when pitching, but it’s crucial to avoiding greenwashing in a green PR pitch. Before reaching out to the media, make sure you have your facts nailed down 100%. Verify everything with your client or the third party they partner with for environmental certifications. 

When writing pitches or campaign materials, focus on clear communication. Eco-conscious consumers can see through ambiguous language, exaggerated statements, and confusing jargon to spot greenwashing. All of these things backfire by creating major brand mistrust.

Instead, make sure you always present measurable, verifiable information and tell a story through the stats. 

Discourage Your Clients From Jumping on Sustainability Trends that Don’t Make Sense for Them 

The climate crisis has global attention, which means being eco-friendly has become ‘trendy’ over the years. We’ve all seen influencers suddenly start thrifting, promoting reusable containers they bought off Amazon, or taking sponsorships from greenwashed companies. When clients see this shift happening, some want to jump on the bandwagon — but not so fast!

Encourage your clients to hold off on sustainability trends until one that’s truly in line with their brand, products, and values takes off. Campaigns that are just capitalizing on trends and don’t make sense for a company come off as disingenuous. Use your green PR pro expertise to keep an eye on social media so you can act when the time (and trend) is right. 

Related: 5 Proven Strategies to Pitch Sustainable, Eco, & Social Good Brands

Keep Your Imagery and Videos Straightforward 

This is one of the trickiest greenwashing tactics to navigate! Avoid using images or videos that seem to hint at eco-friendly practices, like lush greenery, ocean life, or bright flowers. Nature-based imagery can lead consumers to believe a brand is eco-friendly even when it’s not,  and can feed into sustainability trends.

This is especially tough if your client’s brand colors include shades of green. It’s literally called green PR and greenwashing! To avoid falling into greenwashing territory, use non-nature photos in your campaigns, ask your media contacts to avoid this type of imagery in your green PR pitches, and focus on other anti-greenwashing strategies. 

Highlight Any Verifiable Certifications Your Clients Have 

Achieving any sort of sustainability credential is a HUGE win for your clients! Having a credible, verifiable certification is a major way to gain trust from environmentally-minded consumers and really show them that your client is walking the sustainable walk. 

When executing your green PR strategy, you can use these certifications to enhance your pitches or announce them on your client’s social media. Make sure they add any organization badges to their website and keep up to date with any renewals or changes in certification standards.

Show Real, True Change Inside and Outside of Your Client’s Company 

To reverse climate change, we need to make change. One of the most powerful green PR strategies is to showcase how your client is switching up their internal practices to be more sustainable, then display the impact of those changes. This can be measured through hitting internal milestones (like becoming carbon neutral or using 100% biodegradable packaging by a certain date) or through specific statistics (how much less water is now used in manufacturing, for example). 

Be prepared with concrete data that documents real change before you pitch these stories. This strategy is all about laying out a plan, explaining the implementation process, then showing it in practice.


Avoiding greenwashing when executing a green PR strategy can be super intimidating, Your client’s eco-friendly reputation is at risk! But with some environmental knowledge and tried-and-true anti-greenwashing strategies, you’ll set your client up for sustainability success.

jen@jenerationpr.com

jen@jenerationpr.com

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