Will 2024 be the year greenwashing makes way for real climate action?

Wherever you look, climate change is inescapable, from rolling news filled with images of floods and fires to business pages discussing increasing regulation. Even fashion magazines are educating readers about materials and water footprints1 . Against this backdrop, consumers have inevitably become ever more discerning about the brands they favour and the products they purchase. No longer willing to accept claims at face value, today’s consumers are wary of greenwashing2  and increasingly mindful of product life cycles.
For businesses at every stage of the supply chain, 2024 has the potential to be the tipping point at which they can decide to make fundamental changes that future-proof their business, or forever play catch-up with competitors who’ve beaten them to it.

Kavalan has identified four important areas to watch in 2024:

1. Regulations and reporting

Adoption of sustainability reporting standards that are the backbone of the European Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) has now been pushed back to 2026 3, while in the USA the SEC has delayed rulemaking on climate-related disclosures until spring 20244 . Nonetheless, all signs point to a paradigm shift in which sustainability reporting will become as standardised and enforceable as financial reporting.

Even if changes aren’t likely to apply to them immediately, most businesses cannot afford to wait until regulations force them to change. If they want to avoid a potentially expensive scramble to catch up in the future, they must begin taking quantifiable steps towards sustainability targets now.


2. Transparency and measurement

Consumer value brands that demonstrate a commitment to environmental issues are finding these are increasingly impacting their purchasing decisions. As a result, businesses that build trust through their environmental initiatives, such as changes to production processes, packaging, eco-labelling, end-of-life disposal, recycling or the publication of impartially-vetted environmental metrics, for example – stand to build more successful brands in the long run.
In 2023, UK research published by Deloitte5  found that one in three consumers have stopped buying products because of concerns about ethics or sustainability, while 33% decided whether to buy a product based on how much plastic it contains. Also in the UK, research by the CIM6  has found that 63% of the public wants better communication about the sustainability of products and services. In the US, research by McKinsey7  found that more than 60% of consumers were willing to pay more for a product with sustainable packaging.
With increasingly savvy consumers applying life cycle thinking to their purchasing decisions and businesses needing to factor sustainability into decisions up and down their supply chains, life cycle assessments (LCAs) seem likely to grow in prominence. For the large format signage industries, the Kavalan Eco Calculator uses data based on the LCA process to quantify the environmental impact of large format materials in easy-to-understand terms, enabling print businesses to demonstrate how switching to more sustainable materials can reduce their customers’ environmental impact.


3. Value chain sustainability

Until fairly recently, a lot of focus in sustainability measurement and reporting has been on Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. Respectively, these are the emissions a company makes directly (by running its vehicles and office, for example) and those it makes indirectly (such as when the energy it buys is produced). Naturally, these are the easiest ones for a business to control itself, and so are also the easiest to measure.
However, as regulations tighten, business decisions up and down the value chain will need to take potential Scope 3 emissions into account. These are those that a company is indirectly responsible for – such as raw material extraction, yarn production, emissions by suppliers, and even use and disposal of their products – yet they account for more than 90% of most businesses’ carbon footprints . This is why tackling value chain emissions through steps such as choosing greener suppliers can yield significant rewards.
When making decisions, considering the wider environmental impact – not just emissions – of the whole value chain is essential. Take freshwater scarcity as an example. It is easy to look to industries such as fashion, mining and agriculture that frequently grab headlines for water-intensive processes and contributions to water pollution, but all businesses need to make more sustainable business decisions. Even simple changes can make a difference.
Textile signage banner production, for example, typically uses 120 litres of fresh water per square metre. Switching to Kavalan Moonlight River, a textile signage banner that eliminates the washing and dyeing processes, reduces fresh water use by 67%. This may seem like a drop in the ocean for one project, but if just twenty-five small exhibitors at a trade show switched their 3 metre x 3 metre PVC shell transformer graphics to Moonlight River that would save 18,000 litres of fresh water - enough clean drinking water for sixteen adults for a year. That may not seem much, but when you consider that more than 25,000 such stands could fit into just one event at the Las Vegas Convention Center or Messe Dusseldorf, the scale of the potential savings becomes clear. 


4. Sustainability in marketing

As in every other aspect of business, marketers also need to consider the sustainability of each marketing touchpoint carefully. How recyclable is the packaging in which their products are delivered? What will happen to display graphics after a promotion? How sustainable are their brand activations at events?
For a business that is serious about climate action, sustainable choices that reflect this intent need to become part of their business culture. Consider large format print and design business Print Station’s project for a vegan restaurant, where Kavalan’s PVC-free materials ensured the restaurant’s printed décor reflected its values. Similarly, brands with an ethos of sustainability need to think carefully about the environmental impact of the materials they choose and how their signage is transported when investing in display graphics and signage for events and campaigns.
With climate change touted to be one of the biggest challenges facing business in 2024 and many companies already embarking on their journeys to a net zero-carbon economy, the time to make climate action part of your business processes is now. Find your nearest distribution partner to learn more about how environmentally friendly PVC-free Kavalan should be the sustainable choice for your next project.


[1] Emily Chan, British Vogue. 16 Things Everyone Should Know About Sustainable Fashion. 18 April 2022.

[2] GfK. Beyond the greenwash: how brands can bridge the sustainability trust gap. 18 November 2022.

[3] Mark Segal, ESG today. EU Lawmakers Approve 2 Year Delay of Sustainability Reporting Standards for Specific Sectors and non-EU Companies. 24 January 2024. 

[4] Soyoung Ho, Thomson Reuters. SEC Once Again Delays Action on Final Climate Disclosure Rule. 12 December 2023.

[5] Deloitte LLP. Sustainable Consumer 2023: What consumers are doing to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.

[6] John Glenday, The Drum. CIM study: 49% of marketers weary of sustainability ads amid ‘greenwashing’ backlash. 13 October 2021.

[7] David Feber, Anna Granskog, Oskar Lingqvist & Daniel Nordigården, McKinsey & Company. Sustainability in packaging: Inside the minds of US consumers. 21 October 2020.

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