Many marketing strategies can be used to effectively promote what a business has to offer. However, concepts such as the so-called “hard sell” are now taking a back seat to what many call a more down-to-earth approach. We are referring to sustainable marketing in this sense.
What exactly is sustainable marketing? Why are businesses adopting this strategy? How have the approaches evolved and what might the future have in store? Wrapping our heads around these questions can be slightly challenging, so let us look at each in a bit more detail.
Sustainable Marketing Defined
Sustainable marketing involves the promotion of environmentally friendly products and/or services. It may also include socially responsible practices such as brand transparency or devoting a portion of your profits to charity. Ultimately, this process is concerned with more “noble” causes when compared to more traditional approaches.
Still, let’s remember that sustainable marketing is also a powerful tool if you hope to enhance your brand identity while enjoying a higher return on investment (ROI). In this sense, there are three so-called bottom lines to appreciate:
- Planet (the adoption of eco-friendly practices).
- People (catering to an environmentally aware audience).
- Profit (ensuring a higher return on investment over time).
Having said this, we have seen several changes occur in recent times. How has the notion of sustainable marketing evolved and what does this signify for the average business?
Green and Ecological Marketing
These concepts began to emerge as far back as the 1970s. The only issue is that many companies considered such approaches as costly and therefore, few actually implemented any real changes. It would take another decade for the notion of green marketing to gain a foothold.
Thanks to advancements in technology, companies could place a greater emphasis upon strategies such as the development of sustainable packaging solutions and large-scale product recycling. Of course, another major driving force behind these changes involved the fact that consumers were becoming more aware of their impact upon the environment. Simply stated, it made good business sense at the time.
The Birth of Sustainable Marketing as a Real-World Strategy
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Scientists became aware of the effects of climate change during the first half of the 1990s. It should therefore come as no great surprise that marketing policies once again began to change. The idea of sustainability in terms of PR first emerged in or around 1996. It was used to define how companies could adopt eco-friendly practices while building long-term relationships with their clients.
Such an approach likewise involved delivering value to customers while simultaneously limiting the use of human and natural capital (resources such as wood, oil and water). In other words, sustainable marketing began to represent a more well-rounded approach when compared to the green strategies mentioned in the previous section.
The Role of the Internet
Sustainable marketing was in for yet another evolutionary step thanks to the Internet. It was much easier for firms to advertise what they had to offer with the help of online resources. Of course, this is now the foundation of digital marketing as a whole.
The main takeaway point here is that building relationships started to represent a vital component of sustainable marketing. It was no longer enough to simply advertise green policies in the hopes of attracting an audience. Companies had to engage with their target audience to better appreciate their concerns.
A final component to this equation involved consumer awareness. Buyers were becoming much more aware of how certain products and services could harm the environment. So, they would simply look elsewhere if a certain company chose not to adopt sustainable practices. Transparency and corporate responsibility, therefore, became much more important.
Proactively Engaging with a Demanding Audience
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So, what is the current state of affairs concerning sustainable marketing? The simplest way to answer this question is to state that all of the policies highlighted above have solidified into a single approach. However, there is a bit more than initially meets the eye.
First and foremost, consumers want facts to back up any sustainable claims made by an organisation. Flashy advertising is no longer enough. They also want concepts (such as the benefits of refurbished products) to be explained in a clear and concise factor. It is no longer sufficient to simply state that such policies are good for the environment. They wish to be made aware of other metrics such as cost savings, the contribution to a circular economy and longevity.
Consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious than ever before. This is large because they can access information (such as the impacts of climate change upon a local community) with the click of a button. To put this another way, they now realise that they can become part of the solution or part of the problem.
What is the Future of Sustainable Marketing?
Now that we have seen how sustainable marketing has evolved over the years, where might we be headed? One interesting observation involves the fact that consumers are now willing to spend more if they are confident that a product or service has been created from sustainable resources. They view such purchases as a long-term investment as opposed to nothing more than a one-off sale.
Transparency will also take centre stage. Businesses must be able to demonstrate what sustainable practices have been put into place. Examples include clearly labelling the ingredients on a can of food or explaining how much of a shipping package has been made from recycled products.
Accountability is a final piece of the puzzle. Companies of all sizes will need to internally monitor their operations to ensure that the most sustainable practices are being carried out. Employee education and timely audits are two examples of how enhanced levels of accountability can be achieved.
A Greener Future
Let’s remember that many of the same practices analysed above are now being embraced by the government. This is why it only stands to reason that sustainable marketing will represent one of the cornerstones of any successful business. Although it is still debated as to whether or not the current effects of climate change can be reversed, it is now an undeniable fact that businesses need to adopt greener approaches to guarantee the health of future generations. This is why sustainable marketing has taken on such importance. We can only hope that such strategies will have a positive impact on the world around us.