What every brand needs to know about sustainability marketing. Your 101 guide to getting it done.
Grounded World is a Sustainability Marketing Consultancy. We work with brands, retailers, non-profits and start-up social enterprises to activate brand purpose and sustainability, often at retail.
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability can be a big and intimidating word. If you’re a business it might be a way of mitigating risk, managing legislation, reporting on your environmental and social governance policies, advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, protecting the natural resources and materials that enable you to do business, measuring your impact, embracing circularity or cleaning up your supply chain – among a myriad of other things.
Ultimately, it’s really all about taking the necessary steps to ensure that your business can continue to operate and thrive while protecting the best interests of people, planet and profit. Specifically, it’s social, environmental and economic and about striking a balance between all three. In fact, think of it as a Donut! (that could probably do with a little less ‘dunkin’.)
What is Sustainability Marketing?
Therefore, Sustainability Marketing is the act of promoting a brand, business or enterprise by ‘merchandising’ a socially impactful or environmentally responsible attribute, product or practice. Increasingly, these efforts align with the SDGs. For example, larger CPG brands and companies such as Unilever, P&G & Pepsico are seeing the value in ‘twinning and winning’ by encouraging the Chief Sustainability Officer and the Chief Marketing Officer to work closer together. This allows for an easier understanding of what should happen at the intersection between what the brand stands for, the consumer wants and the world needs.
Why is it important?
If you are hearing a lot of buzz about sustainability marketing and social impact you are not alone. In fact, 70% of people consider climate change as serious a crisis as COVID-19. And this trend is impacting sales too, with 79% seeking out products which are better for the environment. But being better for the planet is just part of the equation. It’s also about doing right by people, too. For example, 81% expect brands to do the right thing and 71% say that placing profit before people will lose their trust forever. Additionally, the benefits are clear commercially. Indeed, sustainably marketed products have grown 7X faster that conventionally marketed products over the past 4 years and enjoy a significant price premium of 39.5%!
A principle isn’t a principle unless it costs you something.
What are the challenges?
Sustainability Marketing certainly has its upsides. But even so, many point to it as a slippery slope. For example, some cynics claim that it’s really just distraction used to mask or obfuscate what’s really going on behind the scenes. More specifically, making a misstep or stretching your message too far can be looked at as “green-washing”. Therefore, be genuine, authentic, transparent, and traceable and then track your impact and you can’t go far wrong. But this is not a journey for the faint-hearted. It takes time, commitment and hard effort. As Alan Jope the CEO of Unilever said, “A principle isn’t a principle unless it costs you something.” Indeed, anything deemed self-serving will be discovered and publicly discarded. So, make sure you have the stomach for the vegan pie before you take a bite — and then stay the course, communicate your progress and stay honest.
Breaking into Sustainability Marketing
With so much at stake and so many brands and companies looking to start their sustainability marketing journey, it’s hard to know where to start. Therefore, to get you grounded, we always start off with a landscape assessment. Then, we use that data and those insights to map and benchmark you on the brand transformation roadmap. Finally, if you really want to go to town in a Tesla, we’ll run you through the Impact Assessment that is sussed to certify B-corps. This refers to ‘those businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.’
Once you have these fundamentals in place and feel your brand or business is financially, operationally and culturally able to make the shift, it’s game time. Specifically, we’ll create a BPP for you that connects the why of your new found purpose to the way of profit.
What to Look for in Sustainability Marketing Partners
Fortunately, there are a lot of other groups and communities out there that can help. To help you in your search, we’ve listed our favorites at the bottom of this page. But regardless of where you go it’s important to move thoughtfully. This is why we actively participate with our B-Corp community as well as Sustainable Brands and the United Nations so we can leverage learnings from those that have gone before.
Lastly, look for a good marketing partner that has the proven experience and credibility in sustainability and brand-purpose to help shepherd you along. However, keep in mind that this is not a simple communications brief. To be credible and bullet proof often demands more of a business transformation underneath. Indeed, under underestimate it.
Some of our favorite sustainability marketing examples:
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