Sustainability is more than just a digital marketing trend. Embedding environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations into your business strategy allows businesses to stay socially relevant and impactful in the coming years.
According to the Harvard Business Review, companies incorporating sustainable business practices experience more innovation, effective risk management, and better financial performance.
However, marketing eco-friendly products is more than what sustainability is about. It’s using ethical practices and being aware of social issues your customers care about. Raising profit is not the primary concern of sustainable marketing; rather, there’s more focus on creating longer-lasting relationships with your customers.
Sustainable Marketing: A Powerful Consumer-Driven Marketing Tactic
If green marketing is focused on selling products that encourage environmental sustainability, what is sustainable marketing?
According to Diane Martin and John Schouten in their book Sustainable Marketing, sustainable marketing is the “process of creating, communicating, and delivering value to customers in such a way that both natural (resources nature provides) and human (resources people provide) capital are preserved or enhanced throughout.”
It’s clear through this definition that sustainable marketing is as concerned about the customer experience as it’s about the effort’s environmental impact. This is an essential point that marketers must understand because more environmentally and socially conscious consumers are already in the market.
An Accenture study revealed that almost two in three consumers (63%) would rather shop from purpose-driven brands. The sentiment has only grown since then, as seen in a 2020 IBM study where more than half of consumers (57%) are willing to switch their shopping habits to become more environmentally conscious.
As marketers, the imperative is clear: understand sustainable marketing and explore ways to incorporate it into your efforts. This article will give you a clearer overview of what’s behind the popularity of sustainable marketing, areas in your business you can adopt such practices, give you examples to learn from, and more.
What are the Key Drivers of Sustainable Marketing?
Below are a few key drivers behind why sustainable marketing has become more crucial in a modern business’ marketing strategy.
- Increasing number of socially responsible consumers
As more consumers become informed about the environment’s deterioration, they shift their consumption behavior in favor of it. Studies have shown that at least one in three consumers (34%) would rather spend more on sustainable products than those that aren’t.
The number of socially responsible consumers in the Philippines is also growing. A Kantar report found that three in four Filipino customers (75%) seek eco-friendly brands.
- Thriving competition among businesses
It isn’t surprising that businesses are shifting their marketing strategies to meet the growing demand of modern customers. According to the PwC Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) 2021 CEO survey, more than half of CEOs have implemented initiatives to ensure ethical business practices along the value chain, among other governance improvements.
The competitiveness of businesses grows as more adopt sustainable marketing.
- Rising popularity of socially responsible suppliers
Using eco-friendly materials is an essential component of sustainable marketing. According to a Kantar study, 92% of Filipino shoppers prefer to buy products made from natural ingredients. It highlights why socially responsible suppliers, such as EcoNest Philippines and Simula PH, have grown in popularity.
Additionally, surveys have found that businesses that adhere to their corporate responsibility goals (CSR) could develop better relationships with their suppliers.
- Growing governmental support
Governments worldwide continue to promote sustainable practices in their countries. For instance, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) developed initiatives to support sustainable consumption in the Philippines.
The DTI’s export arm, the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions, held the Sustainability Solutions Exchange (SSX) in March 2022, a three-day event promoting the shift towards sustainable consumption and production among consumers and local brands.
With sustainability backed by the government, you can expect more companies to adopt sustainable marketing strategies.
- Depleting raw materials and natural resources
The continuous depletion of natural resources has made sustainability more than a social responsibility but also a race. According to Boston Consulting Group (BCG), companies must respond to resource scarcity swiftly to mitigate risks, build resilience, and capture economic premiums.
The Five Principles of Sustainable Marketing
Marketing must follow certain guidelines to be considered sustainable. Below are five sustainable marketing principles, beginning with a focus on your customer and zooming out to your company’s role in society.
- Consumer-oriented marketing
Although the core of great marketing is that it must be consumer-facing, sustainable marketing takes another approach. Customer-oriented is more than simply pushing products to your target market to earn more. Instead, it’s about keeping in touch with them and being vocal about what they care about, such as social and environmental issues.
There are ethical customer data mining practices that you can follow to support your consumer-oriented marketing.
- Customer value marketing
The value you provide your customer isn’t static; your marketing work doesn’t end once the purchase is made.
Part of HubSpot’s inbound marketing flywheel model is to delight customers. By continuously providing personalized value to your customers, you build your relationship, gain their loyalty, and increase the likelihood of a repeat purchase.
- Innovative marketing
Sustainable marketing breaks away from the traditional profit-gaining purpose of marketing. It means you must continue to innovate ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors while giving unique, long-term value to your audience.
- Sense-of-mission marketing
Consumers are aware that your company doesn’t exist in isolation. Sense-of-mission marketing is a principle that guides you to view your company as contributing to a larger community rather than focusing on the products themselves. Customers want to know that your company stands for something and emotionally connection with you.
- Societal marketing
Societal marketing is where you must consider your company’s and customers’ long-term goals. Sustainable marketing is about how your business can positively impact the environment and community around you, whether by reducing your carbon footprint or contributing to conversations about prevalent social issues such as diversity.
How Can Marketers Adopt Sustainable Marketing
Marketers can collaborate to develop marketing activities and strategies that promote environmental well-being, social equity, and economic development in a business-enhancing way.
Below are a few areas where businesses can adopt a sustainable marketing approach.
- Product development
Since more consumers are looking for products ethically made, marketers should work much more closely with expert product developers to find ways to reduce the environmental impact of the company’s products as much as possible.
Planned obsolescence and fast fashion are remnants of marketing strategies focused on increasing profit. One approach is to nudge consumers towards making more sustainable choices, such as upcycling your products.
Besides making a positive environmental impact, nudging customers can help your company reach its sustainability objectives and make your brand more marketable.
According to IBM’s 2022 report on balancing sustainability and profitability, almost half of the surveyed consumers (49%) say they’ve paid a premium for sustainable or socially responsible products.
This highlights why your company’s branding must become more transparent. You can release short-form videos or scannable QR codes that your customers can interact with to see how the products were made or the materials were sourced.
Businesses have realized they can’t make significant progress toward a more sustainable future alone. It’s why they may choose to partner with other brands to leverage each other’s strengths.
Marketers can take a cue from Adidas, which partnered with Parley to create a new line of shoes made from recycled plastics. What started as creating a few pairs of shoes in 2015 grew into a global success that produced 30 million pairs by 2020.
- Education and awareness
Educating your customers can help them better understand their behavior. You can create helpful videos informing customers about current environmental trends or make tools that help customers make more sustainable decisions. An example would be Earth Day’s Carbon Footprint Calculator, which allows customers to understand how big their carbon footprint is.
A digital marketing strategy you can use is to create a landing page to report your business’ impact and progress towards your sustainability goals. You can also link to educational resources about sustainability to help build understanding for your audiences.
Brands That Practice Sustainability in Their Marketing Strategy
While these points might be sound, in theory, seeing how brands today apply it will paint a much clearer picture of sustainable marketing.
Below are a few marketing examples that will inspire you to develop your marketing strategies greener.
Messy Bessy advocates for purchases with a purpose, as it offers biodegradable and eco-friendly products. It has a clear mission to provide education for at-risk youths and assistance for sexually abused girls. The business grew significantly that they eventually created HOUSE Foundation, offering scholarships and helping lift impoverished individuals out of poverty.
Ritual appeals to its eco-conscious customers by providing a sustainable twist to the general store shopping experience. They nudge their customers to make sustainable decisions by encouraging them to use their own containers while shopping for local goods, helping to reduce plastic usage significantly.
Chill’s Cloth Pads is a local business that focuses on educating and spreading awareness of their products—menstrual cloth pads. Their sustainable marketing efforts can be seen on their Facebook profile, where they quell doubts about their product, stating its benefits and answering customer queries from interested buyers all over the Philippines.
Zero Basics aims to help people live a zero-waste lifestyle with their self-care products. Their partnerships with online stores such as GreenGro MNL, Humble Market, and BeautyMNL show that they clearly understand their ideal customers: environmentally conscious individuals looking for self-care products made from organic materials.
Jacinto and Lirio makes “indigenous look sexy.” The business uses hyacinths and lilies—plants often considered pests—to create handcrafted plant leather goods that are stylish and have lifestyle appeal for professionals.
Things That Matter PH shows the value of clear branding. It was once known as Rags2Riches, establishing partnerships with local artisans to help lift them from poverty. However, the brand grew into a fashion and design house over the years, selling bags, clothes, and home accessories made from sustainable materials.
Cocoon Boutique Hotel promotes the idea that even your staycations can be environmentally friendly, establishing a standard for green luxury.
Their Green Hotel page on their website provides an interactive experience for audiences to learn more about what makes their hotel so sustainable, from their light fixtures to low-emissivity windows.
On World Earth Day in 2022, Alibaba announced they would join Meta and Microsoft in the Low Carbon Patent Pledge (LCPP). The LCPP encourages companies to share their product patents for low-carbon technologies. The strategy to join the pledge appeals primarily to environmentally conscious customers, especially those in the tech world.
PayPal launched its Missions Sustainability Challenge, an initiative to encourage its employees toward sustainable behaviors. The campaign was estimated to reduce the company’s environmental footprint across its 60 sites by 892,000 pounds of carbon, 40,000 pounds of waste, and 332,000 gallons of water by 2019.
Samsonite partnered with STUDIO DAM to incorporate sustainability into its product development. The result was a line of coasters made from upcycled luggage, with the proceeds going towards the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Singapore’s No Plastic In Nature Initiative.
3 Challenges to Consider When Adopting Sustainable Marketing Practices
Adopting sustainable marketing isn’t easy. There are a few risks to take and challenges to face to adopt sustainable marketing successfully.
- Lack of understanding
The lack of understanding of the benefits of sustainable marketing has been a challenge for years. Research shows that poor knowledge and customer focus continue making sustainability a “niche concern.”
You must realize that you’re breaking new ground in your company, which entails long-term and continuous education. Now is your chance to innovate new digital marketing strategies that might shine a brighter light on the issue of sustainability.
- Profit loss
Reconciling sustainability and profitability has been challenging for marketers and businesses for years. Sustainability requires business owners and marketers to look beyond their bottom line. Instead, you must focus on gaining consumer loyalty and positively impacting the environment.
- Damage to brand reputation
Sustainable marketing relies on authenticity. If your business announces that it will aim to become carbon neutral, you can expect consumers to hold you accountable for it. Failing to follow your brand’s mission or putting up false claims—called greenwashing—will ultimately jeopardize your brand’s reputation.
One way to avoid this is to conduct an internal audit of your current practices. Determine which are unsustainable and strategize ways to become sustainable.
Plant the Seeds of Your Sustainable Marketing Strategy Today!
Sustainable marketing presents a shift in how marketing is done and businesses operate. Increasing revenue and reducing expenses is no longer a company’s top priority; it’s about becoming more socially and environmentally responsible.
It’s never too late to make the shift. While the ideal moment to adopt sustainable marketing strategies might have been a few years ago, the second-best time is now. Get in touch with us at Spiralytics to learn how we can help your brand’s sustainable marketing efforts today!