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  • Writer's pictureArabella Angell

FF&M’s 7 tips for successful pitching to sustainability editors

Updated: 5 days ago

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of journalists, stylists and influencers who prioritise sustainability and ethical values in their writing. Not only do they use these values as a basis for selecting which brands to support on their media platforms and endorse to their communities, but they also make it their job to scrutinise any environmental claims made by brands. 

The sustainability criteria they champion reflect a broader shift in consumer behaviour and cultural relevance. Now more than ever if a brand wants to stand out and capture this demand, it must adhere to these environmental standards and effectively and honestly communicate its values. 

What is a ‘sustainability’ editor?

These editors prioritise sustainability in their editorial decisions, such as promoting environmentally responsible products, covering environmental issues or advocating for sustainability practices. They focus on stories or content that shed light on environmental challenges, highlight sustainability solutions or encourage readers to adopt more eco-conscious behaviours. These editors are crucial in shaping public discourse and driving positive change towards a more sustainable future. 

Useful tips for pitching:

  1. Relevance: ensure your pitch aligns with the publication's focus. Highlight how your story idea contributes to environmental awareness, conservation or sustainable living

  2. Angle: present a unique angle or perspective that adds value to the publication's sustainability ethos. Show why your idea is timely, compelling and relevant to their audience

  3. Research: familiarise yourself with the publication's previous coverage of sustainability-related topics. Understand audience demographics, editorial tone and preferred content formats to tailor your pitch effectively

  4. Share solutions: emphasise solutions rather than just highlighting problems. Sustainability editors often seek stories that inspire action or offer practical ways for readers to impact the environment positively

  5. Credibility: provide evidence, data or expert opinions to support your pitch and demonstrate credibility. Highlight any relevant credentials or experiences that display your understanding of sustainability issues

  6. Clarity: keep your pitch clear, concise and to the point. Sustainability editors are often busy and appreciate pitches that convey the key points of your idea quickly

  7. Collaboration mindset: approach the pitch as a collaboration rather than a one-time transaction. Be open to feedback and suggestions from the editor and be willing to work together to refine your idea in line with their editorial vision

Important considerations:

  1. To establish credibility as a sustainable and responsible brand, it is advisable to obtain the appropriate certifications that validate claims of environmental integrity. Third-party certifications such as B Corp, Fairtrade, Positive Luxury, Soil Association Organic and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) are widely recognised. Compliance with these standards shows your clear commitment to sustainability and helps establish trust with sustainability editors and consumers

  2. Audience-appropriate communication is crucial to raise support for sustainable and regenerative choices. Keep it simple. Don’t expect your audience to understand even basic environmental terms and sustainability jargon. Similarly, meet your audience where they are and never assume they know what you do

  3. According to a study by the Guardian, 68% of people are more likely to buy from brands with clear environmental strategies. However, key climate language is poorly understood by the majority of UK consumers. Only 47% can confidently say what single-use plastic is, for instance

What to avoid:

Greenwashing - this is a useful article explaining what it is and how to avoid it. 

In 2022, almost 60% of sustainability claims by 12 major UK brands were found to be either unsubstantiated or misleading according to research from the Changing Markets Foundation.

Avoid making any unsubstantiated claims that a journalist could challenge. Not only is it the right thing to do but it will help avoid undermining the credibility and integrity of your brand while maintaining your relationship with the journalist.

Figures shared by the UK government allege that of 500 websites analysed, up to 40% of businesses’ green claims could be classed as deceptive. So it’s no wonder that 7 out of 10 British consumers don’t consider environmental claims by businesses to be credible.

While editorial is still unregulated, the Advertising Standards Authority is now clamping down on misleading environmental claims in communications and recently updated its guidance. Companies are now required to follow certain principles outlined below:

  • If the claim is related to a single product and not the entire business, this should be made clear

  • If a business is promoting positive environmental activities while also causing harm to the environment, this should be balanced by including relevant information

  • Additionally, if a claim refers to lower-carbon activities, it should include information on the overall harmful impact

  • Companies should also avoid using imagery of the natural world, making absolute claims such as 'sustainable' or 'environmentally friendly', and giving the impression that their negative impact is a thing of the past if it is not

Brands that fail to adhere to this are likely to fall foul of the advertising code. The key to avoiding this is ensuring that communications are sincere and not just done for storytelling purposes. 

FF&M's tips for sustainability success: brands must think longer term, prepare for more robust regulation and integrate sustainability into all aspects of their business.

  1. Invest in accreditation and expert consultation to legitimise your environmental credentials as well as help you understand more about where you can improve

  2. Identify and focus on your key sustainability strengths and ensure you can back up any claims with scientific data. Listen to the How To Start Up podcast episode with Ginnie Chadwick-Healey where she talks about the importance of science and data when you pitch to sustainability editors. 

  3. Be 100% truthful. Remember no brand is perfect and as long as you are moving in the right direction on improving your practices that is good enough, but be transparent about this

  4. Highlight the achievements you are most proud of. Quality over quantity is key and if in doubt do less but do it better

Some of the leading sustainability advocates: 

Sustainability editors:

Sustainability stylists:

Sustainability podcasts:

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