Each April, Earth Day comes along and presents an opportunity to raise awareness of the dangers of climate change. This year’s theme is Invest in Our Planet, with the Earth Day website speaking to ‘innovation’ and ‘partnership’. Speaking the language of corporations and encouraging them to seek sustainable solutions for their business. After all, drained resources and climate disaster won’t be very profitable.
So how can your institution celebrate Earth Day without veering into ‘greenwashing’ territory? With the UK government even passing laws to prevent this practice, greenwashing and virtue signalling can cause real damage to your brand. . And your institution may be greenwashing without knowing it; being all talk but no action. In a nutshell, a company may be greenwashing if they make unsubstantiated claims of sustainability, so you need to make sure you can back up what you say. The general public’s environmental conscience is growing, and consumers want to see businesses put their money where their mouth is.
Sustainability is a particularly important issue for students, and it seems to have a notable effect on their perception of universities. Previous examples such as American University have shown that green initiatives can capture students’ attention. In 2021, our Student Pulse panel found that 63.7% of students were proud of studying at a university with green initiatives, and over 80% believe that universities have a responsibility to educate the wider public on environmental issues.
In our Think Student Awards, the UK’s University of Leeds was voted by students as having the Best Campaign Supporting Sustainability with their #2023PlasticFree campaign. Students in our panel spoke of such campaigns as making a real, measurable difference. Actions to improve sustainability are a win-win when they simultaneously make the future brighter and make your institution more appealing to students.
And, with three quarters of student respondents on our panel saying they thought brands exaggerate environmental claims, not only is there legislation to contend with, but also the savvy younger generations who can see past allegedly ‘green’ advertising. So, when posting across your social media channels for Earth Day, it’s essential to pay more than lip service and have evidence of your claims. Students want to see you make a meaningful difference all throughout the year, not just on the days when it’s trendy to do so.
One way to make sure your words are backed by actions is to establish partnerships with environmental charities and organisations. You don’t have to be planting trees with your own bare hands; there are non-profit organisations who’ll do this for you. Here at Net Natives and Akero, we’re serious about our footprint and so, we’ve partnered with One Tree Planted to ensure that a percentage of advertising spends go towards building a sustainable future. So far we’ve planted 29,000 trees and counting! Not only that, to host and develop the Akero platform we produce less than 20% of the CO2 produced by the average person globally. So, why not partner up and make some pledges this Earth Day?
If you would like to find out more about how to build authentic, greener messages into your ad campaigns or commission research into discovering what’s important to your students, get in touch today.