What is sustainability marketing?


1st November 2023

What does ‘sustainability marketing’ mean and how can B2B marketers use it to their advantage?

As nearly half of consumers now say they’re more likely to buy from a company that’s actively working to reduce its environmental impact, it’s more important than ever to show your customers how committed you are to sustainability via marketing channels.

Sustainability marketing refers to any marketing strategy that promotes social and economic issues, activism and awareness – and includes green marketing activity. The snazzy toilet paper brand, Who Gives a Crap, donates 50% of its profits to bring clean water and sanitation to communities worldwide. Communicating this socially-conscious commitment is a part of the sustainability marketing ecosystem.

Sustainability marketing and your business

Showing off your green credentials is a way to appeal to consumers of every generation; although Millennials lead the way, Gen-Z, Gen-X and Boomers are thinking more and more about the environmental implications of their purchases.

Having strong sustainability practices is also an effective way to build brand loyalty. And there’s no exclusions; whether you’re in fashion, construction, tech or finance, sustainability is universally popular.

What does a sustainability marketing strategy look like?

Implementing more sustainable practices across your business is essential, but you need to shout about your green commitments to tell your customers (and people who aren’t your customers yet) as well as employees and investors.

There are lots of ways to communicate your sustainability credentials, yet at the heart of your sustainability marketing there needs to be authenticity and a real commitment to your values and clearly defined and audited sustainability goals. Without these key elements, you could be at risk of greenwashing.

  1. Have a purpose that’s bigger than your business

Sustainability marketing works if it’s genuine. Find a commitment to an environmental or social cause that you or your customers are passionate about and think about how being an activist can change your business for the better.

With growing consumer concerns about plastic, LEGO is taking bold steps to make the 50 billion pieces it produces each year more planet-friendly. In 2018, LEGO announced its goal to manufacture all of its core products from sustainable materials by 2030; they’ve since been experimenting with plastic made from sugarcane and plastic bottles.

LEGO’s commitment to innovation, taking its consumers along on its sustainability journey and being open about progress is a shining example of sustainability marketing.

  1. Put values ahead of profit

Keen-eyed customers are quick to spot sustainability claims that don’t hold up to scrutiny, so make sure any green commitments are for the benefit of the planet, not just the bottom line. Sustainability-minded businesses are realising that longevity, customer loyalty and brand awareness result from communicating your brand’s sustainability wins.

Patagonia is well known for its sustainability commitments (including donating all its profits to the fight against climate change), but one of its most striking moves has been to shift from a profit-driven business model to one that focuses on the brand’s values.

Instead of encouraging its audience to buy new, Patagonia has a number of recycling, repairing and re-using initiatives that make it easier for customers to make sustainable clothing choices. And consumers responded – the ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’ campaign technically failed in its objective, as sales rose 30%.

  1. Champion sustainability in everything you do

Sustainability isn’t a trend and it can’t be treated as one in marketing. If you want to market your brand as a green marketing leader, your commitment to sustainability needs to permeate every part of your business.

IKEA is blazing a trail for sustainability marketing, setting ambitious business goals such as reducing its carbon footprint by 70% per product by 2030 and sourcing 100% of wool products responsibly. It’s already phased out single-use plastics across one product range and now make its iconic blue plastic bags from 85% renewable materials. There are even plant-based meatballs.

IKEA’s sustainability marketing isn’t just one product or campaign, it’s the entire business becoming more sustainable. This lends authenticity and credibility to the commitments they make and their statements around sustainability.

Ready to explore your sustainable side?

Sustainability marketing doesn’t stop with consumer products. B2B businesses are constantly innovating new ways to lighten their load on the planet. That includes many of our clients, including NBS which is using digital tools and enhanced data to help construction projects reduce their embodied and operational carbon, or the work Avery Dennison does to reduce the apparel’s industry’s impact with its digital care labelling solutions.  

Sustainability marketing (when it’s done right) is a great way to connect with customers new and old – and celebrate the work you’re doing to make your business more planet-friendly.

Chat to us today and see how your next campaign could be built around sustainability marketing.

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