Sustainability: A Powerful Marketing Tool
It is undeniable that the world is in turmoil at the moment. From pandemics to human rights, change is happening whether we like it or not. You may be forgiven for believing that change is only happening on a social level, that businesses shouldn't take any part in what is going on around them.
Of course, businesses need to be careful about what they say and do. Yet, saying and doing nothing can also speak volumes in today's super-accountable society.
In this article, we take a look at sustainability within business and why taking it seriously can be a powerful marketing tool.
Important note: Businesses shouldn't take sustainability seriously just because of the benefits it can bring from a marketing point of view. It should be a major focus of all businesses in order to secure business longevity and to create a better world for generations of our families and other business owners in the future.
However, the ability to leverage a sustainable approach to the benefit of your business is one that certainly should not be overlooked.
The End is Nigh
Open any social media platform and you might be mistaken in thinking that the end of the world is legitimately just around the corner…
A host of supposedly insane people in political and commercial power.
It all seems like doom and gloom. But there is a positive message embedded in a lot of the media, a glimmer of hope. The fact that we can do something to make a change, it isn't too late – but we do need to act now.
Take David Attenborough’s Our Planet series on Netflix. Sir David takes the opportunity to highlight the negative impact our actions are having on the planet. The reasoning behind the importance of this message is to provoke individual and collective action in tackling these issues.
A similar theme has been present throughout mainstream media, with the recent Extinction Rebellion protests taking centre stage for both positive and negative reasons. Whether you agree with their methods or not, it is undeniable that the state of the planet is of concern and at the forefront of many peoples minds at the moment.
The huge media buzz and increasing environmental awareness of consumers present a rather interesting opportunity for businesses.
Sustainable business: why?
The recent buzz around sustainability has seen many people make significant lifestyle changes for the good of our planet. From a rise in veganism to a backlash against single-use plastics, consumers are becoming increasingly eco-savvy. But it isn’t just individuals that are responsible for the future of our planet.
Businesses should be making consistent changes to their business processes, products and services to develop their sustainability. In fact, as entities that serve others, businesses should be leading the way when it comes to the drive towards sustainability.
We admit it, it is all very well being an eco-conscious business. But you are still a business and therefore you need to continue making a profit….
...but what if we told you that taking a sustainable business approach can pay dividends to your business?
The short term win of good PR is just part of the reason businesses should look to increase their sustainability. As we continue to see a cultural shift of consumers, we are likely to see the businesses they choose to work with and buy from come under scrutiny.
Where we have seen businesses boycotted or disfavoured in the past due to social issues. The same is likely to become more common with businesses that do not highlight their commitment to sustaining our planet.
Making your businesses intentions clear with regards to sustainability is also likely to turn customers towards your brand as a way for them to feel good about themselves. Brands like TOMS have already built a vast number of avid fans by taking this approach.
Sustainable business: Examples
Big brands are already catching onto this opportunity to remain in favour with their target audience.
For example, Adidas recently launched a trainer made from recycled ocean plastics and other businesses which provide food and drink services are looking to remove plastics such as straws from their products.
Wait, is this ok?
Ok, we get it.
It might seem a little wrong to be using something like the health of our planet as a way to make customers buy more stuff from us. Shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to help the planet anyway? Not just because it might mean we can some extra cash?
But let’s look at this from a different angle.
The world is going to keep turning (for now anyway). Consumers will keep consuming and businesses will keep making money from this. Some of those businesses will be willing to make big changes for the better of the planet (yours and mine). Some will do whatever they can to make more profit year on year, even if that means damaging the planet even more.
By making your planet-friendly actions clear and apparent you are giving eco-conscious consumers an easy option of who to do business with. By doing this to grow your business, it lets you further invest in creating a sustainable business. It also puts pressure on your non-eco-friendly competitors to get up to speed.
Complaining about big, bad, unsustainable businesses isn't going make any huge difference in the world. It is only by creating competitive, eco-friendly businesses that we can push the big polluters out of the market once and for all.
Ok, so how do I develop a sustainable business?
We aren’t telling you to ban meat from the office or build desks out of hay bales (especially not if you have hayfever). Building a sustainable business is a long journey, not a one time change.
For much smaller businesses where profit margins are tight, you may not be able to make huge changes from day one. But you can take the opportunity to audit your current business processes and make small changes for the better.
You can also use this time to plan exactly what steps you will take in the future to further increase the sustainability of your business.
By publishing a sustainability statement, you not only attract those that share your values but also allow them to hold you accountable for what you have promised.
Clearly, sustainability is a big issue with a big following. Not only should businesses be focusing on moving towards greener practices, products and services as a matter of global urgency. But committing your business to sustainability should be providing you with an opportunity to develop your relationship with customers and to make yourself appeal to other potential customers who share your values.
About the Author
Owain is the Founder of MAKE IT MANA Bristol-based content, social and influencer marketing agency. With a passion for sustainability, MAKE IT MANA dedicate 1% of all profits to green causes.