Sustainability issues were never far from the surface during a year in which the warnings of climate catastrophe grew more urgent – and brands began to react to the concerns of consumers.

Four fifths of consumers globally believe companies should help improve the environment, according to a survey by Nielsen that was highlighted in April’s Admap. “We’re seeing a bigger trend towards ‘visible and emotional sustainability’ – brands taking a stance on social and political issues and making major commitments to eliminate waste,” said Julia Wilson, Vice President, Global Responsibility & Sustainability at Nielsen.

Read more: Sustainable shoppers buy the change they want to see in the world

At the same time, however, people are often sceptical about brands that tap into societal issues: an Edelman survey across eight markets showed more than half of consumers think this is merely a marketing ploy rather than evidence of any genuine conviction.

Unilever chief executive Alan Jope described this as “woke-washing” and warned it was not only “polluting purpose” but “threatens to further destroy trust in our industry, when it’s already in short supply”.

Michelle Hutton, Edelman’s managing director/global client strategy, advises that before brands explore social purpose, they must address the core considerations of considerations of quality (85%), convenience (84%), value (84%) and ingredients (82%).

“You’ve got to get that product experience, right,” she said. “But, equally, and more importantly, in today’s world, you’ve got to get this customer experience right.”

Read more: Edelman’s tips for meaningful brand purpose and restoring consumer trust

TOMS, one brand that marries quality with convictions, is exploring “effective media buying with purpose attached”.

A tie-up with Good-Loop takes existing video creative and wraps it in an ethical ad player which carries branding along the top and a choice of three charitable causes – chosen by the advertising brand to reinforce brand values.

Once a viewer has watched the ad for at least 15 seconds (a countdown clocks the time) they can decide which of the three charities they want to give their ‘free’ donation to. The money actually comes out of the media spend.

Read more: TOMS marries brand activism with media effectiveness

Sourced from WARC