People today expect a lot more from companies than in the past. They want to spend money with ethical companies they feel are trying to help improve the world rather than give money to companies only concerned with the almighty dollar. That’s why if you are in business today, you need to consider your environmental practices and think about sustainable marketing. Since we can only market practices we follow, this article will also touch on operational processes as well as marketing.

What Exactly Is Sustainable Marketing?

Sustainable marketing to a great extent includes green marketing which promotes environmental protection. However, it can also include social and economic issues. But today, we are going to focus mostly on the environment.

Sustainable marketing

Promotes products and services based on their environmental benefits.
Promotes practices that reduce negative impact on the planet such as using recycled materials, reducing waste, minimizing carbon footprints and supporting ethical production processes.

The goal is to create value for customers while also contributing positively to the environment.

Why Should My Company Care About the Environment?

We hope you do care about the environment and that your company practices reflect that. But your own moral compass isn’t the only reason.

Customer Demand

Whether you are concerned about the future of the planet or not, most of your customers are. Use sustainable marketing to reach these customers.

Consider that:

84% of customers say that poor environmental practices will alienate them from a brand or company.
Products marketed as sustainable grow 2.7x faster than those that are not
55% of consumers are willing to pay more for eco-friendly brands.
A recent survey from McKinsey & Co. shows that 66% of all respondents and 75% of millennial respondents consider sustainability when they make a purchase.
In just five years, there was a 71% rise in online searches for sustainable goods globally.

To put it bluntly, businesses that adopt eco-friendly practices can gain a competitive edge. Sustainable marketing is not a trend or a trick just to attract new customers or foster long-term loyalty. If you haven’t done so already, it’s long past time to integrate eco-friendly practices into your marketing strategies.

Regulatory Compliance

Governments worldwide are implementing stricter environmental regulations. Businesses that adopt sustainable practices early can avoid potential legal issues and penalties. If you are barely scraping by complying with the law, it’s not going to do your sustainable marketing efforts much good.

Cost Savings

Sustainable practices that you can then promote in your marketing often lead to cost reductions in the long run. For instance, energy-efficient processes and waste reduction can lower operational expenses.

According to a survey from just last December, “40% of businesses have seen revenue growth from investments in supply chain sustainability, and 34% have seen cost savings, according to DNV report.” And that number increases every year.

What Steps Should I Take for Sustainable Marketing?

Here are a few steps to get you started.

Assess Practices and Set Goals

Conduct an audit of your business operations to identify areas where you can reduce your environmental impact.

Establish specific, measurable sustainability goals. These could include reducing energy consumption, minimizing waste or sourcing more sustainable materials.

Use Eco-Friendly Packaging

One of the most visible ways to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability is through packaging. Brands are increasingly using recyclable, biodegradable or compostable materials. Small business owners can explore options such as:

Recycled paper: Packaging made from recycled paper reduces waste and appeals to eco-conscious consumers.
Biodegradable plastics: These plastics break down more quickly than traditional plastics, reducing their environmental impact.
Minimalist packaging: Reducing the amount of packaging used not only cuts costs but also decreases waste.

Employ Green Production Processes

Adopting sustainable production processes can significantly reduce a brand’s environmental footprint. This includes:

Energy Efficiency: Using energy-efficient machinery and renewable energy sources like solar or wind power.
Waste Reduction: Implementing processes to minimize waste and recycle materials whenever possible.
Ethical Sourcing: Ensuring that raw materials are sourced from suppliers that adhere to sustainable and ethical practices.

Be Transparent

Transparency is crucial in sustainable marketing. Consumers want to know how products are made and the impact they have on the environment.

Brands can build trust by

Providing detailed information: Offering clear and comprehensive information about the sustainability practices used.
Obtaining third-party certifications: Obtaining certifications from reputable organizations can validate a brand’s claims. Examples include Fair Trade, LEED, and USDA Organic.
Employing storytelling: Sharing stories about the brand’s journey towards sustainability can engage and educate customers.

Form Suitable Partnerships

Collaborating with other eco-friendly businesses can amplify a brand’s impact. Small business owners can

Partner with local suppliers: Working with local suppliers reduces transportation emissions and supports the local economy.
Join sustainability initiatives: Participating in industry-wide sustainability programs can provide valuable resources and networking opportunities.
Collaborate on green projects: Joint ventures on sustainability projects can enhance brand visibility and credibility.

Leverage Digital Marketing and E-commerce

The digital shift offers numerous opportunities for sustainable marketing.

Paperless transactions: Encourage digital receipts and communications reduces paper waste.
Eco-friendly website hosting: Choose web hosting services that use renewable energy.
Online campaigns: Promote sustainability through social media and online content can reach a wider audience with minimal environmental impact.

Avoid Greenwashing

The key to sustainable marketing is sincerity. There have been far too many companies who have resorted to greenwashing to paint themselves in a good light when they had little to no interest in sustainability. Consider, for example, this 1991 Dupont Conaco commercial that features seals clapping and dolphins leaping because they are so excited about the company’s new double hulled oil tankers. Seriously?

Consumers are well aware of greenwashing, so it is imperative that you don’t try to mislead them or elevate the representation of your sustainability practices beyond what they actually are. Once your audience perceives you as greenwashing, it’s hard to come back from that.

In your marketing, show how your company can help people to support sustainability themselves. A recent survey showed that 88% of people in the US and UK want companies to help them be more environmentally responsible in their own lives.

For example, IKEA has a campaign that shows how their products can help people to waste less and live their lives in a more environmentally friendly fashion. Always, always focus on your customer rather than your company in your marketing.

Want Help with Sustainable Marketing?

There is a lot to navigate with sustainable marketing. Umbrella Local Experts can help. To schedule a free consultation, go to our website or call (646)440-1426.