Brand sustainability, or branding sustainability

According to our survey research, the Finnish people think it’s important that brands are investing in the environment, local recourses and on their own employees. However, the Finns are hesitant towards a brand’s sustainability communications and societal statements. For us communicators, this should make us pause.

Survey research is an important tool for communications consultants when trying to find a wider societal interest towards a specific topic, or when creating an angle that is newsworthy for specific stakeholders.

When designing a survey research, there is oftentimes already a presumption of the type of results it will produce. Is it really true that COVID-19 will increase the popularity of remote work even after the pandemic, or that the interest towards electric cars is increasing each year? The aim is to prove an assumption to be true so that one does not have to speculate.

From the point of view of those commissioning the research, there are three options: the results are as interesting as expected, they reveal nothing new, or they will be utterly surprising. And we were surprised.

The most important act of responsibility is taking care of one’s own

Last summer, Miltton carried out a survey where we asked a thousand Finns what types of actions relating to sustainability they expect from a brand, and how these actions should be communicated.

Naturally, we expected that with questions about sustainability, the aspects standing out would be ecological sustainability, global issues, and the demand for the brand to actively participate in the discussion and societal influence.

According to the research, more than two thirds (71%) considered it important that a brand is investing into the environment and climate issues in their sustainability work. What was even more important to the Finnish people (83%), was that the brand invests in the home-grown when it comes to, for example, ingredients or employees.

When asked what type of responsibility acts the Finns value the most, the top answer was not domesticity or climate goals, but taking care of the company’s own employees. Furthermore, two thirds (64%) appreciated especially acts that invest in the well-being and energy of the company’s employees.

Interested in corporate responsibility communications?

Our presumptions about the aspects mentioned above were accurate. But more about the surprises: according to the survey, only 43% of Finns think it’s important when a brand takes a stand on current issues and is active in the discussion. The number is surprisingly small when compared, for example, to our own research four years ago.

Maybe this is what it’s all about: nearly 70% of the respondents stated that they resent when a brand’s corporate responsibility communication is all talk with no action, making it seem more like greenwashing.

Press releases and conversation starters connected to responsibility and societal statements are still considered interesting, as long as the acts are truly in line with the values, and it doesn’t turn out immediately after a closer inspection that the brand has some skeletons in its own closet.

A recruiting campaign singing the praises of the well-being of their staff does not work, if on the second day of the campaign Jodel starts to fill up with tales of torment from the employees. However, these classic cases still turn up regularly.

Besides brand sustainability communication, the issue is also about the branding of sustainability communication. Cases that are revealed to be greenwashing do not only damage the brand that is put under a microscope; but on a wider scale, they also damage the credibility of sustainability communication.

It is up to all of us to take care of the credibility and the brand of sustainability communication. When everything is good with the brand, also the desired audience will discover it.

The entire Miltton report about sustainability acts and marketing communication can be accessed by contacting Artturi Mikola, artturi.mikola(a)



Verneri Ruohoranta
Verneri works as an account manager and a team lead at Miltton.

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Verneri Ruohoranta