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Blog post
June 24, 2019

More than a number

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

For International Women’s Day this year the call is to #pressforprogress. With the World Economic Forum releasing information that gender parity is still over 200 years away and an intense global spotlight on women through #metoo and #timesup there is pause for thought on how this information and data can drive change. However, the broad nature of global movements means that it can be easy to disconnect and not always understand the impact in your local environment.

One of the IWD calls to action is to forge positive visibility of women by identifying ways to make them more visible and select them as spokespeople and leaders. I work in communications measurement and media research, and we deal with data about organisations, media strategies and consumer behaviour on a daily basis. Our work is built on the idea that media representation and public opinion can be understood and changed.

I’ve been lucky enough to see a desire for change from the clients that I work with and to produce research that should be a driver for change. Some of the consistent findings across media in New Zealand are: Significantly lower volumes of women presented as a subject matter expert or commentator.

Significantly lower volumes of women presented as a subject matter expert or commentator

Women are described as having earned their position or success more often than men.

Female success is often contextualised by male failure. (This is particularly true in coverage of athletes).

Women are not shown in a diversity of roles, and are more likely to be positioned with their family, partners, coaches and other support people.

As a quick example, over the past 12 months 72% of all sources quoted in banking and financial coverage in New Zealand, were men. For the dairy industry, 82% were men. In the tertiary sector, which I thought would be a palate cleanser, only 33% of all sources were women.

As with anything involving communication, this is a two-way street with media. For some organisations we specifically examine how often they position women for comment, or are quoted in media releases and kits, and what the specific take up of that is compared to men.  So far, the data supports that a female spokesperson is more likely to be cut out of final copy. We have also found that there is a higher likelihood that journalists have a direct relationship with experts and commentators who are men. Women are more likely to have this relationship facilitated through a communications function or other support network.

Organisations are becoming more conscious of the impact that representation may have on their brand in the future. In the context of ethical and values-based consumerism, where the expectation on brands is to match with personal beliefs and authenticity, gender can play an important role. It may contribute to reputation in unexpected ways, including being an employer of choice. 

While some of these findings are challenging, the increased interest from organisations to understand how the representation of women affects their brand, is a positive step. We now have clients who are solely focused on improving their profile – not only by an increased presence of women – but openly celebrating gender diversity initiatives and how these initiatives are being reported on, and discussed online by potential employees or customers. 

If nothing else, I hope that this information allows for pause, and reflection on how we all contribute to the representation of women through our small choices, whether that be who is positioned to speak on a topic, or what language is used, and how much space is given. Representation is important. How often we see women, and how they are framed helps to shape our expectations. We can’t change what we don’t understand or can’t see clearly.

Ngaire Crawford is Head of Insights for Isentia in New Zealand. Her team of New Zealand-based analysts work across a broad range of clients measuring their communication strategies, and use media to help organisations understand their audiences and issues that are important to them.

This article originally appeared on StopPress NZ.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has published anti-greenwashing guidelines for businesses making environmental and sustainability claims. Despite these efforts, media coverage of greenwashing, particularly focusing on senate inquiries and regulatory court cases against major offenders, continues to expose brands and industries stretching the truth in their sustainability messaging. This exposure is causing a growing disconnect between consumers and corporations, as audiences increasingly call out misleading practices and question the authenticity of corporate sustainability claims.Isentia’s sister brand, Pulsar conducted recent research exploring media and public discourse around sustainability. Part of this report examines how greenwashing is covered in the news and on social media, particularly in relation to the broader sustainability discourse. Let’s investigate those themes in more depth here.

Social media data is decreasing while online news activity re-engages, indicating incident-led conversations. Regulatory bodies like the ACCC, and state and federal governments are tackling greenwashing by identifying major corporate offenders and their misleading actions, such as 'recyclable' packaging, carbon credit misuse, lack of transparency in fossil fuel investments, and exploitation of government climate programs. Audience conversations often align with news coverage on these matters.
The term in Australia particularly gained traction among social audiences around November 2022 when the UN called out the Australian government for allowing the use of carbon offsets in corporate emissions reduction strategies. News of the apparent collusion between the government and large corporations has caused public faith and trust in both to dwindle. As these stories emerge, Australia's positive sustainability impact on the international stage is significantly undermined.

https://twitter.com/janegarcia/status/1591662729664004099

When we look at which sectors are most discussed within the greenwashing topic, energy, finance, and food take the lead.

Much of the discussion regarding the energy and finance sectors emphasises their interconnectedness, particularly the investment by financial institutions, including super funds, in environmentally harmful industries. Despite some super funds claiming to offer options that avoid unsustainable investments, reports have revealed that they collectively hold millions of shares in the fossil fuel industry. 

Many industries are being criticised for using carbon credits, such as REDD+ offsets, to appear more sustainable. Advertising, marketing, and public relations also play a significant role in promoting misleading sustainability initiatives, thereby contributing to greenwashing. However, stakeholders are aware that the advertising and communications industries have a huge impact on the profitability and success of an industry or product. The European Union’s Product Environmental Footprint classification system, for example, has been criticised by Australia’s wool industry for being unfair to wool products and for greenwashing. This, they argue, not only undermines the pursuit of a green transition within fashion but also damages a vital industry.

Mercer stands out as a most mentioned brand within the topic of greenwashing. This is due to ASIC pursuing a civic penalty case against them which alleged they misled members about its sustainability investments. This is groundbreaking for audiences to witness as it would be the first time the consumer watchdog has taken a company to court for alleged greenwashing.

https://twitter.com/BillHareClimate/status/1630404986130808833

Much of the conversation focuses on misinformation and lack of transparency in communication and marketing. Certifications like Fair Trade are being questioned, particularly for products like chocolate, and eco-certification for farmed salmon. It particularly muddies the waters for political figures when they get entangled with brands coming under scrutiny for such greenwashing.

https://twitter.com/JosieMcskimming/status/1750987402691362858

Furthermore, some companies feature in the media conversation due to their involvement in a senate enquiry initiated in March 2023, with a report expected by June 28th this year. 

Analysis of the ANZ reveals a shift in mindset, with consumers emphasising individual actions for solutions like composting or guerilla campaigns on mislabelled environmentally friendly salmon products. Grassroots and individual activism leading to actions like divestment from conflicting companies. Community groups like uni student clubs showcase how groups with shared values and experiences can make noise and incite change with how universities invest. However, there are ongoing debates as to whether it’s the role of sectors like higher education or Super Funds to prioritise the environmental implications of their decisions.

The rise in curiosity around greenwashing highlights the growing consumer demand for transparency and genuine sustainability from brands. As regulatory scrutiny and public awareness increase, brands must ensure their sustainability claims are genuine or face reputation damage.

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Blog
The Eco-Spin Cycle: how brand’s sustainability claims come out in the wash

Regulators are cracking down on corporate greenwashing, but what does media discussion reveal about its impact on brand-consumer relations?

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As the spotlight on sustainability intensifies year by year, it has become a focal point for legislators, media entities, and audiences worldwide.

This dynamic environment demands that brands and institutions elevate their standards in messaging and actions, holding them accountable like never before. For professionals in the PR & Comms realm, it is imperative to grasp not only how sustainability is being discussed but also the potential pitfalls, such as greenwashing, and gain a profound understanding of the diverse audiences receiving these messages.

Explore over 20 beautifully crafted pages of data visualisation that illuminate audience insights sourced from social media, news outlets, and search engines. Gain valuable perspectives on how one of the defining issues of our time is being discussed and understood.

Our exploration of this crucial topic delves deep into uncovering insights that are indispensable for crafting effective strategies, both tactical and long-term:

-Unraveling trends in the sustainability conversation

-Assessing brand & industry reputations

-Navigating greenwashing & misinformation

-Understanding the diverse audiences of sustainability

To access these insights, simply fill in the form

Download now

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Blog
Sustainability: Mapping the Media & Public Conversations

From accusations of greenwashing to the role of misinformation, we explore the comms landscape around sustainability.

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