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Marketing and Comms
Communicating Sustainability:
Supplier-Brand Partnerships Can Make All the Difference

The “right” messaging will always involve being clear, specific and transparent — but learning which words and claims will meet consumers’ expectations, build their trust and inspire their purchases will require research best done through collaborative partnerships.

Your words are powerful. They factor into the market success of your sustainable product innovations — and they can build or erode consumer trust in your brand. So, as the saying goes, with great marketing power comes great responsibility to choose the right words for your sustainability communications. This is where partnership can help.

At Eastman, we’ve seen firsthand that collaborative partnerships are key to developing material innovations. As we pioneer molecular recycling and supply recycled-content materials, we’re also discovering the important roles these partnerships can play in communicating with consumers. We invite your brand to learn from our experience.

Data-driven partnerships

It started with data. Our consumer research proved invaluable early in our journey into molecular-recycled materials: Our findings guided how we positioned our new products in the market. We also saw how the insights we gathered were helping the brands that use our materials better understand how their consumers think about sustainability and sustainable materials, and how to effectively talk about these topics. This led to a breakthrough in how we support our customers' goals.

Now, we conduct customized consumer research to intentionally help brands communicate their sustainable actions as consumer-facing value propositions by providing relevant, tailored insights. Together with our customers, we create more authentic messaging that resonates — ultimately leading to brand affinity and consumer loyalty.

At this point, we’ve surveyed more than 50,000 consumers globally to understand their sustainability knowledge and expectations. At the same time, we’re building long-term relationships that go beyond supplier and customer — we're developing partners and advocates for the systemic changes needed to make a circular economy a reality.

Case study: Procter & Gamble

Our work with Procter & Gamble (P&G) illustrates what this collaborative, data-driven approach can look like in real life.

When introducing molecularly recycled Eastman Renew materials into Herbal Essences bottles, P&G wanted to develop a simple yet effective way to communicate the benefits of the recycled-content bottles to consumers — first for Herbal Essences and, eventually, across other brands. To do this effectively, they needed to know:

  • Words and claims that resonate

  • Brand-specific insights

  • Important consumer purchase drivers

  • How consumers perceive molecular recycling

  • What consumers expect brands to communicate in recycled-content claims

  • How consumer demographics influence expectations

To find the answers, we worked together to craft a variety of claims for testing. We created claims that described key value propositions of Eastman Renew materials, as well as language and logos specific to P&G’s products.

Our research team then surveyed 4,000 consumers in the United States and Europe to evaluate which claims P&G’s key audiences find most understandable, compelling and effective for learning about the company’s new recycled-content packaging.

Key takeaways

Sustainability seals the deal: This research reiterated an insight we’ve seen across other markets and product categories: Sustainability alone does not sell a product or make a good product. Safety and performance come first and foremost for consumers, and the product must meet consumers’ primary needs. Sustainability can then seal the purchase when it builds on a foundation of safety and performance.

Claims that come out on top: Consumers responded positively to the concept of molecular recycling. Despite its newness to consumers, the data showed that brands shouldn’t shy away from talking about it. Out of 20 claims around molecular recycling, recyclability, recycled content and waste diversion all appeared in the top five most compelling claims. Consumers also favored messages that included more than one of these claims. In particular, they want products that have recycled content and are recyclable. (If your brand is relying solely on one attribute or the other, it’s likely your audiences want to hear about both.)

Be clear, specific and present: In our logo tests, consumers preferred common, recognizable language that clearly communicated the sustainability benefit or characteristic. The majority of both US and European consumers preferred a logo that featured a percentage of recycled content. (There’s a reason the FTC Green Guides and other regulatory guidelines call on brands to use clear, specific language — and considering this insight can also help your brand align with FTC and other guidelines.) Additionally, 84 percent of consumers preferred claims to be located directly on the packaging — their top choice compared to store signage, e-commerce sites and social media.

Building opportunities together

Our collaboration resulted in rich, action-ready insights. Overall, we found:

  • Consumers value sustainable products, respond positively to recyclability and recycled-content messaging, and desire sustainability information at the point of sale.

  • Sustainable materials combined with the right language have the potential to build consumer trust and affinity — plus, brand loyalty.

  • A more informed approach to communicating product sustainability leads to greater relevance for a brand’s key audiences.

  • Customized insights help tell an accurate, authentic story that resonates and compels.

Moving forward, Eastman and P&G will continue to leverage consumer insights to evolve sustainability messaging related to Eastman Renew materials. Our initial research creates a springboard for further research opportunities, too, including:

  • Answering new brand and market-specific questions

  • Discovering how consumers interact with messaging at the point of sale

  • Exploring which messages work best via which channels, including social media

By offering high-quality, sustainably made products with the right messaging, brands can gain continued support to transition toward a circular economy. The “right” messaging will always involve being clear, specific and transparent — but learning which words and claims will meet consumers’ expectations, build their trust and inspire their purchases will require research best done though collaborative partnerships.