Sustainability: How Businesses Can Succeed in Sustainable Marketing

June 13th, 2023 by STRAT7 Rainmakers

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sustainable marketing - building with greenery

Sustainability has been consistently gaining traction in recent years, with several extreme weather events helping bring climate change to the world’s attention. Consumers are more conscious than ever before about their impact on the environment and are increasingly looking to make more sustainable choices; while evidence of willingness to pay more is limited, our research increasingly shows that sustainable credentials are often an effective tiebreaker.


However, many businesses have yet to fully appreciate the benefits of sustainable practices, including the positive impact it can have on their bottom line.


Beyond willingness to pay


A recent survey, conducted by Smurfit Kappa, of 200 UK business leaders found that 74% are committed to staying ahead of their competitors, with many citing improved efficiency, reduced waste, and cost savings as key drivers towards being more sustainable. But there is still a gap between the changes consumers are willing to make compared to what businesses believe.


According to a Capgemini study, 79% of consumers are changing their purchase preferences based on sustainability. However, only 36% of organisations believe consumers are willing to make this change. This gap often emerges from a focus on whether customers are willing to pay more for sustainable products vs. a non-sustainable alternative.


However, sustainable marketing goes beyond the price tag. Customers are making changes in line with sustainability, whether or not they paid more for it. A recent Deloitte study indicates that 64% of consumers are trying to reduce their single-use plastic consumption, which means switching from existing brands unless those brands can adjust their packaging in line with this need. Sustainably marketed products are also growing faster than others, with a Stern NYU study of consumer-packaged goods market finding that sustainably marketed products represented 1/3 of all growth from 2015 to 2021, despite only making up 17% of the total value.


Building a successful sustainable marketing approach


So, how can marketers leverage this opportunity without turning consumers off with buzzwords or drawing accusations of greenwashing?


We propose the following guidelines to drive success in sustainable marketing:


  1. Make it a Win-Win: Customers expect businesses to help make sustainable alternatives more affordable and accessible. Initiatives that enable consumers to save money are particularly popular. For example, Pure coffee shop chain is offering £1 off coffee (~1/3 off full price) with a reusable cup. And it just so happens they sell their own reusable cups at the till for around £6. Everybody wins.
  2. Be optimistic: Focusing on the positives of what we can achieve, and have achieved, in the sustainability space makes for a much more engaged consumer. A positive narrative is more likely to make for a successful campaign than a negative one.
  3. Be transparent and genuine: Consumers know greenwashing when they see it. To avoid accusations, be genuine about where you are and where you want to get to. This approach is a key part of the UK Green Claims Code and is demonstrated well by Marks & Spencer through its ‘Plan A’ Sustainability initiative.


Sustainability is a multi-faceted issue that covers climate change, biodiversity, human rights, and much more. Achieving sustainable marketing requires a multifaceted approach to grasp the complex landscape. Despite what many businesses may think, consumers are increasingly open to changing their purchasing habits in favour of more sustainable options. The evidence on sustainable marketing is clear: it is an effective tool to attract new customers and drive growth.


So, whether you’re a business leader, marketer, or consumer, the message is clear: sustainability is here to stay. Be sure your business is on the right side of the trend.

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