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Transparency in Marketing: The Line Between Green Marketing and Greenwashing   

Transparency evokes conflicting emotions in global marketing practices. For some, transparent communication means supremacy, and for others – vulnerability.  

The latter advocate from this standpoint:

The more details customers and stakeholders know about our product, the worse. If this trend of open communication continues, everyone can use their knowledge against us. In the end, I’d rather not discuss my suppliers as long as we deliver top-notch services.

What feels wrong with this claim is the view of transparency as a trend instead of a value. Unlike trends, communication values reflect a deeper cultural, emotional, and moral significance. Moreover, they can’t be orchestrated based on individual brand preferences and industry dynamics.

Here we’re talking about communication of value. That is to say, the ability to listen, talk, and engage with stakeholders and customers. And if you carefully listen to their voice, you’ll recognize the need for transparency.

Transparency as a value fits equally well on a paper flyer as it does on a TikTok reel. That’s why we can’t call it a marketing trend.

The Evolution of Transparent Information   

We need no statistics to notice the change in today’s consumer behavior compared to a few decades ago. Just consider the flow in the buying process now and then. There are quite a few decision-making criteria apart from the price including the product’s origin, its environmental impact, social luggage, and sustainability. 

Speaking in numbers, when choosing between two products, 81% of the consumers in 2022 would go for the one that provides such information.   

Trying to segment this shift into time-based categories seems impossible on a global scale, but here’s a rough outline of how transparent information has evolved:  

  1. Somewhere between the increased demand for transparent information and the inability to provide one, greenwashing was born.
  2. Ironically, the growing consumer awareness encouraged self-declaring labels to shape the decision-making across all marketplaces worldwide: an all-natural label claim supported by green imagery on the product packaging. Or, a plant-based label with breath-taking landscapes, regardless of the prevalence of synthetic ingredients.
  3. Now, we’re witnessing the turning point of the greenwashing dominance. The reason for its decay is the new generation of consumers, who were born and raised in the era of information. Having developed strong mechanisms for choosing a product, this generation feels pretty comfortable with the consumerism culture. We can see this through the way they: 
  • navigate across fake sources of information;  
  • differentiate self-declaration from third-party validation; 
  • break local market myths in online communities and reviews.  

In a word, misleading packaging labels don’t work for today’s consumers as they put effort and demonstrate knowledge in reading them.  

As a result, every greenwashing attempt today seems to boomerang badly, leading to reputational damage to the respective business. The only way to stand out in the current landscape is proof.  

Traceability: what makes the value a value?

There is a common misconception when interpreting transparency. Somehow, we equate transparency with open communication, which is not wrong, but it’s incomplete.  

The information we are open about has to be fact-supported to have value. For example, when you see a cruelty-free label on a cosmetic product, it’s open communication. The brand communicates their practices with consumers. The value of that information comes from what supports the label: certifications, testing practices, and other forms of verifiable documents. 

In this setup, traceability serves as a tool for achieving transparency providing stakeholders and consumers with proven, verified, and comprehensive information about a product or a service. 

In everyday life, such traceability systems usually come in the form of a digital solution combined with an adjustable level of human expertise.  

They empower brands and organizations with knowledge of the product throughout its supply chain – from the origin to the final destination, which is not always the end use. Environmental and social responsibility is often seen after end use when products become part of another story through recycling, restoring, or reusing.  

Having this knowledge is power. It gives you the control you need to proactively manage potential risks of product quality, handle regulatory compliance, and drive continuous improvement.  

At the same time, sharing this knowledge can help you maintain an image of a transparent brand, giving you complete legitimacy to incorporate it into your marketing strategy. 

Drawing the Line Between Greenwashing and Marketing

The role of transparency in marketing is crafting compelling narratives that distinguish your brand from competitors. By having control of all the necessary information, you’ll also gain a flexible foundation to align with your specific goals.  

You can choose how to leverage this information — be it highlighting ethical sourcing, communicating sustainability, or building engaging product stories. The result is – however – the same, a resonant connection with your customers. 

Showcase Quality through Traceability 

Product traceability data can distinguish your brand by implicating your dedication to assure product quality.  

You can share in-depth insights into your product, covering everything from raw material sourcing to production, transportation, and final delivery. In addition, you can communicate information about product disposal and recycling, highlighting their potential beyond the point of sale.  

Beyond showing respect, this approach adds value to your product for customers, fostering confidence at the same time.  

Highlight Ethical and Sustainable Practices 

Traceability data can support you in showcasing your commitment to ethical and sustainable practices. This includes environmentally friendly production processes, raw materials sourcing , and the product’s impact on local communities. 

This way you can communicate with customers who prioritize these values – either through specific marketing campaigns or on product packaging. The key message here is that you have fact serving as a credibility stamp for displaying ethical and sustainable practices. 

Empower Product Storytelling

Nothing adds depth to your storytelling like authentic data that allows capturing unique aspects of your product, such as heritage, local craftsmanship, or the personal story behind its creation. 

Storytelling is a cornerstone for building strong community and loyalty. Transparency enables you to establish the emotional connection, providing proof, not misinformation in driving emotions as the compelling force in your marketing strategy.  

Create Customer Engagement

Transparency has the power to encourage customer engagement by making them comfortable in communication with you.  

By openly communicating your product, your brand is signaling that you’re willing and able to provide relevant answers to customer questions and handle concerns with precision, effectiveness, and respect. It doesn’t work like a point on a marketing checklist but rather as a sense of belonging, whose presence will be felt across all your communication channels. 

Final Thoughts

There’s no issue in stating that you can use transparency as a powerful marketing tool – setting you apart from competitors and cultivating trust-based relationships with your consumers. The critical aspect is your readiness to deliver authenticated data regarding your product in doing so.  

Remember that transparency and traceability (as a tool for achieving transparency) aren’t merely strategic moves but an initial stride toward building a genuinely sustainable and transparent brand. Most importantly, their real power lies in the ability to build connections with your customers, outlasting the buying process, which is – after all – the essence of great marketing. 

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