Ok, so to start with a definition: sustainable marketing, or green marketing, is the promotion of environmental and socially responsible products, practices, and values (I.e a company that wants to do good!). Brands that tell great stories about their products and their ethics build stronger relationships with their consumers. These relationships are deeper rooted, more emotional and have greater longevity, and this reflects in sales figures. To Mark Roberts, CEO of Conscious Creatives, sustainable marketing is much more than adding a touch of green to a brand image but is instead “a fundamental shift in consumer communication styles that lead with heart and stories rather than discounts and offers.”
This concept of long-term consumer value, over short –term profits is key to a sustainable brand; it is a brand that considers values alternative to profit, such as environmental impact and ethical supply chains, with equal importance.
Sustainable marketing is a great way for companies to build communities of consumers who are passionate about their brand, so long as they get it right. While some brands do genuine good, others greenwash, hoping to run cheap campaigns that tend to be quite opaque. As the Cambridge Dictionary says, greenwashing is designed “to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is”, leveraging wafty semantics and cheap impact initiatives to look as ‘good’ as possible for the minimum effort.
Great sustainable marketing provides detailed metrics, works towards long-term goals and clear accountability, and in doing so, resonates with the audiences that truly care. As one reviewer of the Macdonald’s green campaign complained, “Ethical policies don't change with a lick of paint”, and Amen to that. This was in response to Mcdonalds’ 2007 green campaign which some accused of ‘greenwashing’. It was recently revealed that the Mcdonalds paper straws, a key element of their new green image, were actually non-recyclable due to thickness. Yep, you are reading this correctly, non-recyclable paper straws.