A recent newspaper article on Wimbledon 2019 mentioned that ‘In a move towards sustainability, the re-strung rackets that players receive will not be wrapped in plastic.’ This brings ‘sustainability’ to our games and screens. Sustainability has been gaining a voice in every year that goes by, across industries and markets.
What is it?
In the context of business, sustainability can be seen as a desire to have a positive impact on the parameters of the ESG (environmental, societal and governance). The concept of sustainability is essentially about clean business practices. Sustainability in marketing is becoming important.
Why it matters
A 2014 report by Mckinsey mentions that many businesses put the ‘value at stake from sustainability issues can be as high as 25 to 70% of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation’ on parameters of reputation and goodwill, operating costs and supply chain disruption. Becoming sustainable, in a way, is a way to derisk businesses.
With an increasing number of businesses adopting sustainability as part of their business model, marketing has to do its best to communicate, educate and bring in the change.
Towards sustainable brands and practices
Increasingly eco-conscious consumers, who don’t shy from paying more for green products and services, are driving many industries to relook at their products and processes. A 2018 Neilson study highlights that natural products in personal care product category tend to have higher growth than non-natural products.
Companies can spot and capitalise on growth opportunity as demands of sustainable services/products grow. Unilever created a concentrated laundry product with an aim to reduce water usage in a laundry cycle. This product innovation is directly linked to Unilever's sustainability goals.
Eco-friendly or reusable packaging with more product information on how the brand works for a better environment and society, is becoming an important marketing tool. With the recent plastic ban in many countries and Indian states, green packaging is imperative. Cottons, a multi-city fashion retailer, uses reusable bags made from scrap cloth instead of paper bags as packaging. Communications that inform consumers about the number of natural resources conserved by a particular brand in its manufacturing is a step in educating the consumers about the sustainable production process. Such marketing communication improves recall, goodwill and also bring in consumer behaviour change. The initial campaign of Syska LED spoke about its energy efficiency, which leads to many adopting the greener tech. Brands like Ariel and Colgate have used their marketing reach to educate about conservation of water.
Reduction in waste is another aspect that has high scores on the sustainability marketing index. Global fashion retailer H&M collects old clothes and sorts them to reuse fabrics in new designs. It also resells clothes in second-hand stores. The remaining textiles are used to generate electricity. H&M communicates this in its in-store promotion and massaging. Many brands sponsor beach clean-up and local clean-up drives, which works wonders on both as promotional and CSR initiatives.
A brand story that involves sustainable social angle, fair trade practices and human touch has a strong pull. Consumers, especially millennials, tend to connect strongly with such brands. Fast fashion is notorious for underpaying workers in developing countries. Consumers want to know who made their clothes and how well they were paid. Many fashion designers now let craftspersons walk the ramp along with them as they acknowledge and share credits. Everlane, an online clothing retailer on their website, allows consumers to know about its factories and working conditions across the world. This is a way it uses its website to educate consumers on the sustainability of its production and supply chain. #WhoMadeMyClothes is now trending for the right reasons.
Marketing can focus on communicating sustainable practices of brands to stakeholders in the right manner. PR and social media marketing play a critical role in this.
Digital marketing by its nature is eco-friendly. Marketing professionals can look into ways to reduce waste in various non-digital solutions they provide to their clients. Marketing solutions that are energy and resource-efficient is a step ahead towards greater sustainability in marketing.
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