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Digital Marketing 9 min read

Sustainability and Eco-Friendly Marketing: A New Frontier for Brands

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Written by Sarah Edwards

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed

Dallin Porter photo

Expert reviewed by Dallin Porter

Marketing Director @ Galactic Fed

Published 19 Jul 2023

More than ever, today’s consumers are considering a company’s impact on the environment before buying from them. According to a recent IBM study, 59% of consumers paid more for socially responsible products last year. Forward-thinking brands are responding to this trend by setting their sights on sustainability and eco-friendly marketing practices.

So what exactly is driving the interest in sustainability? People are becoming more aware of their impact on the environment and how they can help future generations. In fact, a report from The Economic Intelligence Unit indicated that online searches for sustainable goods increased by 71% since 2016.

Companies need to implement sustainability and eco-friendly marketing strategies to stay abreast of changing trends. In this article, we’ll discuss a few ways to do so.

Sustainability and Eco-Friendly Marketing: What It Is

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As consumer focus on environmental and social issues grows, people are becoming more aware of how the products they buy impact the world around them. Concerns about climate change, carbon emissions, pollution, and deforestation are rising, and people want to do their part to limit them.

Companies that support environmental and social issues through their actions are therefore in demand. In fact, there are entire ETF funds that consist only of stock in organizations deemed environmentally and socially friendly. Investors support these funds because they want to know their money is going toward a cause they believe in.

Of course, no one will know that a company has sustainable business practices unless they say so. That’s where marketing comes into play. Marketers should aim to demonstrate an organization’s commitment to environmental and social causes. They can get this message to their client base using advertisements, content, and the company’s website.

Marketing Strategies that Embrace Environmental and Socially Friendly Business Practices

Emphasizing a company’s approach to environmental and social issues is an involved process. It requires much more than simply listing the ingredients on a product or highlighting where something was made. 

The brand needs to communicate why and how it is environmentally friendly through messaging that its client base sees. There are a few marketing strategies that can help.

1. Understand the Organization’s Approach to ESG

Before adopting any sort of environmentally conscious messaging, marketers must fully understand the company’s perspective on such topics and how to address them in their products and services. To do so, they’ll likely need to speak with directors and executives from different departments, including operations, human resources, and production.

Discussions with other departments will unveil the organization’s policies on a wide variety of issues. Ideally, the marketing team will learn how the company makes and produces its products and what initiatives they’re taking to limit their environmental impact. 

With this knowledge in hand, the marketing team can decide on the key messages to use in its promotional advertisements and content.

2. Develop Long-Term Goals

Embedding environmentally friendly and socially conscious policies involves much more than a 30-second commercial or an email sent to subscribers. Instead, marketers must set several long-term goals that they seek to achieve through their future campaigns.

Long-term objectives will look different for every organization. One company might use sustainable marketing to attract a particular customer segment that believes in reducing carbon emissions. Another may seek to improve client awareness of specific environmental issues using its strong brand presence.

Once you understand your future objectives, creating short-term marketing campaigns to achieve your overall goals becomes much more accessible.

3. Decide on Your Branding Strategy

When incorporating sustainability into your marketing practices, it’s best to choose one or two messages and stick with them. Since environmental and social issues are so broad, you don’t want to risk tackling all of them at once. If you do, customers may not be as likely to believe your branding. They may even accuse you of greenwashing.

Greenwashing is a term used to describe companies that use misleading statements to overemphasize their brand’s commitment to the environment. The end goal is to capitalize on environmental causes without being genuinely devoted to them. Organizations that greenwash usually have no intention of following through on their promises. Instead, they are just out to make a buck.

A good branding strategy will emphasize the company’s commitment to a specific cause or goal. For instance, the business might only use recycled materials in its products or donate a percentage of its profits to environmental causes. And these are essential facts that customers will want to know. A marketer could include those statements in their advertising materials.

4. Consider Your Product’s Design and Packaging

Cardboard boxes with white contents

An environmentally focused marketing strategy won’t hold water if the company’s products don’t adhere to it. Everything from the product’s design to its packaging must reflect the company’s commitment to environmentally friendly practices.

For instance, an organization might commit to reducing reliance on plastics but use plastic packaging for most of its products. If so, they’re not holding true to their promise. Customers who see the discrepancy won’t be as likely to believe in their marketing materials.

Adopting an environmentally friendly marketing strategy may involve redesigning products, packaging, and the company’s methods for communicating with customers. Instead of using paper or plastic, they may need to look to recycled materials for resources.

Another important aspect lies in the manufacturing process itself. If the organization uses organic or recycled materials but generates a lot of waste in its creation, it can’t be environmentally friendly.

5. Decide on a Pricing Strategy

Producing sustainable products may come at a premium. The company will likely pass these costs on to its customer base. However, if the organization raises prices, they’ll need to share why. Otherwise, clients may believe the price increase was arbitrary. As a result, they might look to competitors for cheaper products.

Organizations should share any price changes with their existing client base. For instance, if the company decides to move its manufacturing processes to a facility that offers fair wages, that’s a factor clients should be aware of. Since the company justified its pricing increase, there would be less pushback from customers.

If clients understand the reason for pricing changes, they’re more likely to feel confident about continuing to buy products from the company. After all, most people want to feel good about their purchases. They don’t want their money to go toward unethical business practices or items that harm the environment.

6. Use Green Marketing Campaigns

A green marketing campaign involves promoting a company’s products and services through methods that don’t harm the environment. For instance, the company may take a digital-only approach rather than using direct mail postcards or paper ads to reach clients. 

A digital-only marketing approach uses email, PPC ads, SMS texts, and social media to attract new clients. While digital advertising does affect the environment, its impact is much less severe than other offline methods.

Companies can adopt green marketing strategies both online and offline. For example, a retail store might use digital signs instead of paper banners hung throughout their location to promote a current sale. Similarly, a B2B company might use online demos to showcase its products rather than on-site demonstrations that require air or car travel.

7. Embed Environmentally Friendly Processes in the Work Culture

Besides incorporating environmentally friendly resources into their products, services, and advertising, organizations should also implement them into their work culture. Internal actions show that the company truly cares about the environment, and they expect their employees to do so as well.

An organization that emphasizes recycled materials could limit employees’ use of paper. They might remove copy machines in the building and require people to share documents via email or a company server. They could also place recycle bins throughout the office, encouraging employees to sort their waste before disposal.

Companies must also consider the suppliers they work with and whether they share the same values. If they don’t, the environmentally friendly marketing messaging will fall flat. For example, if the organization emphasizes its commitment to reducing carbon emissions but is outsourcing manufacturing to a company in China, its values wouldn’t be in proper alignment.

Organizations focused on environmental messaging might consider participating in events that align with their values, like cleaning up trash from polluted waterways. Regular charitable contributions toward non-profits active in environmental causes can also be beneficial.

Sustainability and Eco-Friendly Marketing Must Match Up with Actions

Adopting sustainability and eco-friendly marketing starts with an internal review of a company’s business practices. The organization must align its messaging with the products it creates, its work culture, and the suppliers it uses. When everything lines up appropriately, customers who resonate with the company’s values will be more likely to buy from them because they trust the organization to fulfill its environmental objectives.

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Sarah Edwards photo

Sarah Edwards

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed