What is sustainable marketing?
It’s more than just a buzzword. It’s a fundamental shift in consumer communication styles that lead with heart and stories rather than discounts and offers. It’s the ability to take a step back and worry less about short-term profits and focus on long-term consumer value.
It’s the stuff that all good businesses say is important but fail to really deliver on every single day. We know that this is coming to an end and that we are about to meet a brand new, more ethically inclined consumer that will change the world.
Sustainable marketing as a practice
In the world of digital marketing, consumers are more exposed than ever. Cookies are stacked high and we are being followed around the internet. This has seen a rise in ad blockers and VPNs.
Now, with blockchain technology seeping into every crack of disruption, online anonymity is forcing marketers to think about the sustainability of their marketing channels.
Can they continue this defined behavior indefinitely?
It’s about finding a balance between leading the consumer through a journey to a point of sale in an efficient way, but also in a way that doesn’t tarnish the relationship between them and the brand.
Ethics play a huge role in sustainability marketing. When building a campaign, consider every touch point and how it affects the consumer, the environment and the community — especially the community built around the brand.
I don’t think the cliché used car salesman would’ve been considering sustainability for a moment.
We are also seeing the market now begin to favor these marketing practices and actually draw a higher conversion rate. But it’s important to hold off the desperation for the need of an immediate ROI.
It’s about balancing the long-term ROI of a consumer that loves the brand versus the short-term ROI of a quick sale.
Why is sustainability so important?
i. People – the social bottom line
The social equity of a company is the human presence, measured outside of job-based performance. This starts with a transparent and reliable human resources service.
HR should provide qualitative data to the board and management, as well as quantitative data from surveys and review sites like Glassdoor.
And what’s the goal of that data? Basically, it needs to show that you’re not being a terrible person to others. Think about diversity and equality at all times and treat people with respect.
Here’s a terrifying example to show what I mean. Did you know that 50.8% of the human race is female and 3.3% are men named John? Not too shocking. Well, what is shocking is that there are as many Johns as women among Fortune 500 CEOs. We have to do better!
ii. Planet – the environmental bottom line
The environmental impact of a company is potentially the most complicated — and at this time in the human race’s short history, the most important. We need to ensure that we are doing more than just cutting our impact.
For an organization, there are simple things like carbon offsetting (that you can now do online) through to independent Environmental Management Systems such as the ISO 140001.
For larger corporations, they can tie in the UN Sustainable Development Goals or even the Global Reporting Initiative reports to their required non-financial reporting.
Step one is engaging people in your organization to at least think about the environment. That comes from the top and works its way down.
iii. Profit – the economic bottom line
More than just what you see at the end of year accounts, a Triple Bottom Line company will try to evaluate the economic value it has brought into the local and global economy through its work.
While a healthy financial profit is required to continue the business’s good work, it must also consider how it can integrate into its community.
A truly sustainable company will push itself to change people’s lives and really put their revenues to good use. A good example would be the Buy1Give1 scheme or 1% For The Planet movement.
How can my company practice sustainability marketing?
First of all, you need to find some activities to take part in that will showcase your sustainability. Here are some ideas:
i. Plastic pickups
On the Cornish coast of the UK where I live there is a movement that is making a hugely positive difference — the #2minutebeachclean. If your business is located near the coast then this is a great place to start.
Simply organize a morning each week where you and the team can get to a beach, with each person spending just two minutes picking up litter, pieces of microplastics and anything else that doesn’t belong.
Not only are you doing a huge service to your local coastline, but your team will also bond in the sun (or the cold). Go and grab a coffee afterward and you’ll see a big difference in the energy of your business. This will cost you one hour a week. In the grand scheme, ask yourself if you can afford to NOT do this.
ii. Choose renewable energy
A simple way to get your business on the right side of climate change is to choose a renewable energy source.
If you are working from home or if you can choose your energy supplier then we recommend 100% renewable providers like Ecotricity or Octopus. Even British Gas is now offering a renewable service for businesses.
iii. Listen before you talk
Depression is something that affects one in 10 people in the UK. That adds up to 3 million people diagnosed — more than the entire population of Wales.
9.8 million days of work a year are lost to depression. Yet still, we glamourize ‘the hustle’ and working harder than ever. If you are not doing something productive then you are somehow less important.
This is leading to dangerous rhetoric in society and it is being compounded by the negative use of social media.
It’s likely that if you have staff working for you, depression is part of one or more of your team’s daily life.
Work takes up so much of our lives that if we don’t get told that it is OK to talk and share our problems then it becomes a huge bottleneck of negative behavior.
We believe that the best solution is to appoint an outside, independent person to act as a coach or guide. Someone who can listen to your team (and you) so you can build your community around your business — without sacrificing anyone’s mental health.
Telling your story
Now that you have your story it’s time to take it to the world. This is the easy part! All you need to do is layer the story of what you did and why you did it through your existing channels.
So often I see companies doing great work and then falling short of actually letting their community know. It’s more than just a post or two on Facebook — you should create a marketing plan like you would any other and make sure that you focus on why you decided to take this journey. You can also tell a powerful brand story by adding cause marketing to your business.
People want honesty, not perfection.
Sustainable marketing is more than just a new way of looking at your marketing. It’s about making a business decision that will change your trajectory forever. We want you to take a long, hard look at your business activities and think about the impact you are making and the legacy you want to leave.
If you want your business to be remembered as one of the best, then you need to start making changes today.
Mark Roberts is CEO of Conscious Creatives, a group of like-minded individuals pursuing a greater purpose through our work. Saving the planet by producing branding and digital communications packages that place sustainability at their heart and deliver long-term revenue.