A field of green with individual bubbles of eco-friendly solutions illustrates many ways that advertising campaigns can be considered sustainable marketing.

What is Sustainable Marketing & Why Does It Matter?

You’re going to hear the term “Sustainable Marketing” a lot more in 2024. It’s something we’ve been talking about at Percepture for the past few years and we’re excited to see the rest of the industry focusing more on sustainability in Marketing.

But, what does Sustainable Marketing mean? And why does it matter?

Sustainable Marketing is about more than just being mindful of your emissions. As socially- and environmentally-conscious consumers demand more from brands, brands are beginning to demand more from their marketing efforts. It’s important for businesses to align their goals for a greener future with the day-to-day sustainability of their marketing to be solutions-focused, sustainable, and socially responsible.

We’ve brought sustainable marketing principles to every industry we work with as a global digital marketing and PR agency, from Life Sciences marketing to Travel PR services. Let’s take a deeper dive into the meaning of Sustainable Marketing and how your next campaign can be a part of it.

What is Sustainable Marketing?

Sustainable marketing is about promoting products and practices that not only benefit the environment but also uphold social responsibility. It’s a holistic approach that encompasses green initiatives and ethical advertising, as well as addressing broader socio-economic issues.

We’re fans of this definition of Sustainable Marketing from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership as a place to start:

Sustainable marketing is a purpose-driven practice that works to orient businesses, brands, and society towards a sustainable future, influencing appropriate awareness, aspiration, adoption and action across economic and sociocultural systems by taking necessary accountability for its impacts and opportunities. In doing so, it acts in service of long-term wellbeing for all.

Sustainable marketing doesn’t just mean containing climate change. Sustainable marketing is about focusing on how your products and services affect the environment, the community, and the consumer and then marketing them honestly and efficiently.

What are the principles of a Sustainable Marketing Strategy?

As marketing professionals, many of us have heard of the “4 Ps” of marketing – Product, Place, Price, & Promotion. All four of those “P” values remain important in Sustainable Marketing – but they don’t define it!

When it comes to Sustainable Marketing, we’ve seen many reliable sources recommending different lists of principals. Three principals, five principals, even seven! Sustainable marketing is a relatively new practice, so there is no textbook answer to this question.

What are the principles of a Sustainable Marketing Strategy? We believe it boils down to Three S’s of Sustainability: Solution-Focused Communication, Sustainable Products & Services, and Societal Benefit.

Solution-Focused Communication

The best marketing focuses on benefits for the consumer. Sustainable marketing takes that one step further: it focuses on fulfilling a specific and authentic need for your customers.

That’s still true even if your product is a luxury item and not an essential!

This creates sustainability in two ways. First, selling your products and services by honestly communicating about their true value creates better consumer/product fit – creating less post-consumer waste.

Second, it simplifies and strengthens your marketing message, allowing you to target more effectively and convert at a higher rate. Fewer ads aimed at a more-targeted audience means less waste – whether that’s printed materials or digital advertising!

It’s easy to forget that digital ads have an environmental footprint. Each ad served uses energy to be transmitted and displayed. While that amount of energy is infinitesimal for a single ad, over a campaign serving tens of millions of impressions it ads up. Even the way popular websites are designed and streamlined has an energy impact. Google serves over 8 billion searches a day, so even a minor change to how they serve their search results has a major energy impact!

Sustainable Products & Services

Saying that Sustainable Marketing focuses on sustainable products doesn’t mean you can only market your product if it is 100% recycled and made with 100% renewable energy – although, we’d all like to see more products like that on the market!

Instead, “Sustainable Products” means that your marketing communications should focus on the simple, supportable ways your products and services are sustainable. Make sure to communicate if your product offers less environmental impact that common solutions, if it is longer-lasting or more efficient for the end-user, or if it has supportable positive impacts on the environment.

We’re NOT talking about “Greenwashing” here! Never misrepresent the environmental impact of your product – see the US Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides for more guidance. A key part of sustainable marketing is communicating ethically so that consumers can make informed decisions about their own sustainability practices.

Societal Benefit

Sustainability is about creating positive results for society, which includes the environment, society at large, and specific communities.

Sustainable Marketing isn’t only about recycled materials and carbon neutral production. It’s also about creating positive outcomes throughout the production chain. A great example of this is being Fairtrade certified. Fairtrade’s works to ensure farmers and workers are paid fairly and have more control over their businesses and their future investments.

If your business benefits a specific community or focuses on an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) framework, those are qualities that your marketing should not only mention – but celebrate!

Sustainable Marketing – Planting the Seeds of a Greener Future

As a digital marketing & PR agency with a global reach, we believe sustainable marketing is critically important. Our agency principals are all committed to sustainability as one of our company values. And, it’s good for business! Sustainable marketing often results in more-refined targeting, tighter focus on product benefits, and obvious rewards for both the consumer and the community.

If you’re ready to focus on sustainability in marketing your brand, get in contact today.