The impact of sustainable marketing as a counteract to the growing carbon footprint
Before you continue reading this article, we’d like you to try an experiment. Head over to your kitchen and explore your shelves. How many goods can you find that are sustainable and ethically sourced? Can you recycle that bottle of your favorite juice? Is your kitchenware producer socially responsible?
Now, document your findings and try to see the big picture. Sustainable marketing is no longer a trend that brands use to win consumer loyalty. It’s not a luxury, not a nice-to-have option. Rather, it’s an essential that brands must incorporate into their marketing strategies; all to make sure production does no harm to the planet and future generations.
You can be sure that consumers (and your clients) care as well. A recent TrendHunter report has pointed in this direction, stating that consumers are really paying attention to the sustainable aspect of the goods they purchase. Clients don’t just put a dollar to the goods they buy, they are extremely conscious of the story behind them as well.
In this article, we’ll overview how brands are employing sustainable marketing strategies to make their impact on the world — and provide some examples for you to draw ideas and get inspired if you’re exploring your options with going more sustainable.
What is sustainable marketing?
In today’s business world, sustainable marketing is a way of building relationships with customers based on promoting products and services that are socially and environmentally responsible.
In their marketing communications, sustainable brands focus on building purpose-driven messages. They care about the world they’re creating for future generations — both in social and environmental aspects.
Businesses introduce sustainable approaches in several ways:
- Products. Here, companies want to know that their products are made ethically, using renewable energy and taking into account the social interests of the communities they cater to. Governments are also introducing new requirements for the production of goods to ensure they are ethically sourced.
- Brand values and corporate social responsibility. Sustainable brands also lay down brand values that are coherent with their sustainability efforts, and maintain corporate social responsibility policies to support big causes. It only benefits companies: over 80% of consumers say they are likely to tell friends and family about the company’s corporate social responsibility efforts.
Now, sustainable marketing differs from green marketing. But how, exactly?
Sustainable marketing VS green marketing
Sustainable marketing goes beyond green marketing. Green marketing is a part of sustainable marketing that focuses on promoting goods and services aimed to reduce carbon emissions. Think all things recycling, reducing, and reusing — that is green marketing.
Sustainable brands do more. They advocate for human rights, employ people with disabilities, offer eco-friendly goods and services, promote fair trade and human health. The core idea of sustainability roots in the need to make an impact on the whole industry, and the planet, in turn. All these actions put together lower the negative impact of production on the planet.
We’d say sustainability is no longer an innovative marketing approach. It’s a traditional marketing strategy for businesses that want to maintain consumer loyalty and leave a legacy in the world.
Why is sustainable marketing important?
Sustainable marketing has been evolving largely as a response to a growing carbon footprint. Here are just some statistics to give you an idea of how things are going:
- China is the largest emitter of CO2 in the world, with 11680 Mt (11.680 GT) of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020. This is just over 32% of the world’s total 2020 emissions.
- Food accounts for 10-30% of a household’s carbon footprint, typically a higher portion in lower-income households.
- Production accounts for 68% of food emissions, while transportation accounts for 5%.
- Fashion accounts for up to 10% of global carbon dioxide output—more than international flights and shipping combined.
- The average passenger car emits 0.78 pounds of CO2 per mile driven.
But, again, this goes beyond eco friendly issues alone. According to human rights statistics, social issues need brand attention, too:
- More than one in four children in poor countries was involved in child labor in 2019.
- There were 80 million displaced people around the globe in 2020.
- Today, only 43 countries recognize homophobic crimes as a type of hate crime.
No wonder purpose driven brands are aiming to address these issues in their sustainable initiatives. People are paying attention!
How customers pursue sustainable marketing
Now, what do customers think about sustainable marketing? Here’s an interesting statistics that shows people are caring for the planet way more than they used to:
- 64% of people in the UK state plastic pollution as their number #1 environmental concern.
- 57% of consumers are willing to change their purchasing habits to help reduce negative environmental impact.
- 73% of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable offerings.
With these figures taken into account, introducing sustainable marketing practices becomes vital for companies.
10 sustainable marketing brands to inspire you
Inspiration time! Here’s a list of companies that aim to not only better their financial performance, but also advocate for environmental and social issues in their marketing campaigns. Let’s head over to sustainable marketing examples below.
Eileen Fisher is an apparel brand, offering clothes that are circular by design. In their stock, you’ll find clothing options made from organic cotton, cotton hemp, and sustainable jersey.
The brand is a part of the Ethical Trading Initiative, as it trains its employees and suppliers on human trafficking and slavery. It also showed its support for women by introducing grants in the Women in Environmental Justice pilot program in 2019.
Fresh Milk and more
Fresh Milk and more is a UK brand that offers food options from small British suppliers. It encourages customers to buy from local farmers, use reusable packaging, and lower the carbon footprint.
In a recent #PlasticFreeJuly campaign, Fresh Milk and more offered clients to get their household supplies in newly-designed bottles that can be refilled and reused. The company suggested that the milkman will collect the bottles and this will help clients’ homes to become greener.
TOMS is a shoe brand with particular focus on social interest. It offers shoes for women, men, and kids and aims to source 100% sustainable cotton by 2025. The company gets its packaging from sustainably managed forests.
Interestingly, in its marketing campaigns, TOMS manifests to make the world more equitable as it gives ⅓ of its profits for grassroots good. The company invests in boosting mental health, increasing access to opportunity, and ending gun violence.
Ecosoulhome is a US-based brand of tableware, kitchenware, and other products. What’s particular about Ecosoulhome is that all their products are made from plants like sugarcane, corn, palmleaves and bamboo. The company now markets in India, China, and Vietnam.
Ecosoulhome also runs a small blog, advising readers on the nuances of home composting and conscious living.
Another interesting example is Clotheshorse, a podcast on sustainability, style, and community. It does a great job of educating listeners on all things sustainability — and talks about topics like mindful rehoming, greenwashing, and fast fashion.
To us, this is a showcase of how great communication can raise awareness of vital topics and motivate people to buy smarter, more sustainable products.
Love podcasts? Take a look at our top 10 podcasts about design and creativity.
People Tree is a Fair Trade apparel company that sells women’s clothing like dresses, T-shirts, and more. It is one of the sustainability pioneers that invests in social impact. The company advocates for fair wages and supports social and environmental issues.
What’s particular about the People Tree is that it grew from an NGO called the Global Village that advocates for the environment.
Fabrap is a company that aims to change the way people gift, offering a sustainable, reusable fabric gift wrap. The company claims the products are ethically produced from 100% organic cotton. It found that gift wrapping requires over 200,000 harvested trees in the UK only — that’s 75 million trees every year.
Indeed, everyone loves surprising their loved ones with presents, but how do you make sure the gift wrap doesn’t harm the environment? Fabrap is a go-to option for a sustainable, harm-free wrapping.
Sackcloth & Ashes
Sackcloth & Ashes is a company selling blankets made of 100% recycled material. It offers both essential blankets, as well as those aimed to be used while camping. The goods are produced in water free, dye free, and chemical free processes.
For every item sold, the company donates a blanket to US homeless shelters, helping those in need. It also has an ambitious goal to donate over 1 million blankets by 2024.
Fyghome is an affordable, luxury home brand offering candles made of natural wax, among other products. It also sells hand wash and hand lotion products with reusable and recyclable packaging.
On its social media, the company claims that they are sustainable at their core, and encourage customers to give their products a second life. The jars, for example, can be repurposed as makeup brush holders or mini plant pots.
Framiore, a small brand with its own in-house production in Ukraine, offers women’s clothing made from tencel, a fiber from Eucalyptus trees, as well as linen and hemp. All of the clothing is designed to be recycled or upcycled when the time comes.
Framiore also pays homage to lesser known cultures. In its collections, the brand creates designs that are inspired by the clothing of indigenous people, like the Hmong people or Uyghurs. The company researches their lifestyle, habits, and rituals to create clothing with a particular value and message.
Interested in more from Ukraine’s creative scene? Explore our overview of the best marketing campaigns by Ukrainian agencies.
How to leverage sustainable marketing for your brand
Some brands think it’s hard to implement sustainable practices in their everyday work. Wrong assumption. Here are some actionable tips on how to make your brand more sustainable.
Create a mission statement as part of your corporate responsibility
Commit to a cause and make it public. Will you advocate for social equity and human rights? Or build a sustainable production facility? Perhaps, you’ll support social initiatives and allocate a part of your budget to a local dog shelter? Lay this down in a mission statement, explaining your core values to your customers.
Come up with an updated message box
Now, you need to think about how you will deliver your sustainability messages to all stakeholders. This will require a change in your communication strategy. Create a message box, explaining exactly how your brand creates socially responsible products, what it does to ensure lower emissions, and how it changes the big picture of the world that we’re living in.
Use these messages in your marketing communications, advertising campaigns, and more.
Introduce a remote work option
Practice sustainable marketing by introducing a remote work option for your employees. Not only will this benefit the mental health of your workers, but also create a viable impact on your carbon footprint as workers will use less gasoline.
This is one of the sustainable solutions that seems doable due to COVID-19.
With technology introducing lots of opportunities to lower the use of paper, this step is a must-have option. Organize your documents in a cloud, opt for digital signatures rather than paper ones, and more.
Here’s all you need to know to grow your offline business in the digital world — hope this will be useful for you.
Reduce, reuse and recycle
Another sustainable business practice that is easy to implement. Buy what you really need to buy and disregard the unimportant. Reuse products in your workspace and encourage employees to do so. Create a small recycling station at your office or store — contact a local recycling center for help.
Want your employees to be more sustainable? Discover our take on how to effectively communicate eco-friendly strategy to your office.
Offer sustainable packaging
With lots of options on the market, sustainable packaging becomes a great tool for promoting your brand and supporting the sustainability cause. Explore various options of sustainable packaging — have it stick around for longer in your clients’ homes.
Need a design for your packaging? Head over to VistaCreate for thousands of readily available design templates.
Make your production more energy efficient
Rethink your business strategy in regards to accessing your production facilities, and introduce more innovation. Can you make your production more energy efficient? Is there a way to use solar panels, for instance?
This may become financially difficult in the short term, but in the long-term, you’ll enjoy how cost-saving these initiatives are.
Educate your customers
Your customers are your biggest brand advocates. Run an educational campaign stressing the importance of sustainable living and consuming. Make proper communication on sustainability one of your brand’s assets. Build a community of like-minded people to make sure your company is following a bigger cause.
Already have some sustainability ideas in mind? Organize them using our list of tools to help you structure your ideas.
Sustainable marketing holds a great impact on the planet, the people, and the well-being of all humanity. It’s no longer just a trend, but rather an acute need business leaders want to implement in their organizations.
Sustainability means you care for natural resources, take a stance on social issues, and maintain a coherent corporate social responsibility policy.
Introduce sustainable practices, ensure your brand promotes good changes for both your clients and employees, and stick to your own values as you go. In the end, we all just want the planet to be a better place. Will you make it one?