Substainable Marketing: Getting Back to Marketing Basics

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Sustainable marketing and green marketing are major elements supporting the brand because CONSUMERS care about limiting their carbon footprint — leaving the earth for future generations to enjoy.

Increasingly, consumers vote with their dollars to support brands who promote their sustainable marketing and green marketing efforts.

What is sustainable marketing?

Sustainable marketing can take 2 forms.

1. Sustainable marketing involves publicizing your efforts to be socially and environmentally responsible — cutting down production of greenhouse gases, reducing waste, and using resources wisely.

Of course, sustainable marketing is like anything else in marketing — perceptions become reality. For instance, experts argue the batteries installed in hybrid vehicles actually represent a GREATER danger to the environment than the carbon reduction from using less fossil fuel. Production of these batteries strain supplies of the rare earth elements required to produce them which certainly doesn’t fit with notions of sustainability. So, while Toyota and other leading hybrid manufacturers get rave reviews from consumers when it comes to sustainable marketing, in reality their cars are probably an environmental wash representing as many drawbacks and benefits to the environment.

2. Sustainable marketing involves undertaking marketing efforts to get YOUR consumers to act in more environmentally sustainable ways.

Here are some examples of this type of sustainable marketing:

  • McDonald’s sponsors efforts to reduce waste caused by consumers who indiscriminately through McDonald’s wrappers and bags into the environment.
  • Energy companies offer conservation tips and products to help consumers conserve natural resources.
  • Grocery stores encourage consumers to use re-usable bags or recycle their used grocery bags.

Truly sustainable marketing is hard

I recently heard an esteemed marketing professor chart the woes of his client in achieving sustainability. Sustainable marketing is really a tough notion to implement because environmental threats come from sources you’d never imagine contributing to your carbon footprint.

In his example, a dairy switched to environmentally friendly packaging and bought a fleet of hybrid vehicles to move their milk to market. Yet, evaluations still showed their carbon footprint was significantly higher than hoped. Further evaluation showed that the amount of greenhouse gas produced by the cows themselves far outweighed those produced in processing, packaging, and transporting the milk to market. Even natural sources can be significant producers of greenhouse gases.

Attempting consumer behavioral changes necessary for sustainable marketing is even more challenging. Consumers don’t LIKE change. During WWII, efforts to get consumers to eat more organ meats due to shortages met with very limited success and years to preaching energy and water conservation produced few adherents.

Some states, like DC and Maryland, impose a charge for consumers who wish disposable bags at restaurants, grocery stores, and shops, which resulted in much lower usage of these bags. Credits on Federal Income Taxes also encouraged homeowners and others to save energy. An impressive program used peer pressure to encourage neighbors to limit their energy usage.

Implementing sustainable marketing

Sure, you can be like Toyota and create the image of sustainable marketing without creating true sustainability. Of course, the danger is loss of consumer confidence should they ever become convinced of your deception.

Here are some sustainable marketing practices to consider

  • Sense of mission marketing – for instance, Pedigree promotes pet adoption by running advertising campaigns aimed at adoption over buying pets and donates money to support the activities of pet shelters.
  • Socially responsible marketing – marketing safer, more environmentally friendly products and packaging such as Method brand of home products that feature low sulphur cleaning products.
  • Emphasize innovative, customer driven products rather than lower value products that must be replaced over time – planned obsolescence.
  • Conduct a sustainability audit to determine points where the company produces waste, consumes energy, or increases consumer packaging with an eye toward reducing or eliminating them.

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