What Is Sustainable Marketing and How Should You Use It?
At a time when 70% of Americans are experiencing a moderate to severe level of climate change anxiety, consumers are turning to more sustainable practices and buying habits. Brands are under increasing pressure to become more sustainable, with 28% of consumers refusing to buy products or services due to ethical or environmental concerns.
Adopting sustainable marketing practices seems daunting at first glance. But with some careful consideration and planning, your brand can develop a sustainable marketing campaign that connects with your socially conscious audience and goes beyond your bottom line. In honor of Earth Day, we're going to show you how to leverage sustainable marketing practices to deepen your brand's connection with your community and the world! Let’s get started.
What is sustainable marketing?
The combination of a global pandemic and a worsening climate crisis made us examine our priorities and our role in shaping the world we live in today. If we want a better future, we can't return to business as usual. As a result, more companies are embracing sustainable marketing to be a positive force for change in a rapidly changing world.
Sustainable marketing promotes environmentally and socially responsible goods and services rooted in ethical business standards and practices.
Sustainable marketing isn't a new concept, but these days customers are looking for more than a high-quality product. They want to align themselves with brands that share their values and desire to leave the world a better place for future generations.
At its root, sustainable marketing centers around consistency and connecting sustainability efforts with your core brand values. It goes beyond your products and short-term green marketing tactics. It's a holistic, long-term strategy that integrates your company's mission, core values, and internal processes to cultivate a lasting brand legacy.
What’s the difference between sustainable marketing and green marketing?
Even though they appear similar, sustainable and green marketing are two different concepts.
Green marketing highlights a company's short-term sustainability efforts and positions its product or service as eco-friendly to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers (ex: sourcing renewable materials, reducing waste, minimizing carbon emissions, etc.).
Sustainable marketing, on the other hand, considers sustainability from a holistic perspective, factoring in economic, social, and environmental sustainability across all marketing channels.
What are the benefits of sustainable marketing?
Sustainability in marketing is about playing the long game. Depending on your company's sustainability goals, creating a top-to-bottom sustainable business model takes time, persistence, and collaboration. The good news is that companies that engage in sustainable marketing correctly can reap long-term benefits, including:
Improved brand reputation: By promoting sustainability within your organization, processes, and products, you'll gain the trust of those who matter most to your business, boost brand equity, and generate positive publicity along the way.
Increased customer loyalty: Consumers are aware of the environmental impact of their purchases. Not only are more consumers putting their money where their mouth is, they also expect their favorite brands to lead by example. By promoting sustainable practices, your business can reel in and retain consumers who prioritize sustainability in their day-to-day lives and earn their loyalty for years to come.
Long-term cost savings: More than 25% of businesses that invested in sustainability reported related cost savings. In-house sustainable practices and switches, such as embracing remote work, responsible material sourcing, implementing a recycling program, and investing in digital tech solutions can reduce expenses.
Sustainable marketing best practices
A sustainable marketing strategy goes beyond slapping a biodegradable label on your product. Here are some best practices to keep in mind when creating a sustainable marketing strategy:
Avoid greenwashing: For every company that makes a genuine effort to steer its brand toward sustainability, there will be another that cuts corners to fool consumers. Often, these companies will exaggerate the extent of their sustainability efforts, only to be called out by consumers. This shady tactic is called ‘greenwashing’ and can cause irreparable harm to a company's reputation. Consumers are getting better at detecting greenwashing and deceptive advertising as the sustainability movement gains momentum. The long-term consequences of taking shortcuts like these in your brand's sustainability journey will outweigh the short-term cost savings.
Honesty is the best policy: Speaking of transparency – or the lack thereof – if your brand claims to be sustainable, you need to practice what you preach. Before you go all out with a flashy marketing campaign showcasing your brand's sustainability efforts, take a step back and review your company mission, internal processes, supply chain, and material sourcing to determine a realistic timeframe for achieving your sustainability goals. Keep your consumers informed about your current efforts, progress, and sustainability objectives. And don't be surprised if they hold your feet to the fire – because they will.
Reconnect with your purpose: Most brands measure their success based on KPIs, metrics, and revenue growth. Sustainability alters this perspective by having brands evaluate themselves based on something more intangible than profits alone. This is where the "triple bottom line" comes into play. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, it's a theory that expands traditional indicators of success in business to include social well-being, environmental health, and economic justice. An effective triple bottom line revolves around the "Three P's": people, planet, and prosperity. Certified B Corporations embody the triple bottom line philosophy. B Corps put a high priority on sustainability and social responsibility in their business practices, making sure their efforts trickle down to the community and environment.
Leverage storytelling: Storytelling is one of the most influential sustainable marketing strategies in the book. There’s something so timeless and compelling about a good story. Effective brand storytelling will help your business stand out from the crowd. But what if you’ve never tried to tell stories as part of your content strategy? One way to add some spice to your sustainability story is to document your brand's sustainability journey, track your progress, and share your results. You can use this data in your stories across social media, advertisements, blog posts, etc.
Sustainable marketing spotlight
At SLTC, we’re proud to work alongside fearless brands driving sustainable innovation across a variety of industries – including jammies for kids! As a parent, keeping up with your child's needs isn't always easy. And having to buy new clothes to fit their rapidly growing bodies only adds to the challenge. The Sleepy Sloth offers breathable sleepwear and adorable daywear for playful kiddos made from eco-friendly bamboo, a highly-sustainable and renewable resource that cuts down on water consumption, deforestation, and greenhouse gas emissions. The SLTC team is thrilled to collaborate with this eco-friendly brand to support their mission of delivering fashionable and environmentally responsible children's nightwear.
Ready to start your sustainability journey?
Here’s the thing. Your brand's sustainability journey doesn't have to involve an overhaul of your business model. Think big, but start small.
As a Shorty Awards-winning marketing agency, SLTC loves working with mission-driven companies who dream big – like you! We're excited to learn your story. Let's work together to create a powerfully sustainable, mission-driven campaign today!