Dos and don’ts: Keeping it real in your sustainability messaging

Corporate sustainability claims are being examined more closely than ever, driven by the implementation of stringent greenwashing regulations in the UK and EU. These new policies and laws mandate higher levels of accuracy and transparency in environmental statements by corporations.

But sustainability is more than just the environment – and corporate communications need to look beyond environmental claims. When doing so, companies need to pay attention to not fall victim to the many other types of washing, for example:

  • Blue washing – when companies claim alignment with frameworks such as the UN SDGs and UNGC without substantive action.
  • Greenhushing when a company downplays or conceals its ESG information.
  • Purpose washing – emphasising a purpose with no genuine action to support it.
  • Rainbow washing – overstating support of the LGBTQ+ community, e.g. through ‘virtue signalling’ and adding rainbow imagery to communication visuals with minimal LGBTQ+ support to back it up.
  • Social washing – when companies exaggerate their social commitments around labour rights or gender equality and distract from real progress.
  • Woke washing – when companies align with social justice movements to gain profit or build reputation without changing business practices.

These actions – whether intentional or not – limit stakeholder access to important ESG information, hindering informed decisions by consumers and investors. This lack of transparency can erode trust and credibility among stakeholders, underscoring why companies should embrace honesty and openness in their sustainability communications.

When navigating the complexities of making both environmental and social claims, it’s crucial to understand the dos and don’ts and ensure you avoid greenwashing. Here’s a concise list to help you instil authenticity and reliability in your sustainability messaging:

Dos and don’ts


  • Use credible sources: Share real examples and use third-party certifications if applicable.
  • Be transparent: Provide context and clear information to communicate honestly.
  • Balance your reporting: Own up when things go wrong and learn from your mistakes.


  • Exaggerate your claims: Back up all claims with evidence and avoid baseless comparisons.
  • Avoid generalisation: Steer clear from using buzzwords and vague or misleading language.
  • Choose imagery carefully: Dodge the urge to use stereotypical icons and imagery in your design and do not overuse the colour green when linking to environmental topics.

For more on how to avoid greenwashing, check out my other article: Greenwashing in the spotlight. And if you want to ensure that you’re preventing greenwashing in your sustainability communications, please feel free in get in touch at