As industry regulations tighten around sustainability, half (49%) of marketers have admitted they are wary of working on sustainability marketing campaigns, fearing their company or clients might be accused of "greenwashing".
Meanwhile, more than half (55%) of marketers' companies and clients recognise sustainability as a business priority, with 51% saying that climate change could threaten the very existence of their business or clients.
Despite the urgency, the survey found there is a critical sustainability marketing skills gap; 40% of marketers admitted they do not have qualifications in sustainability marketing.
While the marketers reported a lack of formal training, three-quarters (76%) said they have been involved in sustainability work in the past five years, and nearly half (45%) felt under pressure in their role to communicate their company or clients’ sustainability credentials.
The survey was conducted by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), which surveyed 200 marketing professionals in the UK.
The findings follow the Competition and Markets Authority's new regulation, "Green Claims Code", which has been brought in to hold brands more accountable for their sustainability claims.
The competition watchdog has warned it is launching a sweeping review of misleading green claims – online and offline, such as those made in-store or on packaging – at the start of 2022.
The CIM carried out additional research, which looked at 2000 UK consumers.
It found 63% of adults agree that brands should increase communications around the sustainability of their products and services.
But it also highlighted the fact that consumers are sceptical of brands' sustainability efforts, with 63% believing that brands get involved only for commercial reasons, rather than ethical.
CIM marketing director Gemma Butler said: “We see regulation is coming to try and stem the volume of ‘greenwashing,’ and this is a good thing in my opinion. To really make progress in tackling the sustainability challenge, we must see businesses be more open and transparent about their impact on the environment as consumers, employees and indeed investors are all asking for it.
“At CIM we welcome new supporting legislation like the Competition and Markets Authority’s ‘Green Claims Code’. We feel passionately that marketers should not shy away from communicating on their sustainability credentials out of fear of being labelled as ‘greenwashing’.
"If anything, it should encourage them to upskill immediately, so they have the tools and knowledge to feed into effective sustainability-led organisational strategies – after all, the environmental challenge will only get worse if we don’t start taking decisive and collaborative action to change the path we are on.”