Skip to main content

Center for Sustainable Business | Effective Sustainability Communications: A Best Practice Guide for Brands & Marketers

sustainability communications

NYU Stern CSB and Edelman partnered with nine consumer brands to study the environmental sustainability claims that best resonate with consumers.

Effective Sustainability Communications: A Best Practice Guide for Brands & Marketers

NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business (CSB) and Edelman developed a cutting-edge research initiative to identify which environmental sustainability claims, when authentic, best resonate with consumers. CSB and Edelman partnered with nine iconic consumer brands across apparel, household items, food and beverage, and technology to test more than 30 marketing claims. The goal of this effort is to equip brands with the most effective communication strategies that refine positioning and empower marketers to deliver sustainability as a driver of consumer preference. 

The research found category claims are paramount, but certain sustainability claims have significant amplifier effects that perform across demographics.

  • Across all nine brands, sustainability claims expanded brand reach by 24 - 33 percentage points above a category claim alone.
  • Sustainability claims were the top most appealing claim for 2 out of 9 brands, and among the topmost appealing for the remaining 7 brands, often outperforming other category claims.
  • Sustainability claims that ladder to relevant category claims were most appealing (ex. "100% sustainably farmed for great taste")
  • The strongest sustainability claims performed equally well across demographics such as generations, gender, political affiliation, household income, education, and urbanicity.


High performing sustainability claims indicate consumers are ego-centric and respond best to messaging regarding "my health, my wealth, my world."