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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. This article isn’t about governments. It is about what businesses and PR / Marketing people in particular can do to help mitigate climate change and protect the environment. There is an important place for sustainability in marketing.

Sustainability may pose a threat to some businesses. I’m thinking of the fast fashion chains and 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 it goes further than just consumer goods.

Mr Carney’s speech in March expressed his vision that the Financial Sector will be able to direct funds towards more sustainable investments and build  a low carbon economy.

Sustainability in marketing

Marketers also have a voice, and should be thinking to the future. They may be able to influence product innovation towards a more sustainable path.  Markets want more products  of all kinds that contribute to solving the climate issues. There will be amazing opportunities for businesses that grasp this – hence the success of electric vehicles and the vegan sausage roll. It will be important to think about sustainability in marketing planning as well as in packaging.

I want to make my own work as “sustainable” as possible and am wondering what else I can do? Being office-based, most of what I throw away is 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 plastic pens. It would be great to have more information about how products are made to help me make these decisions. Co-incidentally I found inspiration in the breakfast cereal made by Alara.

A sustainability pioneer

Alara is using compostable packaging and won the Sustainability Pioneer Award at the 2019 Sustainable Food Awards. What I like about Alara is their optimism. They believe that we can make a difference – and they make delicious healthy cereal. Marketers have sometimes been accused of “green-washing” their products, overstating their green credentials, but Alara seem to be trying harder than most businesses.

Packaging falls right in the marketing area, and we should not waste time in using less plastic and trying new sustainable packaging materials. The Royal Horticultural Society is setting a good example, they have recently changed to compostable packaging for their magazine. All publishers should be moving this way.

Sustainability policies

Marketing and Public Relations people can influence corporate policies and should do what they can to promote sustainability in marketing at their companies and help the climate emergency. For example:

  • Look for packaging that is plastic-free, compostable or reusable
  • Provide details of the carbon footprint for your company or product, if you dare
  • Outlaw disposable coffee cups and single-use plastic bags, including the giveaway bags at trade shows
  • Use less air travel, forget Air Miles and use videoconferencing
  • Use public transport, walk more
  • Promote cycling
  • Vegetables – consume less meat, choose more vegetarian options, choose organic, home-grown or locally grown produce – key for businesses with catering
  • Use energy generated from sun, wind and water – a greener energy provider
  • Buy recycled and greener brands, for example, 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?