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The new visual language for sustainability

RY unveils 10 principles to re-engage audiences.

New research by Radley Yeldar (RY) shines a light on how global brands are using clichéd, irrelevant visuals in their sustainability communications; an approach which does not resonate with mainstream audiences. 

Instead, it creates perceptual and psychological barriers which prevent people from engaging with the visuals and messaging and actively puts them off – ultimately damaging the sustainability industry. 

RY believes brands are missing an opportunity to take advantage of the increasingly visual culture that exists today and has released ten new principles to tackle this problem. 

Through an analysis of academic and market research, including Forbes 100 most valuable brands, award-winning sustainability campaigns and 20 companies that put sustainability at the heart of their offer and products, RY found that:

  • 70% of the world’s most valuable brands used an image of a windmill to communicate sustainability, when they weren’t talking about renewable power.
  • 80% of the world’s most valuable brands used trees in irrelevant contexts
  • 95% of the brands featured at least one of the top clichés

​The research aims enable brands to breathe new life into their sustainability communications, making them more creative and impactful. If adopted, they will reengage audiences with an industry which urgently needs to be taken seriously.  

“With sustainability, there’s a tendency to fall back on visual clichés that just don’t mean anything to people. Sustainable products and services can no longer get away with hands holding plants, polar bears and windmills. They need to be as sexy and charming and desirable as anything else we want to sell. And that means greater, bolder creativity.”

Emily Jeffrey-Barrett, Creative Lead

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