As we celebrate Earth Month, the spotlight inevitably shines on sustainability efforts. Brands in all industries take the time to celebrate their work on reducing environmental impacts and making positive change through climate initiatives. Yet, amidst the surge of green-themed marketing campaigns, we can’t help but be wary of the potential for impact washing. This deceptive practice sees companies leveraging socially conscious language without substantiating it with meaningful actions. What does that do? Potentially erode consumer trust and degrade the value provided by companies truly making change. 

At Mad Fish, our mission extends beyond crafting compelling marketing content—we champion authenticity, steering clear of the pitfalls of impact washing. By fostering collaborative partnerships, employing thoughtful design, and embracing transparent messaging, we empower our clients to authentically demonstrate their dedication to social and environmental progress.

What is Impact Washing?

Impact washing goes beyond environmental issues to include social and ethical concerns, where companies exaggerate their positive influence on society or the world. This may involve overstating the benefits of corporate social responsibility, philanthropy, or community engagement, creating a superficial appearance of responsibility to distract from negative practices or gain public favor without real commitment.

Greenwashing falls within the realm of these unethical practices, wherein companies assert to have a beneficial social or environmental impact without substantiating it with concrete actions. Essentially, these companies use social impact or sustainability language as a marketing tool without truly embodying those principles.

73% of Baby Boomers, 68% of Gen X, and 40% of Gen Z prioritize brand integrity.
We know that consumers are taking a more active approach to research
brands that align with their values. Unfortunately, companies may take this as an opportunity to embellish their sustainability and social practices to gain customers. 

Our creative team sits at the forefront of evaluating and creating marketing content, media, and brand design through a lens of ethical marketing practices. Their experience with a variety of clients and industries helps them vet ideas and create amazing pieces that highlight true commitments to social and environmental change while avoiding the traps for impact washing. 

How they do that takes a variety of forms.

Collaboration is Key to Avoid Misrepresentation

We love to collaborate with clients. During our regular strategy discussions, we lean into our position as an outside partner with aligned values to offer new ideas. By carving out room in our brainstorming sessions to delve into how a brand communicates its genuine sustainability or social endeavors, we not only fortify that crucial work but also educate consumers.

”We never want to immediately assume we have the full picture of a client’s work around sustainability or social efforts, otherwise we can fall into misrepresentation and impact washing unintentionally,” shared Mad Fish Content Strategist and Team Lead, Marcus Yoo.  

For example, we worked with one of our food and beverage clients to brainstorm new content ideas during an annual planning session. The Mad Fish team highlighted an opportunity to help the brand promote sustainability practices to their buyers. However, we first wanted to understand how these efforts were being handled and whether we could build brand messaging around it authentically. The conversation was a great opportunity for us to gain a deeper understanding of the client’s operations and opened the door for us to offer ideas of our own as a values-focused agency with similar goals. 

An Eye on Representation Helps Avoid Impact Washing in Design

Our design team loves to guide brand vision. The team regularly reviews client media portfolios to ensure that the images don’t misrepresent the brand, its product, or the brand’s efforts. 

“Our role with a client is to review the visual selections available, whether from their library, stock images, or our custom designs, and help them make good choices for them, but also for their online audiences,” says Designer Jenna Finberg. “We are always there to help lead photoshoots and video development to ensure there is truth and authenticity in the collateral’s DNA.” 

Central to our creative process is the importance we place on developing visuals that not only resonate with our client’s brand identity but also serve a dual role: bolstering their content and enlightening their audience. 

We staunchly believe in the potency of authentic representation, ensuring that each visual element faithfully mirrors the client’s values and promises. With our visual assets, we don’t just captivate; we also educate and inform, nurturing stronger bonds with the audience and equipping them with invaluable insights. 

Our designers recently refreshed a healthcare client’s social media visual campaign with the primary goal of diversifying the representation included in the images. Why? More inclusive imagery better aligns their services and community. 

Clear Messaging Intentions Champion Genuine Impact

Guided by our company’s ethical marketing policy, our content team is at the forefront of promoting our client’s authentic contributions to society and the environment. Here, our Senior Content Strategist, Jasmine Paul, offers up our guiding principles for effective content strategies that steer clear of impact washing: 

Mad Fish Digital's brand guidelines booklet for Create Now.
Embrace Open Dialogue:
Engaging in open dialogue with our clients enables them to honestly discuss their practices, successes, and areas needing improvement. This transparency cultivates trust among their consumers and stakeholders, mitigating the potential for impact washing.

Champion Authenticity: We highlight our clients’ genuine efforts to make a difference. Rather than making empty assurances, we focus on showcasing tangible results and meaningful transformations. By steering clear of vague promises, we shine a spotlight on the real impact our clients are making in their communities and industries.

Write With Clarity:  We prioritize honesty to build real connections. Avoiding empty promises, we communicate with integrity and sincerity. Our clear, truthful messaging fosters trust, ensuring the audience feels valued. We aim to cultivate meaningful relationships grounded in mutual respect and authenticity.

At the heart of our content marketing team’s mission is a commitment to uplifting our clients’ voices by championing integrity through tailored strategies and crystal-clear messaging. Through transparent and genuine communication, we endeavor to bolster our clients’ standing, spark lively engagement, and ultimately pave the way for their success in the marketplace.

We Craft Holistic Creative Marketing Strategies

From hospitality to the industrial sector, we’re privileged to collaborate with exceptional clients dedicated to minimizing their environmental footprint and driving industry change. 

Digital marketing teams are pivotal in championing ethical practices online, shaping how brands interact with customers, and promoting offerings. Want to learn how Mad Fish Digital can support your business’s initiatives and boost marketing efforts? Connect with our team today.