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Why Provenance is launching an open-source rulebook for sustainability communications

Why Provenance is launching an open-source rulebook for sustainability communications
To help brands communicate social and environmental impact with integrity and avoid greenwashing, the Provenance Framework is an open source rulebook for sustainability communications.

More people than ever are purchasing consumer goods based on their social and environmental impact. But for brands making efforts in sustainability, it’s not always easy to capitalise on this growing cohort of conscious shoppers. From confusing, inconsistent product claims to getting caught out on new regulations and standards, it’s time to openly agree on how brands talk about the impact products have on people and the planet.

What’s the problem? 

Firstly, Environmental, Social and Governance data doesn’t lend itself easily to shopper-friendly marketing messaging. Secondly, when sustainability and marketing teams operate in silos, it can be difficult to identify suitable claims, let alone substantiate them publicly. And thirdly, brands are all too aware of the repercussions of getting it wrong: damaging shoppers’ perceptions of your brand is one thing, but with the CMA set to announce robust laws on misleading environmental claims later this year, the regulatory penalties are an ever-growing threat.

I understand why brands might be reluctant to communicate, but ‘green hush’ is as real a threat to our global sustainability progress as greenwash, and I believe there is another way.

Introducing the Provenance Framework

To help brands communicate on sustainability with integrity and avoid greenwashing, the Provenance Framework is an open source rulebook for sustainability communications. The framework is made up of 50+ shopper-facing claims spanning 5 focus areas: climate, communities, nature, waste and workers. Each claim, from ‘Fully Recycled Packaging’ to ‘Black Owned Business’, comes with clear criteria for what constitutes legitimate evidence, as well as guidance on how to communicate it publicly. This gives you clear, robust parameters for what you can and can’t legitimately say about your brand or products.

Claims in the framework include Net Zero, Fully Recycled Packaging and Black Owned Business.

The framework is the result of Provenance’s collaboration with a number of field experts and leading consultancies, as well as our own Integrity Council. But whilst we’ve carefully developed the criteria to reflect the latest ESG standards, we recognise that with best practice constantly evolving, our work is never done. I’d love to hear from anyone with suggestions for how we can improve and develop the framework to best help brands communicate their impact.

Communicate credibly now and in the future

As a marketing or sustainability lead, you can use the Provenance Framework to identify shopper-friendly claims that you can make and substantiate today. The framework can also help you identify areas for improvement and build a roadmap for future impact. The next time you take a new product to market, you can sense-check the claims you’re making against the Provenance Framework. Is the language clear for shoppers? Do you have the relevant proof to support the claim?

I’m excited to say that industry-leading businesses are already using the Provenance Framework to communicate with shoppers. Cult Beauty, one of the UK's fastest-growing online beauty businesses, is empowering 90+ of its brands to embed these claims as interactive icons on their e-commerce pages using Provenance’s Proof Point technology.

Explore the Provenance Framework now

We’ve made the Provenance Framework open to all because we know that without a universal standard for making claims, it’s not easy for brands to communicate credibly on their social and environmental impact. And at Provenance, we believe that consistent, accurate, substantiated sustainability communications are crucial to enabling shoppers to push progress through what they choose to buy.

I invite you to share this tool with your colleagues in marketing and sustainability. Our hope is that it proves a practical resource to consumer goods brands looking to communicate proactively and credibly on their social and environmental impact.

View the framework

Jessi Baker

Designer, technologist and the founder of provenance.org.

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