A Comprehensive Guide To Sustainable Marketing: Principles And Strategies

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Sustainable Marketing

Sustainability refers to a diverse set of best practices that ensure that we meet our present needs without compromising on the ability of future generations to depend on the limited set of natural resources our planet possesses. The concept has also seeped into how the market works. Businesses and companies are compelled to focus on sustainable growth by adopting greener practices to avoid undue scrutiny from different quarters, appeal to ecologically aware consumers, and stay relevant.

This has created a need for marketing strategies that focus on highlighting the green initiatives of a business and taking consumers into confidence regarding the efforts made towards shifting to sustainable practices to aid in energy conservation, like reduced contributions to environmental pollution, amongst others. Sustainable marketing is the answer to all of the above.

If you want to find out more on the same, don’t skip and keep reading.

This article will take you to a deeper understanding of the principles involved in sustainable marketing along with the art of devising winning strategies for creating successful sustainable marketing campaigns.

Why ‚Äėsustainability‚Äô?

The 21st century is reeling with the challenges of depleting natural resources, escalating pollution levels, and a disruptive and life-threateningly changing climate. Calls for sustainability have been echoing since the last decade-and-a-half of the 1900s but the seriousness assumed by them in the past couple of decades has had a profound impact on all walks of life. Sustainability has evolved from being just a buzzword.

Today, consumers (upwards of 50%, according to several surveys) are becoming increasingly climate-conscious, wanting to make sure that the products and services consumed by them come from brands and companies that have sustainability and climate protection up there at the top of their business agenda, along with their efforts at making profits. 

Thus, it has become imperative to start educating consumers about the green practices and initiatives undertaken by businesses. Communicating efforts towards sustainable marketing to the buyers has become a prerequisite to gaining a positive outlook towards a said business. Buyers are interested more than ever in finding out whether an organization is following practices like sourcing raw materials made from biogenic ingredients, committing to energy conservation, contributing towards local communities, etc. They want to know whether a brand they would potentially invest in is up to the task of contributing to a greener future.

Therefore, establishing a brand identity around these sustainable endeavours is the need of the hour. Your brand requires you to implement integrated strategies that constantly evolve to fit the sustainability narrative, without becoming stagnant. Even though many companies are jumping on the sustainability bandwagon and becoming more transparent, positively communicating these efforts to the audience is a different task altogether.

What is sustainable marketing?

As discussed above, consumers have become interested in seeking sustainable products or working with companies practising sustainability, all while willing to pay extra bucks for it. In that scenario, how can your organisation take the lead and stand apart?

The answer is through sustainable marketing. In the literal sense of the word, sustainable marketing refers to the promotion of socially and environmentally responsible services, products, and brand values. This entails the promotion of a business‚Äôs ethical, sustainable and eco-friendly practices in such a way that it is advantageous and profitable for all ‚ÄĒ the business and our planet including its inhabitants‚ÄĒ in the long run. Its main goal is to help an environmentally friendly business to join the global movement on environmental protection and encourage the customers to do the same.

Sustainable digital marketing should not be confused with greenwashing. Greenwashing involves instilling a false impression in the buyers that the products and services on offer are more sustainable and ethical than they are. On the flip side, sustainable marketing requires brands to address critical issues revolving around the environment and labour before starting the promotion. 

Content plays a vital role in defining a successful sustainable marketing strategy. Emotionally charged content can resonate with prospective buyers, evoke a sense of bringing change amongst them. When the customers are interested in clean concepts and the options before them, they want to become better informed before exercising their purchasing power. They seek information to this end; that is where a content-rich sustainable marketing strategy makes its inroads in their psyche. Making use of relevant content allows a business to narrate unique stories that help in guiding a customer on their path to purchase.

Principles of Sustainable Marketing

Sustainable marketing revolves around some basic set of principles that are central to its effectiveness. We will discuss them one by one. 

  • Centred around the Consumer

The first and the elementary principle of sustainable marketing is making sure that it is consumer-centric. What this means is that a business should look at its products and services from the perspective of the consumer. Ultimately the consumer of your final product should be your target since the free market is driven by consumer demand. 

For example, if X company manufactures smartphone parts for multiple smartphone companies and the consumers of their products start demanding ecologically sensitive, easily recyclable smartphones. This will automatically lead the consumers of X, the smartphone companies, to expect both of these features from the parts that X supplies them. 

With an increasing awareness about climate change, global economic crisis, social justice issues, and other sustainability issues, the demands of consumers are forever evolving and changing with time. Your business should also grow to meet this dynamic demand. Just remember that in addition to everything stated so far, the service/product on offer from your end must be one to add some value to the consumer.

  • Constantly Innovating and High-tech

Businesses ought to be progressive to be able to add value to the customer. A business should make constant advancements to make its processes and products more efficient and environmentally friendly. Advancements are a result of innovation which in turn stems from anticipation. Predicting what the consumer would want before the consumer is an art that your business needs to master.

Marketing about your innovations should be centred around comparison with the competing businesses, highlighting how your products stand apart from the rest. You should make use of email campaigns, blog posts, social media content to relay news about your innovations to share information about your targets and innovations.

Focus on the achievements of your business in offsetting the environmental impact through the use of high-tech solutions, which can include:

  • Making your products fully recyclable.
  • Setting a goal for carbon-neutrality and working towards it.
  • Reducing emissions ‚ÄĒ especially of the greenhouse gases ‚ÄĒ from your production process.

The use of the latest technology inspires confidence amongst the consumers because of the notion that newer technologies aim to aid in the protection of the environment.

  • Focused on Societal Impacts

Having a long-term mission towards enriching society and the environment echoes the seriousness a business has towards sustainability. Speaking to the consumers on the societal impacts of your business practices goes a long way in inspiring confidence amongst the prospective consumers. It helps in creating a brand value centred around the cause-oriented nature of your business.

Make the content of your marketing reflect the authenticity of your efforts towards the adoption of sustainable practices. Highlight the tangible changes implemented by your company in the social and environmental spheres. Build your brand image around your larger goal of adding value to society, rather than just the product/services.

  • Connecting with Community

Social media has been abuzz with consumers, activists, and organizations talking about sustainable alternatives to mainstream products and services in favour of the ones that are traditionally known to add to the peril of the environment. It’s also a well-known fact that Gen Z and Millennials depend heavily on social media platforms to make their shopping choices and interacting with brands. Jumping on the bandwagon and connecting with such a large demographic can be extremely beneficial for any business.

The community of eco-aware customers is growing every day and even the layman is getting influenced by the choices they are betting for. There has been a surge of newer brands focused entirely on producing bio-products, highlighting their sustainable processes. They have mostly achieved success by pandering to online communities via various social media including Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the likes. 

Therefore, if you aim to find a dedicated user base, look no further than the already thriving communities of potential consumers in the social media users, who are big on eco-friendliness. They are willing to pay that extra buck to any company that can win their trust through smart marketing centred around efforts towards sustainability. Thus, look no further, connect to the community, use processes such as blogger outreach to enhance your visibility.

  • Focused on Transparency and Responsibility

Establishing a clear communication channel with consumers is of utmost importance. It’s crucial to have a policy of listening to the consumer feedback and actively working to implement any shortcomings or suggestions that come forth courtesy of the consumers. Consumers often have criticisms and concerns and what sets a successful business apart is its ability to take them head-on and assuage them positively.

Your business should be lucid in communicating its message to the consumers, from promotional messages to explanations against consumer feedback and complaints. Clarity of communication solves many issues like trust-building. Owning up mistakes and admitting shortcomings encourages the growth of a business if these are taken care of, for the better. 

Consumers can have issues with the extent of sustainable practices adopted by your brand; always address the legit reasons behind the same and convince them of doing better in the future. Your business should always be earnest in finding solutions to the problems of the consumers, without saying ‚Äúno‚ÄĚ to end a conversation.¬†

Lastly, always steer clear of greenwashing. ‚ÄúHonesty is the best policy‚ÄĚ finds an apt use in this context. A cheated customer will never come back and is sure to cause further damage to your business by influencing others as well.¬†

Some strategies to implement Sustainable Marketing

  • Create campaigns and initiatives without branding, focused on sustainability, but unrelated to your company at the face value, even having the potential to dent product/service sales.¬†
  • For example, Levi‚Äôs has recently introduced a global campaign concentrated on promoting longer use of the same jeans instead of fast fashion. Now, this looks like a campaign that will hurt profits for Levi‚Äôs given that it appears to lead to dwindling sales. But in reality, this will foster trust in the eyes of the consumers and cement Levi‚Äôs sustainability endeavours; this also creates long-term loyalty.
  • Integrating the best practices of digital marketing with the message of sustainability. Focus on the SEO performance of your website, automate your business‚Äôs marketing strategies. Employ the help of professionals to review all of the above by using practices like SEO audit of your website.
  • Adopt practices like donating a fixed sum of money from each sale to NGOs or other organizations working in the field of environmental protection or sustainability. At the same time, keep in mind that the choice of such an organization must be made based on the cause that they support. Their cause should resonate with your company‚Äôs motto and efforts so that it can create a relatability between the both.
  • Do not try to command moral superiority over your competition because it can prove to be counterproductive. Overt self-righteousness has never helped anyone; therefore, make abundantly sure that your message and marketing content veers away from this trait and stays grounded, solid and to the point.
  • Try your best to minimize the environmental impact of these digital marketing strategies to live up to your word. Choose green-hosting, sending fewer and lighter emails, using recycled and refurbished equipment, decluttering and reorganizing your website, optimizing visual content like images and videos, and planting trees in and around your workspace.

Conclusion

Sustainability is about long-term goals. A narrow outlook towards immediate ROI is not the correct way to look at the benefits of sustainable marketing. Work towards humanizing your brand values and message, in turn creating a better relationship with your customers. Work towards making the planet better for our future generations by inculcating micro eco-habits in daily tasks of your company. With an increasing number of consumers shifting their attention towards sustainable alternatives, the future of sustainable marketing looks bright as ever, both in terms of immediate profit and longevity of the planet earth.