‘Greenwashing Is Dangerous’: Lessons for Purpose-Driven Brands from Innocent’s Recent Lashing


Brands now understand the immense benefits of touting their sustainability and purpose credentials; but those with sustainability ‘halos’ aren’t immune to scrutiny over their claims. As Innocent drinks was recently reminded, the stakes have never been higher for getting it wrong.

Last month, beverage giant Innocent ⁠— which, as a startup, had seemed to do no wrong ⁠— was pulled up by activist group Plastics Rebellion and the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority on an advert it was deemed overstated the brand’s environmental credentials (see the ad, with Plastics Rebellion commentary, here.

In the ad, animated characters encouraged people to ‘get fixing up the planet’ by buying Innocent drinks. Although the brand hit back that it intended for the ad to be a ‘call to action,’ it failed to address the single-use plastic ‘elephant in the room’ (and the spectre of owner Coca-Cola looming in the background couldn’t have helped).

With brands now understanding how much there is to gain from touting their environmental credentials, the story is a harbinger of other call-outs to come for brands that overclaim the environmental and purpose impacts of their brands and products. So, where do brands go from here? Will public greenwashing ‘trials’ put the brakes on brands’ environmental momentum?

Innocent’s recent PR stoning may well cause other brands to think twice, especially since the smoothie-maker is generally viewed as having excellent sustainability credentials: The brand has committed to a science-based carbon-reduction target and is building a carbon-neutral factory in Rotterdam. The company also looks closely at its supply chain and processes; and in 2018, it became a B Corp. But, even for a brand such as Innocent, the desire to dial-up positive stories comes at a risk. Brands wanting to communicate their environmental impacts to consumers and the media must strike a balance between the stories they tell and the rigour and accuracy that underpins them. And if Innocent had considered more carefully both the overall message of the ad and its environmental credentials, it would have perhaps been a little more reticent.

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Sustainable Brands, 8 March 2022
; https://sustainablebrands.com/read/marketing-and-comms/greenwashing-is-dangerous-lessons-for-purpose-driven-brands-from-innocent-s-recent-lashing