Sustainable marketing is the promotion of environmental and socially responsible products, practices, and brand values. If you’ve ever spent a little bit more on something because you know it was locally sourced or 100% recyclable, you’ve experienced sustainable marketing.
Importance of Sustainable Marketing to an Organization
In any business, there are three functions that are central to success. These are operations, finance, and marketing. Sustainable marketing is absolutely key to the success of any company as it encompasses every activity to do with generating revenues.
However, consumers tend to have unfavourable attitudes toward marketing practices. This is largely the result of traditional marketing using the tactic of pressuring consumers and influencing their perspective in order to make them think they need a company’s product. This manipulative style of marketing leads to unsustainable relationships with customers as they often realize that the product, they were convinced to buy didn’t really make their life better.
The main goal of sustainable marketing is to produce products and services that will join the global movement of protecting the environment and, in this way, encourage their consumers to do the same.
As the company starts standing out due to its sustainability efforts, its brand recognition and customer acquisition will simultaneously increase.
Sustainable marketing concept includes three pillars:
Benefits of Sustainability
- Gaining employees who are passionate about making a difference in the world.
- Attracting customers from the growing market of sustainability-minded consumers.
- Winning more bids as a supplier, as large companies and governments are starting to look for suppliers who are socially and environmentally responsible,
- Building a strong brand reputation,
- Building a purpose-driven culture through employee engagement.
Sustainable Marketing Principles
The end goal of marketing is generating profits; with sustainable marketing in the picture, profits can be augmented with a sense of purpose as well. Sustainable marketing creates an opportunity to shape consumer behavior in a way that works favorably for the environment, in addition to gaining your business the profits it seeks.
Be One Step Ahead
For sustainable marketing to be impactful, it is really important for your sustainability ideologies to be communicated to your patrons at all touchpoints of the consumer lifecycle. Think ahead: think about what guidance or information you should communicate to your customers that further extends the idea of sustainability in their minds.
Following the same example, for a company manufacturing plastic product, say you are advertising your plastic bags. Sustainable marketing will help you showcase how the thickness of the plastics is eco-friendly. You can go beyond that through a social media campaign that tells your customers the many ways a plastic bag can be reused, repurposed, and recycled. For example, old plastic bags can be cut into strings and woven into another sturdier tote for longer use.
Find a Larger Purpose
The first principle of sustainable marketing is to look at your business beyond its financial statements. Deriving a purpose from all the activities that your business undertakes and marketing this purpose as a free-participation-for-all idea gets the sustainability ball rolling. For example, if you are in the business of manufacturing plastic products, the first step you can take towards sustainability is to have a certain percentage of your products manufactured from recycled plastics. You can then practice sustainable marketing by encouraging people to buy these: in a way, you are asking the people to participate in your purpose of reinforcing the reuse-recycle ideology in business. Purpose is the first beacon to guide your journey towards sustainable marketing.
Tailor you’re marketing to align with the same social and environmental issues that your target audience is currently focusing on. With the COP26 summit recently in the news so much, everybody was talking about it. Extending the same example, your marketing strategies for plastic products could focus on your business aiming to transform manufacturing processes to carbon-neutral by, say, 2030. Clearly communicate your solidified, well-thought sustainability plans to your customers through sustainable marketing centered on issues that they are talking about. Not only would this strike a chord with them, but it will also:
- Generate more leads for your business
- Address the public concern with the sustainable solution that your business sells
- Encourage more people to adopt sustainable products.
Strategizing for Sustainable Marketing
It is a move of bravery and pure gumption to leave behind the practices of hard-drilled capitalism and profiteering. When your organization has set the wheels in motion to operate with the larger picture, sustainable marketing assumes a pivotal role. It is time to let the people know that your brand is evolving with the world and is ready to hold hands with the planet and shoulder the responsibility.
Branding and Advertising
Sustainable marketing has the power to steer consumption culture towards conscious decisions made voluntarily by consumers and this is its ultimate goal. By subtly infusing the tradition of environmental friendliness and social responsibility in its operations, your brand can take the advantage of the power of advertisements through sustainable marketing. You can showcase how your brand does it better than its non-sustainable counterparts.
Slowly creating a wave of awareness through sustainable marketing has the potential to drive the users towards making better choices. In fact, it is possible to leverage the disruptive social advertising culture to aggressively promote your sustainable products while educating the consumers to not be apprehensive about making a choice.
Educate at All Levels
It is understandable that the decision-makers of an organization could be a little difficult to convince when sustainability is talked about. However, it is important that sustainable marketers consider themselves as the sellers of sustainability itself; before promoting the brand as environmentally responsible, the marketers need to sell sustainability to the people who have the power to make a difference.
Most brands seek to make quick profits, not caring about the lifecycle of operations and its impact on the world sustainable marketing needs to internalize in order to change the perspective.
The strategic, business-focused partnerships aren’t the only ones that need to incorporate sustainability it needs to happen at a granular level in an organization as well. From the supply chain to distributors, from one department to another encourage sustainable practices through-and-through. Your ethics are bound to rub off on those that associate with you and spread. Sustainable marketing also incorporates communicating your sustainable partnership initiatives to the consumers.
Challenges in Sustainable Marketing
Sustainability is a practice, a culture; it isn’t a trend. Many brands make the mistake of believing that this is hogwash and that they can benefit from sustainable marketing, their actual practices notwithstanding. An example is the Volkswagen disaster that claimed that diesel wasn’t at all bad for the environment, because their diesel cars qualified on emission tests with flying colours.
There are many issues that the world needs to overcome in order to truly embrace sustainability:
- Old habits die hard. After relentlessly selling for profits, businesses can’t be expected to suddenly start selling for sustainability and sacrificing part of their profit. Sustainable marketing should start small; after “feeling” how the market is responding to it, the strategies need to be fine-tuned to create a balance between both aspects profit and environment.
- Many people are unaware today of the impact, the necessity and implications that are contained in sustainable practices. The lack of appreciation, the limited knowledge, and scarce access to resources everything acts as a challenge in its adoption. Sustainable marketing is the only tool that has a wide reach and high penetration that can aim to educate the populace bit by bit.