4 Ethical Green Marketing Strategies
Sustainability will be a $150 billion market by 2021,making green marketing more than a nice-to-have
Tealfeed Guest Blog
As headlines about the climate crisis have greatly multiplied over the last year, so have the sponsored posts advertising eco-friendly products.
The leading companies in nearly every industry –– even the fossil fuel industry –– have recently made their “environmental commitment” a new selling point as consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about their individual contributions to the decline of our natural environment.
Sustainability is on the rise, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. Eco-friendly businesses are quickly becoming industry frontrunners, and as more people become aware of our dire environmental situation, their popularity will only increase.
The climate crisis isn’t disappearing any time soon, and neither is the growing trend toward sustainability.
Even if we were to drastically cut emissions globally today, we’d still be stuck facing the consequences of decades of industrial pollution. Additionally, issues such as biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, and water security will continue to be a major problem over the course of our lives.
The members of Gen Z –– the generation of individuals currently 23 years old or younger –– deeply care about these issues. So much so that 68% of Gen Z’ers recently reported that they’ve made an eco-friendly purchase within the past year.
But it’s not just young people that consider the impacts of their purchases. That same survey found that more than two-thirds of all Americans consider sustainability when making a purchase, and roughly half said that they would pay more for a sustainable product.
Numerous statistics like these have set the U.S. sustainability market on track to reach $150 billion by 2021.
Globally, the market for sustainable goods already sits at $2.65 trillion, and it’s presently creating more than $1 trillion in opportunities for brands who can effectively communicate their products’ sustainable attributes.
The keyword here is “effectively communicate.”
Sustainability can be a lucrative marketing opportunity — if approached correctly.
When reports like this one announce that 73% of global millennials are willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings, it’s not hard to see why.
Consumers are willing to pay substantially more for eco-friendly products because they want to make a positive difference with their money. If a brand’s business practices aren’t up to par, it won’t be able to take advantage of this growing opportunity.
Today’s consumers, especially Gen Z’ers, make educated purchasing decisions and can easily tell genuine sustainability from greenwashing. They’re keenly aware of unsavory marketing tactics and know exactly what to look for when measuring a company’s true commitment to the environment.
Businesses that attempt to market for sustainability when their practices aren’t consistently sustainable can be met with a fierce public backlash. H&M found this out earlier this year when they announced their “conscious collection.”
There are a few proven strategies that can be implemented to avoid a catastrophe like this, and it all starts with actually committing to sustainable business practices.
Four Strategies to Ethically Market Sustainability
1. Sustainable design
The most important green marketing strategy is to operate a business that’s actually sustainable. I know this strategy might seem obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many brands get it wrong.
Sustainable design isn’t just about throwing a recycling logo on your packaging or vaguely committing to “planting trees” with your profits.
Products designed for sustainability must be created with the full life cycle of the product in mind.
Where are the materials sourced from? Who are the workers involved in each step of the manufacturing process, and how much are they being paid? How much waste is generated throughout the supply chain? How are the products going to be packaged and shipped? What will be done with the product once it has reached the end of its lifespan?
There’s a lot to consider when designing for sustainability, and professional tools have been created to help guide you through this process.
Here are some tools that will help you design a sustainable product and business:
- Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
- Sustainable Management Systems (SMS)
- Cradle to Cradle Design (C2C)
- Zero Waste/Factor 10
It can be a bit difficult to wrap your head around all of this if you’ve never studied sustainability before, and so I suggest hiring a sustainability professional to do the heavy lifting for you.
2. Consistent messaging and transparency
Would you trust a company that’s been outed for exploiting factory workers when they announce that they’re jumping onto the sustainability bandwagon?
What about a company that positions itself as being “conscious” but continues to ship its products with unnecessary plastic tags and packaging?
If you’re someone who scrutinizes companies the same way sustainable shoppers do, you wouldn’t trust their claims one bit.
It’s not enough for a brand to have one line of upcycled products when the rest of its operations are unsustainable or unethical.
Today’s buyers are looking for brands that align with their own values and needs across the board.
Everything a company does should reflect its sustainability values. If that’s the case, brands should have no problem generating content for green marketing purposes.
Here’s a basic strategy to communicate your brand’s commitment to sustainability:
- Publically commit to a specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely mission that benefits our environment.
- Develop and utilize strict brand guidelines that reflect your company’s mission.
- Publish sustainability reports on a regular basis that update shareholders on your progress (quarterly, biannually, or annually).
- Regularly share relevant information, progress, and behind-the-scenes updates on social media and through marketing campaigns.
- Encourage an ethical and sustainable culture for your employees and customers.
The best example I can think of for this step is Reformation, a women’s clothing brand. It’s incredibly transparent about its supply chain, wages, materials, and environmental impacts. Additionally, it releases quarterly reports updating its progress towards increased sustainability.
Reformation’s effective marketing campaigns simply highlight its sustainable business practices. No need for greenwashing here.
3. Intentional pricing
Sustainable products are commonly understood to be more expensive due to the increased cost of sustainable design and fair wages –– and that’s exactly why customers are willing to pay more for them.
If you’re going to claim that your above-average pricing is due to these increased costs, make sure to communicate the specifics. Charging high prices for minimally sustainable products is basically greenwashing, which will end up costing you in the long run.
Think of it this way: The more impactful your mission, the greater your opportunity to gain exposure for your products. The less impactful your mission, the greater your opportunity to gain exposure as a greenwasher.
Lush does an amazing job justifying their premium pricing. Their content is dual-purpose: it not only provides evidence of their commitment to sustainability, but it also works as excellent marketing material.
4. Social proof
If your brand is new to the sustainability game, leveraging social proof will help you build trust and authority from the get-go.
Piggybacking on the credibility of established organizations and industry influencers will help ensure that your claims are trusted by customers.
There are two main ways to gain credibility as a sustainable company: third party certifications and endorsements.
Some certifications to consider include:
Endorsements can come from a number of places: industry experts, social media influencers, blogs, magazines, conference panels, etc. Ideally, your brand should collect public endorsements from a variety of credible sources. These endorsements can be used later on as ad material.
A quick warning: Be careful not to rely too heavily on one source of social proof. If that source becomes obsolete, you’ll be left with nothing. Additionally, keeping a safe distance from other brands will shield you from sinking along with their ships if they do something stupid.
Genuinely sustainable companies have a huge opportunity to win leads, make sales, and create a culture that attracts loyal customers.
By leveraging sustainable design, consistent messaging, transparency, intentional pricing, and social proof, you’ll be able to enjoy the financial rewards of your commitment to our environment.
Whatever you do, don’t try marketing for sustainability until you’ve done everything you can to make your business actually sustainable. If you don’t, you’ll be called out for greenwashing and will tarnish your reputation within the sustainability community.
I know it can be a little intimidating to enter a market that’s extremely critical. But here’s the thing –– as long as you’re genuinely trying, you’ll be OK.
Transparency is truly key when marketing for sustainability. If you remain open about your journey towards sustainability and act on customer feedback, you’ll do just fine.
This article was originally published by Deanna pratt on medium.
Tealfeed Guest Blog