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How are global consumer brands communicating about sustainability?

In light of the alarming climate change situation, the focus of society on sustainability has been enhanced. For a more sustainably oriented society, an important shift is needed, and changes need to happen in all sectors of society (Mowbray, 2012).

The wood furniture industry, textiles, and car industry all produce products that consumers need daily – furniture, clothes, and vehicles. These industries also produce similar amounts of harmful emissions in their manufacturing processes, which considerably contribute to pollution (Ritchie & Roser, 2014). If we want to achieve the desired changes for a more sustainable society, we need to invest in creating more knowledge about the importance of sustainability with different stakeholders, and appropriate marketing and communication strategies can make a big difference (Moser, 2010).

With the objective to investigate and to understand how companies of global consumer brands use online communication tools (webpage) to communicate about the sustainability of their products and beyond, the InnoRenew CoE researchers Lea Primožič and dr. Andreja Kutnar, studied the three-pillar paradigm of sustainability—economic, environmental, and social – and compared these different industries. A representative company for each industry was selected. In addition, the intent was to determine if there are any differences in the online sustainability communication of the studied sectors, especially since the wood furniture industry utilizes renewable natural materials.

The study was performed by applying the qualitative content analyses of existing online communication. The publicly available content on webpages was coded to cover the three-pillar concept of sustainability. In total the data set consists of 3975 observations. The analysis demonstrated that the selected industries communicate mostly about environmental topics on their webpages, and less frequently about social and economic issues. Companies tend to address sustainability by changing their packaging materials, reducing waste and lowering their carbon footprint, rather than making sure their economic operations benefit the wider society. In addition, the study revealed that the overall difference in communication about sustainability among the three sectors is not very significant, indicating that these sectors are acting similarly when it comes to sustainability communication. The wood furniture industry could take on a more leading and active role in this regard, given that it operates with a natural renewable material, which has a lot of potential to contribute towards mitigating climate change. This is also being currently emphasized at the highest levels of the European Union, with strategies and initiatives to lower greenhouse gas emissions and transition towards a carbon-neutral continent.

The findings of this study provide insight into what kind of communication and messages these three big and global companies are using on their webpages to target audiences. Results suggest that focusing on messages about environmental issues, and presenting the information about material use and its impacts, is a successful communication strategy. Furthermore, messages with an emotional touch and with emphasis on company business operations could contribute to success.

This study provides a basis for further research in the field of communication on sustainability, and the developed coding system addressing the three-pillar concept of sustainability, provides an adequate tool for further analysing companies from these three sectors, and for companies from other industries.

Read the whole article “Sustainability Communication in Global Consumer Brands” (Primožič & Kutnar, 2022), published in Sustainability.


  • Moser, S. C. (2010). Communicating climate change: History, challenges, process and future directions. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 1(1), 31–53.
  • Mowbray, J. (2012). Paradigm shifting in transpareny and traceability. In S. Black (Ed.), The Sustainable Fashion Handbook (pp. 198–199). Thames & Hudson.
  • Primožič, L., & Kutnar, A. (2022). Sustainability Communication in Global Consumer Brands. Sustainability, 14(20), Article 20.
  • Ritchie, H., & Roser, M. (2014). Emissions by sector. Our World In Data.

Author: Lea Primožič