The world is finally waking up to taking responsibility for what it creates and puts out in the consumers' market. Sustainability has become the front line cause for businesses to start re-imagining their processes and finally tie loose ends together. Marketing is no stranger to the concept of sustainability either, with businesses now beginning to actively tackle the environmental challenge and, through marketing, educate their consumers in following suit.
Sustainable marketing is a very potent tool to augment the sustainability efforts of businesses. Let's see how, by covering the following aspects of sustainable marketing.
- Introduction to Sustainable Marketing and its definition
- Defining Sustainability Marketing
- Green Marketing vs. Sustainable Marketing
- Sustainable Marketing Principles
- Steps for Sustainable Marketing
- Challenges in Sustainable Marketing
Introduction to Sustainable Marketing
Marketing is often synonymized with cashing in on profits. While that can be thought of as the goal of marketing, it isn't the sole goal. With the COP26 Summit that gathered not too long ago in Paris, highly ambitious goals were set towards sustainability and sustainable development, which spoke majorly of reducing carbon emissions, carbon footprint, and curbing the global temperature rise to under 2 degrees Celsius. Businesses and industries have a pivotal role to play in this, and if you will - the central role. And this is where marketing comes in.
Marketing has the power to sway public opinion. It holds the power to travel beyond geographical boundaries unrestrained and reach the masses within moments through the power of technology today. Through incorporating a message of and for sustainability in marketing, reinforcing the brand's initiatives towards its contributions to the planet, an unstoppable ripple of sustainability movement can be created.
Sustainable marketing not only projects a brand as responsible and accountable towards the planet but also influences public practices of choosing sustainable over disposables. It has multi fold consequences if leveraged effectively. This blog will discuss in detail the definition of sustainable marketing, the principles and steps towards it, the challenges involve and some notable examples.
Defining Sustainable Marketing
The Network of Business Sustainability explains sustainable marketing beautifully as the practice that helps organizations cater to the needs of its consumers in the present age, without taking away the right of the future generations to be able to fulfill their own needs.
In a nutshell, "Sustainable" encompasses the idea of mutual benefit and prosperity of every single aspect involved in an activity. Where businesses are concerned, sustainability is sourcing the raw material consciously (socially and environmentally), using Eco-friendly processes for manufacturing and production, and employing educational, encouraging marketing strategies that instill similar behavior in the consumers as well.
A very good example is the Indian brand, Chiaroscuro, which sells handcrafted leather bags. The Eco-statement? All leather is responsibly sourced and up cycled; the art incorporated into the making of the bags is a salvaged craft that was on the verge of getting lost forever; all the skilled artisans (so few you can count them on your fingers) creating the bags are credited and promoted with their creations as the ones saving this native craft. Their sustainable marketing strategy takes into account the three pillars of sustainability:
- Sourcing the material consciously
- Creating minimal waste while deriving maximum value from the gathered material
- Being socially responsible and sensitive about conducting business
Additionally, every bag that ships out of the facility carries a photograph of the artisan with the bag, giving the buyer an insight into the hard work that went into creating it. This is a prime example of what sustainable marketing is supposed to be.
On the same note, sustainable marketing is a term often used interchangeably with green marketing; they are actually quite different. Let's see how.
Green Marketing vs. Sustainable Marketing
Green marketing can be called a component of sustainable marketing. It consists of advertising the use of environmentally friendly products; in short, it focuses on the aspects of marketing that are purely green and ecologically friendly. Advertising that your company has biodegradable soaps to sell is green marketing; advertising that your company sources the natural ingredients for biodegradable soaps by sustainable cultivation and employs the locals is sustainable marketing.
Sustainable marketing is an umbrella term that green marketing is a part of. Sustainability in marketing consists of promoting for and encouraging responsible practices socially, environmentally, and economically.
Using these terms interchangeably can create room for confusion and ambiguity.
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.
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.
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 touch-points 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 products, 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.
Tailor your 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
Adopting sustainable marketing without anything to show for it counts as cheating. This practice will breed customer distrust - and it isn't easy to get back. The principle behind sustainable marketing is to practice and showcase your ethics. Try to create a newsletter of where your business is going with its sustainability practices. A digest volume of sorts, or a social media post - anything to periodically update your customers about the progress you have made in achieving your sustainability goals.
Let's now look at the steps your business needs to go through to achieve sustainability and adopt sustainable marketing.
Steps for Sustainable Marketing
It isn't an overnight thing that you plan and achieve the next day; achieving sustainability in your business is a long-haul matter that needs patience and resoluteness. Instead of going ahead full-throttle, adopt the baby-step approach towards building a tenet at your organization that imbues sustainability in its very operational fabric.
Let's look at the steps to get there.
Start With The Products
Sustainable marketing goes hand in hand with creating and producing sustainably. It is important to view the big picture of your product's lifecycle in order to incorporate sustainability into it. Where can you source the raw material that doesn't harm anything? How can you improve the processes, so less carbon is released into the atmosphere? After sales, how do you expect your consumers to deal with the packaging? Is every step of the product lifecycle sustainable? These are the few key questions that need to be answered.
It is a major overhaul in business processes; however, it is all for the greater good. You can begin by approaching one step at a time and adopting sustainable marketing to advertise your efforts to the community and keep them updated about it.
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.
Your business can leverage the use of the "Nudge" concept. You can post subtle reminders or include soft nudges on all your communications to your customers that encourage adopting sustainable practices. For example, on every plastic bag you manufacture, you could include a message that says "Reuse and recycle me" or "Please carry your own bag to reduce waste". It works!
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.
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.
For example, the fast fashion industry can make an attempt to form a coalition that works towards recycling existing fabric instead of acquiring new one to produce apparel that tends to go out of style very soon and ends up being discarded.
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.
That includes the top-level CEOs, Partners, employees - practically everyone at a company - and the consumers too, who need to be shown the long-term profits and benefits of adopting sustainability.
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 colors (by cheating the test using a complex software). It was plastered all over the news in September 2015, and VW ended up losing its reputation.
There are many issues that the world needs to overcome in order to truly embrace sustainability:
- 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, 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
- 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
No venture comes free of challenges; those that forge on achieve victory.
It is a long journey yet to get to a point where businesses come together for the planet and society. However, with little steps, constant efforts, and education, it is possible to create a world where the consumer and the provider, both, are in tandem with the planet. Sustainable marketing is an important tool that can drive these efforts in the right direction.
How Deskera Can Assist You?
Whether you are a sales manager or running your own business, there are tons of duties and responsibilities that you have to fulfill. Using the Deskera CRM system, you can manage your contacts, leads and sales deals. You can use the CRM system to manage all customer data and manage your leads, sales negotiations and deals.
Doing so will help you to save the time taken in transferring customer data between the different systems. Having a good CRM system will help you manage your financial and sales reports and be prepared to kick-off your meetings.
Deskera can also assist you with real-time updates about your business like cash flow status, customer satisfaction, inventory management, sales, purchases, purchase orders, customer tickets, customer satisfaction, managing leads, revenues, profit, and loss statements, and balance sheets.
Moreover, it would also help in integrating sales methodology across different platforms onto one system so that you have a consolidated list for email campaigns, leads management, and sales pipeline to mention a few.
It will also help you to sync between your orders, payments, taxes, refunds, product variants, sending out invoices and reminders, facilitating invoice management, and even undertaking follow-ups and advertisement campaigns.
Such a consolidated platform will help you to improve your sales through building effective sales compensation plans and also facilitate faster and well-informed decision-making. It will help you in strengthening your opportunities and being braced for the threats.
Sustainability holds more significance today because of the global environmental situation - weather going haywire, California ravaged by wildfires, ice-caps melting, freak storms, and landslides; the industrial impact is dangerously environmental.
Thankfully, in the midst of all this, sustainable practices have taken birth and are being actively implemented in a scattered manner across the globe. Sustainable marketing is the tool that can integrate and catalyze these efforts and level the playing field for everyone.
- Educates everyone from top to bottom
- Promotes and encourages environmentally and socially friendly practices
- Creates awareness among the population
Brands can incorporate sustainability by:
- Building products-up
- Strategizing for sustainable marketing
- Aligning the brand image with sustainability
- Bringing partners on board to sustainability
Starting small and building to a big revolution is the key to achieving sustainability