By: Johanna Andersson, Co-Founder and Marketing Director, Planet Marketing
With the current climate emergency, sustainability has become one of the most discussed topics in the business landscape and, for many marketers, one of the biggest challenges. The pressure for companies to adopt greener business practices is intensifying. To engage consumers and stay market-relevant, changes that reflect a genuinely sustainable approach must be made.
Get it wrong, and it can damage your company’s brand significantly. Get it right, and not only is your company contributing to reducing your carbon footprint and climate impact, but it’s also going to thrive as consumers champion your brand. But just how much is your green strategy contributing towards a net-zero reality, and how can marketers promote this sustainability shift?
Sustainable digital marketing and its true impact on our planet
Take any recent survey into what consumers want, and you’ll find a recurring theme – they want brands to be environmentally friendly, sustainable and socially responsible. A business’s eco-credentials and its commitment to climate change are top of a consumer’s tick list.
As more and more people become aware of the impact the products they buy have on the environment, such as ethically and sustainably sourced materials, the more critical it becomes for a business to demonstrate to their customers that they are taking sustainability seriously. But a recent YouGov poll found that two-thirds of consumers are cautious about claiming to be ‘green’ or environmentally friendly.
The issue of ‘greenwashing’
The problem is ‘greenwashing’ – misleading customers or stakeholders into believing a business, its products or services, are more environmentally conscious than they are – and it’s becoming all too common. Research has shown that as many as 40% of ‘green’ claims by companies online are potentially misleading.
This is where it’s gone wrong. Sustainable marketing should not be about making false promises or selling an unrealistic version of a business. Sustainable marketing is about being authentic and demonstrating the entire business’s commitment to sustainability. From sourcing materials and supplier engagements to mission statements and company policies, marketers can tell socially conscious brand stories that will engage minds and win hearts.
Practising sustainable digital marketing
What is very evident is that the traditional forms of marketing are out of favour, in a big way! Times are changing in marketing, and if you’re not on-trend, your business will likely be left behind by your competition.
So, how do you practice sustainable marketing, side-stepping inauthentic messaging and engaging customers with your green vision? Here are a few tips:
Knowing your customer
Knowing and responding to the wants and needs of your customer has always been a marketer’s aim, but now, it’s more significant than ever. Today’s marketing is much more customer-centric, where your products or services and your brand must directly reflect your customers’ values, interests, and expectations.
The more you know about your audience, the more profitable your sustainable marketing strategies are and the more sales conversions you’ll see. Creating value for your target audience is crucial to the success of your sustainable digital marketing campaigns. Furthermore, the better you know your audience, the more you can target your advertising and position your sponsored promotional activity to build customer loyalty and brand ambassadors.
Don’t keep it to yourself: tell the world!
Your company is sourcing their materials from ethical, sustainable suppliers, you’ve introduced sustainable practices throughout the company, you’ve reduced your carbon footprint, and you are now using environmentally-friendly packaging… all of this is great, but if no one knows about it, how will your brand become a leader in sustainability?
It’s important to share your eco-initiatives with others. Demonstrate how your business develops relationships with sustainable suppliers and the third-party partnerships you have built based on net-zero principles. Show how your business is adopting sustainable practices throughout your company – its restructuring that supports an eco-friendlier purpose, your company commitments and policies and how your workforce upholds these towards a united vision. And, in doing so, you will educate and inform others on how to better protect our planet.
Ensure a sustainable supply chain
Ensuring your business is eco-friendly by adopting environmentally friendly practices within your company and having your employees on-board and actively promoting sustainable activities is one thing. However, if your suppliers and other stakeholders aren’t using sustainable materials or working to reduce their carbon footprint, you will not be able to state your company is 100% carbon net-zero.
When we talk about sustainability through the whole company, it means the entire supply chain, right down to the suppliers that provide the water you drink and the electricity you use.
A paradigm shift in your marketing approach
To engage with your audience with a sustainable message and create meaningful conversations, the very basis of your marketing has to shift. Sustainable marketing is not a collection of false statements or promoting a business vision that is untrue or unfulfilled. Businesses must ‘walk the talk’, focusing on ethics, authenticity, purpose, and transparency and adopting a socially responsible messaging approach.
Why is sustainable digital marketing so important?
If we go by definitions, sustainable digital marketing is “the promotion of environmental and socially responsible products, practices and brand values.”
Sustainable marketing has many benefits for our planet, but the benefits extend to your customers and your business too, including:
- Improving your brand’s image and gaining a competitive edge.
- Saving costs and improving production.
- Creating better recruitment prospects and employee retention.
- Helping in complying with regulations.
But to achieve true sustainability within a business, it has to go further than just skin deep. As much as it is changing to ethically sourced materials or improving your brand image, deep down, it is also a culture change within the organisation, working with like-minded people from top to bottom. Everyone in the organisation needs to share the same environmental beliefs and champion sustainable values, working towards common socially responsible, sustainable goals of a healthier, greener planet.
As much as being a sustainable, green company improves your business value, when adopted responsibly, it really can help towards a net-zero or even net-positive world.