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Sustainability – Your customers care – what can marketers do?

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The Climate Change movements are inspiring and their message is incredibly moving. There seems to be a real chance that people will finally start to take steps to slow down the heating of the planet. The latest headlines about our wildlife are serious. Therefore, this article is about marketing, and how PR and marketing people could take a lead to promote sustainability within their companies.

Sustainability poses a threat to some businesses. I’m thinking of fast fashion chains and the low-cost clothing that is very much part of our lifestyle currently. Interviewing a gentleman in the charity retail sector recently, I learned that the quality of modern clothing isn’t even good enough to recycle it through the charity shop route. This is a worrying trend. Some manufacturers need to rethink their products so that they won’t be left behind in the sustainability revolution. Plastic straws and petrol vehicles come to mind but the issues go further than just consumer goods.

Mr Carney’s speech in March expressed his vision that the financial sector will act to direct funds towards more sustainable investments and build a low carbon economy.

Sustainability in marketing

Marketers have a voice, and should be thinking about the future. They may be able to influence product innovation towards a more sustainable path.  People are going to want products of all kinds that can contribute to solving the climate issues. There will be amazing opportunities for businesses that grasp this. We have already seen the success of electric vehicles and vegan sausage rolls. People will want sustainable products, and sustainable packaging as well.

I want to make my own work as sustainable as possible, and I am wondering how do to this?  Being office-based, I throw away paper, packaging, print cartridges and spent plastic pens. I’m already re-cycling paper and cartridges. I can print on both sides of my paper and maybe I’ll switch to a fountain pen to avoid disposable plastic pens. It would be great to know more about how products are made, so that I can make these decisions more easily. Co-incidentally I found inspiration Alara’s breakfast cereal.

A sustainability pioneer

Alara is using compostable packaging and won the Sustainability Pioneer Award at the 2019 Sustainable Food Awards. I like Alara’s optimism. They believe that we can make a difference. Besides this, they make delicious healthy cereal. Marketers have sometimes been accused of “green-washing” their products and overstating their green credentials, but Alara’s sustainability claims seem to be genuine.

Packaging falls right in the marketing area, and we should reduce plastic and trying new sustainable packaging materials as soon as possible. The Royal Horticultural Society is setting a good example. They have recently changed to compostable packaging for their magazine, and most publishers should be able to do the same.

Sustainability policies

Marketing and Public Relations people can influence corporate policies. They should do what they can to promote sustainability in marketing at their companies and push to develop products that are kinder to the environment. For example, they could:

  • Look for packaging that is plastic-free, compostable or reusable
  • Provide details of their company’s carbon footprint
  • Outlaw disposable coffee cups, single-use plastic bags, and the giveaway bags at trade shows
  • Use less air travel, forget Air Miles and use videoconferencing
  • Use public transport and walk more
  • Promote cycling
  • Eat less meat and promote vegetarian options, organic, and locally grown produce. This is key for businesses that have catering
  • Use energy generated by solar power, wind and water, or switch to a greener energy provider
  • Buy recycled and greener brands such as Ecover cleaning products
  • Plant trees
  • Have beehives on your roof or land
  • Support a charity that acts to promote sustainability

I am sure I have not thought of everything and I want more information!

What else can we do?

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