Sustainability on TikTok

Challenge & opportunity

Sustainability and eco-friendly behaviour is a flourishing topic on TikTok expressed by the community in unique ways. Brands can have a real impact when addressing the topic, but only if it's done in an authentic way, which is something only a few brands currently seem to have mastered. TikTok recognised an opportunity to help their partner brands and stakeholders optimise their sustainability messaging on the platform to be authentic and engaging.


Our approach blended qualitative and quantitative methodologies to encompass both implicit and explicit responses to this complex topic.  An individual audit of sustainable products in participants' own lives gave us an insight into where their values are actually translating to purchasing decisions and brand loyalty. Following this a series of group workshops with TikTok users allowed us to collectively explore different topics as well as review case studies on sustainable brand communication from key categories.  We followed this up with a survey including Implicit Association Testing to mitigate the effects of post-rationalisation.

"People on TikTok are very realistic, they keep it real in a way. They make sustainability feel real and imperfect. On Instagram or YouTube you have this sort of filter whereas TikTok is really all about the personality and making your issue come through in the video.”

Respondent C. (28, f, Italy)

Insight & Impact

We found that much like consumers in other EU countries, TikTok users expect brands to take the lead and responsibility when it comes to sustainability - this was especially poignant in Italy and Spain where the effects of the Climate Crisis have been extreme. 

TikTok itself was found to be a uniquely honest and light hearted space to engage with these topics in ways which can be inclusive and motivating for audiences who are not already super focused on environmental topics. However ‘calling out’ brands is a big part of influential TikTok content and we found it was especially vital for brands on the platform to be accountable and transparent about how they are delivering on their promises.

Our insights and evidence helped regional teams at TikTok feel empowered and equipped with clear evidence and rationale to advise partner brands on their platform communications.  It also generally enhanced their understanding of local audiences and how they value the platform as a space to engage with critical topics.