Brand and Sustainability: The Planet, People, and Society

 How are brands embracing and promoting sustainability?

Sustainability isn't just a buzzword that companies throw around to garner consumer loyalty; it's a corporate social initiative that matters considering the ramifications of climate change. NPR reported in June 2021 that the "amount of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere reached 419 parts per million in May, its highest level in more than four million years." 

Now more than ever, global sustainability is key to human survival, let alone a brand's. According to ANA's Sustainability Collective, only "10 percent of marketers claim to be well advanced in this area." According to dentsu and Microsoft's 2022 report, 88 percent "of global respondents say they will make sustainable purchases when able." Additionally the report found that "of people globally say in five years' time, they only want to be spending money with brands who practice green and sustainable advertising."

Julian Katz, brand and agency producer at and co-founder of Green the Bid, explained that companies need to reduce waste first, stating that "the best thing is to prevent the waste before you get to a point where you have to be buying carbon credits. Carbon offsetting can be a really effective tool and we do advocate that people offset whatever they can't reduce at the end of the day. But that's more of a last resort."

Meanwhile, Blake Caldwell, general manager Los Angeles at Day One Agency, stressed that to help build awareness toward sustainability issues and efforts, partnering with the right influencers, as well as social listening, is key, stating at an ANA event:

"Being aware of the moment and doing a lot of social listening was a key part. Having a long-term partnership with an organization like The National Forest Foundation brought credibility to the campaign. One side of this is how do you break through in a crowded space? And on the other side of this is how do you do it in a way that's authentic? Our long-term partnership created the right context to launch something even during complicated times."

The resources below provide examples of how brands are embracing and promoting sustainability. Learn more about ANA's approach to society and sustainability here.

Best Practices and Trends

  • Global Guidance on Environmental Claims. World Federation of Advertisers, April 2022.
    This guide covers how brands can make sure environmental claims featured in their marketing communications are credible for both consumers and regulators. It has been developed in the context of the WFA Planet Pledge, a commitment by leading companies to use the power of marketing as a force for positive change both internally and with the consumers who buy their products and services. It identifies six key principles that marketers need to follow to make sure they are seen as trustworthy and to avoid their brands being accused of greenwashing.

  • What to Expect in Sustainability Marketing in 2022. Adweek, January 2022.
    Climate demanded the attention of business leaders across industries during 2021. Sustainability went from the latest buzzword to the backdrop of every meeting and announcement, as brands rushed to prove their commitment to slowing the destruction of our planet. In 2022, sustainability-focused marketers expect climate issues to become further entwined with each piece of the branding ecosystem. From reevaluating client rosters and revamping sustainability reports, to reimagining experiential and improving transparency around carbon footprints, there's a lot of room for improvement in the marketing world. Here agency leaders share where they see the industry moving on climate issues this year.

  • Are Sustainable Brand Messages Targeting the Wrong People? Sustainable Brands, April 2022.
    By narrowing a demographic focus to a handful of easy target profiles, brands exclude swaths of people — the people who most need to be included in the narrative. This may make sense (sometimes) from a commercial perspective; but it doesn't serve the broader needs of our transition as a society. If campaigns and communications repeatedly neglect people like you, you'll start to think the subject isn't for you. Sustainability issues affect every living being on this planet, regardless of age or gender. In addition to moral reasons for broadening our views, some of the data reveal that reality is much more nuanced.

  • The Rise of Sustainable Media. Dentsu/Microsoft, March 2022.
    Sustainability has shifted from the margins and niche projects to a CEO and boardroom conversation about corporate purpose, growth, and future strategy. As mainstream businesses, global corporations, and governments focus their attention on the climate emergency, the speed of change both required and possible is increasing with more collaborative action, innovation, and education. Failing to act will cost both the planet and humanity. It will also cost businesses directly through tarnished brand and reputation, lost customers, and the potential for new regulation, carbon taxes or fines. This presents a global study into green consumer behaviors and how these redefine business environmental strategy for corporate growth, alongside effective and authentic marketing.
  • Purpose Driven Innovation and Driving Brand Love. ANA, August 2021.
    Marketing company Barkley conducted research on younger consumers prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 (and an additional follow-up study in February 2021) to see what influences their purchasing decisions. The company found that millennial and gen Z consumers are increasingly influenced by brand values. To appeal to these purpose-driven consumers, Barkley recommended establishing a brand story that permeates throughout a brand's products, services, marketing, and operations. Companies looking to establish a brand purpose should audit themselves and use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals — a collection of 17 global goals designed to achieve a more sustainable future — as a guide.

  • ESG Brand Perception Index. ANA/Swayable.
    This is a monthly updated index of top U.S. brands scored by consumer perception of environmental, social, and governance impact. It is based on surveys of consumer opinions on the ESG performance of more than 430 brands and was created in partnership with Swayable, a research technology platform that specializes in providing consumer insights. It lists the top 20 ranked brands across seven verticals. Some dives into specific industry areas:
  • Marketing and Sustainability: Closing the Gaps. World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), April 2021.
    In WFA's 2020 Marketer of the Future study sustainability lagged at the bottom of the current role options provided but was also first when asked which areas would become more important over the next five years. To tackle this discrepancy, the WFA launched this report, whose findings are based on in-depth qualitative Interviews with 13 global CMOs as well as a quantitative survey run in conjunction with National Advertiser Associations with responses from more than 650 marketers in 34 markets around the world, including a wide mix of geographies, company sizes, and categories. Drawing on these sources, this report looks at:
    • Consumer perceptions and expectations.
    • Marketers' perceptions of consumer expectations.
    • Marketers' perceptions for their own organizations.
    • The gap between sustainability and marketing.
    • How to close the gaps.

Brand Examples

  • Yelp Adds Eco-Friendly Business Attributes. Adweek, April 2022.
    Business directory and crowdsourced review forum Yelp teamed up with the Plastic Pollution Coalition on new searchable business attributes that will enable consumers using the Yelp platform to discover and connect with eco-friendly businesses, as well as support those that have adopted sustainable business practices. New eco-friendly attributes will be highlighted on Yelp search results and business pages, sourced from both business owners and consumers. The new eco-friendly business attributes on Yelp include:
    • Bring your own container allowed (available for restaurant and food businesses)
    • Compostable containers available (available for restaurant and food businesses)
    • EV charging station available (available to many categories on Yelp including active life, arts, banks, education, food, hotels, pets, restaurants, shopping and venues)
    • Plastic-free packaging (available for restaurant and food businesses, as well as applicable shopping businesses)
    • Provides reusable tableware (available for restaurant and food businesses)
  • How Apparel Brand FatFace Plans to Offset Its Digital Carbon Footprint.Adweek, March 2022.

    British lifestyle and clothing accessory brand FatFace released its ESG report, claiming that it reduced its carbon footprint by 24 percent year-over-year as it aims to be carbon neutral by 2025. This follows FatFace's promise to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 40 percent and offsetting the remaining emissions by planting trees and supporting projects that reduce CO2 emissions globally. It has also pledged not to send any waste to landfills, eliminate single-use plastic across the business, and become fully dependent on using renewable sources to power its head office and U.K. stores.

  • Accelerating Your Brand's Sustainability Journey. ANA, October 2021.
    How should brands be driving consumer behavior change at scale? How can they seamlessly embed sustainability messages into their marketing? Can sustainability be harnessed to confer a competitive advantage in the marketplace? Darren Beck from media think tank Sustainable Brands offered case studies of the transformative journeys of Clorox, P&G, and other leading brands, providing insight into the best practices and tools available today to help brands accelerate their journeys toward true sustainability.


  • Meeting the Sustainability Mandate: Equipping Marketers for Full Systems Change. ANA, December 2021.
    Climate change necessitates full systems change. What does this mean for marketers, and how can we equip brands to drive the adoption of sustainable consumption habits while also conferring a competitive advantage? In this webinar hear from brand leaders at The Clorox Company in conversation with Sustainable Brands as they share their journey using a new system of frameworks, playbooks, and tools that together help drive brand transformation and culture change at scale

  • How to Measure and Optimize Sustainability-Focused Brand Messaging. ANA, August 2021.
    Though brands have ample options for ad testing, few provide insight into messaging focused on environmental and societal sustainability. Perception of greenwashing is a current concern, as is communicating initiatives that either lack credibility or fail to drive consumer action. In this session, explore how brands using their platforms and influence to drive behavior change toward more sustainable lifestyles can effectively measure and optimize their messaging for credibility, talkability, influence, and action.

Tools and Templates

  • Sustainability Assessment Template. ANA.
    This comprehensive assessment helps you evaluate your organization's sustainability. It allows you to rate your compliance with best practices across several sustainable and environmental dimensions. Once you have completed the assessment, you will immediately be provided with results and recommendations for improvement.

  • Sustainability Report Template. ANA.

    This sustainability report provides a formal management communication document that gives internal and external stakeholders all the information they need to rest assured that your organization is committed to sustainable development and growth.

The Marketing Knowledge Center actively connects ANA members to the resources they need to be successful. You can visit the ANA website to engage with the MKC in three ways.

  • Explore content to access best practices, case studies, and marketing tools. Our proprietary content includes Event Recaps, which share actionable insights from conference and committee presentations.
  • Connect with our Ask the Expert team in real time for customized answers to your specific marketing challenges.
  • Stay on top of trends with Marketing Futures Pulse issues, which explore how new technologies and innovations will affect marketers and consumers alike. 

Submit a request to Ask the Expert here.


"Brand and Sustainability: The Planet, People, and Society." ANA, 2022.