Sustainability marketing

10 minute read

Read: Adanma Onuoha – What is sustainable marketing?

Key points:

  • As marketeers, we play a crucial role in influencing consumers – either towards a throw-away culture or towards making more sustainable buying decisions
  • Philip Kotler’s definition of sustainable marketing states that “an organization should meet the needs of its present consumers without compromising the ability of future generations to fulfill their own needs”
  • According to Onuoha sustainable marketing is “simply marketers working together to foster marketing activities and strategies that promote environmental wellbeing, social equity, and economic development in a manner that enhances the business”
  • Marketeers can influence the direction of an organisation by:
    • Working directly with product development
    • Strategising sustainability – seeking to reduce waste and operational costs
    • Encouraging more sustainable behaviors in peers
    • Partnering across industries to drive wider level change
    • Educating and raising awareness

Read: Ken Peattie and Frank-Martin Belz – Sustainability Marketing – An Innovative Conception of Marketing

Key points:

  • Currently, there are two schools of thought around how marketing might challenge the dominant modern marketing paradigm, which centers a company’s efforts around the needs and wants of the customer as the means to deliver profit and growth:
    • Macro, ethical (green) and eco marketing all seek to address and integrate the social and environmental impacts of marketing activity, as well as the relationship between markets, regulations and social welfare. These approaches look at the inter-relationships between marketing and society.
    • Relationship-marketing looks at the process of managing relationships with customers rather than facilitating exchanges with them, emphasising the delivery of value to customers
  • Sustainability marketing involves building and maintaining long-term relationships with customers, the social environment and the natural environment. As such, it is a combination of relationship marketing and eco/ethical marketing (as depicted in the chart below).
  • Conventional marketing views the world narrowly from the client perspective, whose wants and needs shape decisions. Other forces (including social or environmental) act as constrains and limitations. There are some problems with this:
    • It prioritises the rights and interests of the client over those of other people/ species
    • It ignores the client’s interests in other roles – I.e parent, or scholar
    • It risks conceptualising clients as a single entity with homogenous interests and will
    • It views social and ecological problems as constraints and prioritises short-term economic gain over long-term viability
    • It negates that long-term impacts of consumption may disadvantage  the whole planet in the long-term
  • ‘4Cs of sustainability marketing mix’ – The four Cs are also integral to more traditional types of marketing, but are treated differently as part of a sustainable approach:
    • Customer solutions
      • A single component of a system is only as sustainable as the system of which it is a part
      • Sustainable products and services – those that offer solutions to customer needs and significant improvements in social and environmental performance throughout the whole life cycle in comparison to conventional or competing offers 
    • Customer cost
      • From the client perspective, the price of a good or service represents only one element of the costs incurred in acquiring, using and then recycling or disposing of it, including non-financial costs
    • Convenience
      • Convenience is a key factor and is likely to be a driver of decision making
      • Some argue that successful marketing of sustainability solutions will depend on matching conventional products for convenience – others argue that we must reassess our devotion to, and definition of, convenience  
    • Communication
      • Effective communication to forge long-term relationships with consumers (through use and post-use) will be crucial to ensuring a whole life cycle approach is taken to managing sustainability solutions
      • Fears of greenwashing are a significant obstacle to marketing communications
  • Sustainability marketing should recognise and pursue the potential of companies to change the environment in which they operate
  • Institutional change is important for creating the intersection between socio-ecological problems and consumption behaviours, which will allow for the expansion of sustainable innovations beyond market niches
  • Sustainability marketing recognises that key players do have some power to influence their environment, and argues that companies and consumers should take some responsibility for the social and environmental impacts of production and consumption
  • Sustainability marketing is marketing that endures “forEVER” in that it delivers solutions that are:
    • Ecologically oriented
    • Viable
    • Ethical
    • Relationship based
  • Sustainability marketing blends mainstream economic and technical perspectives with the emerging concepts of relationship marketing and the social, ethical, environmental and intergenerational perspectives of the sustainable development agenda

Read: Sian Smallman – The influence of sustainable advertising

Key points:

  • Research from Quick Frame suggests that consumers are looking for three things in sustainable/green advertising:
    • Positive tone
    • Making climate change feel close to home
    • Embracing story over statistics
  • Research from Google supports the premise that storytelling is key to winning hearts and minds, over pure data. Google shared four key strategies for advertisers:
    • Changed behaviour
    • Avoid piggy backing on the latest crazes
    • Compromise by introducing baby steps
    • Bring new ideas to inspire consumers
  • 76% of marketers surveyed by the CIM agreed  products that have a damaging impact on the environment should have similar levels of marketing restrictions as currently exist for cigarettes (in the UK)