Consumers are prioritizing sustainable and conscious offerings. This means finding products that are environmentally and socially friendly. Consumers want options that are gentle on the earth and all its earthlings.
They expect modern businesses to be earth friendly, good for consumers, and kind to employees.
Forrester Research found that 34% of US adults shopping online are strongly influenced by companies that limit waste, 26% are strongly influenced by companies actively supporting environmental and climate change policies, and 38% consider it important to buy from companies that embrace sustainable products and practices.
Businesses can cater to these consumer interests, values, and preferences by showcasing sustainable corporate initiatives and using green marketing campaigns that promote their values.
Making an impact with sustainable marketing
Align with a movement or campaign
There’s zero shame in hopping onto a bandwagon for a sustainable marketing initiative. In fact, aligning with an existing movement is the perfect way for a small business to connect with customers, share its values, and promote a favorite cause.
Movements have developed around virtually everything. A few to consider include Veganuary, International Polar Bear Day, Random Acts of Kindness Day, World Consumer Rights Day, International Day of Forests, Earth Day, World Oceans Day, Zero Emissions Day, Energy Efficiency Day, and Movember.
Refer to these pages for more ideas:
Days of the Year
UN List of International Days and Weeks
Environmental Holidays 2023
Spotlight a lesser-known issue
Popular mainstream campaigns show customers that you’re aware of and in tune with current values. But don’t limit your efforts to those.
Lead the way by spotlighting lesser-known causes or ones that don’t get enough attention. Find something worthy and obscure that your market should know about.
This will position the business as one to look up to and keep up with.
Raise money for causes
Awareness is one thing, but charities and causes need money to get things done. Businesses can help out in both areas by using checkout fundraising.
This type of green marketing lets customers pick a charity to donate to while checking out. It can be run as seasonal, periodic, ad hoc, or continuous campaigns.
Packaging makes up a sizable portion of global waste and pollution. Manufacturing is often water- and energy-intensive while using natural resources and producing toxic byproducts. Overpackaging leads to wasted resources and a heavier shipping burden.
Single-use and other plastics are typically the worst culprits. However, all packaging production and waste contribute to the issue.
As significant as the problem is, this also represents an opportunity to create a positive environmental impact and engage in sustainable marketing via packaging design, material choice, and branding.
Sustainable packaging design uses the minimal amount of material needed to protect the product. Manufacturing is water, energy, and material-conscious, seeks to reduce toxic byproducts, and uses renewable resources. The end product should be biodegradable, reusable, or recyclable.
That might sound like a tall order, but creative solutions are emerging that make it easy to use sustainable packaging while promoting your brand.
Sustainable packaging standards include FSC Certification, PEFC Certification, TÜV’s Green Marks, and the Soy Ink Seal. These organizations certify resource management, product chain of custody, clean materials, and more.
Consumers are becoming more aware of standards like the Forest Stewardship Council. A seal from the FSC, PEFC, or other reputable body is trusted and influential. Eco-certified packaging with gorgeous custom branding creates a memorable unboxing experience, sends a clear value statement, and alleviates consumer guilt.
Share sustainability progress tracking
Is your company working towards a sustainability goal? Or is it helping the environment or another cause in measurable ways? Share your progress with a live tracker, progress chart, or counter.
Common goals include money for a charity, keeping packages out of landfills, saving water, or cutting plastic use. Whatever the initiative is, sharing progress shows customers your level of commitment and assures them their money is well-spent.
Our recycling levels are abysmally poor. 15% of global plastic waste is collected for recycling, but only 9% of the waste actually of total waste is recycled while 22% is mismanaged. In the United States, only 28% of packaging and food-service plastics is recovered.
The problem usually comes down to poor political structures and recycling infrastructure in regional and local communities. Even when consumers dispose of products in their local recycling center, there’s no guarantee that the packaging will be appropriately recovered or reused.
Businesses can take responsibility for the waste their products generate by offering in-house recycling programs. That’s done by working with commercial recycling service companies.
Brand-sponsored recycling is ideal for building green marketing programs around. You can stoke engagement, draw in repeat business, and promote sustainable values while encouraging consumers to return empty packaging.
Reduce or offset the environmental shipping impact
Shipping goods around accounts for 3% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. 3% might not sound like a big deal, especially when considering what an individual business might contribute to that. However, making shipping a carbon-neutral process is essential to meeting global sustainability goals.
The shipping industry is taking this on with low- and zero-carbon technological innovation. Companies can take the initiative to reduce their impact by using carbon-neutral carriers or shipping emissions-offsetting services.
Once that’s done, run a sustainable marketing promotion letting customers know they can shop guilt-free.
Successful sustainable marketing campaigns
The Body Shop: Bring Back Our Bottles
The Body Shop launched a brand recycling program all the way back in 1993, by allowing customers to recycle and refill empty products in the store.
It recently relaunched its Return, Recycle, and Reuse initiative and now lets customers bring in clean, empty packaging to recycle through its program partner TerraCycle. Recycling containers are set up in Body Shop stores. TerraCycle collects them once full, then recycles or repurposes the waste into playgrounds, park benches, and other items.
The Body Shop is running a pilot program to let customers refill containers for certain products. It’s currently experimenting with refillable body wash and plans to expand into shampoo, conditioner, and hand wash.
These measures are helping the brand further reduce its plastic consumption and waste, alongside measures like sourcing plant-based and post-consumer plastic.
Lacoste: Save Our Species
French lifestyle brand, Lacoste, partnered with the Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to raise awareness about endangered animals and improve the preservation of biodiversity.
For this green marketing push, Lacoste issued limited edition clothing where its iconic crocodile logo was replaced with images of ten endangered species.
Patagonia: Don’t Buy This Jacket
Outdoor clothing & gear retailer Patagonia took on consumerism with its now iconic “Don’t Buy This Jacket” advertisement urging customers not to purchase the brand’s clothing.
Patagonia is an environmentally conscious brand that already aims to lower its water and resource use. However, it wanted its customers to become aware that even sustainably made products have an environmental footprint and must be purchased responsibly.
This brand wants its customers to only purchase the items they truly need.
Levi’s: Buy Better, Wear Longer
Levi’s also took on overconsumption with its “Buy Better, Wear Longer” sustainability marketing campaign, rolled out in April 2021. The campaign framed Levi’s denim as quality clothing that can and should last for generations. It encouraged Levi shoppers to wear, re-wear, and repurpose their denim.
Levi’s denim is made to last. The brand wants its customers to take this to heart.
Zoya: Earth Day Exchange
Zoya is a clean beauty brand offering non-toxic, long-lasting nail polishes and other manicure products. The company runs an annual Earth Day promotion offering customers a $5 credit to exchange a bottle of their conventional toxic polish for a new bottle of Zoya’s non-toxic nail polish.
Zoya’s customers can send old bottles of toxic nail polish in for Zoya to dispose of in an environmentally friendly way or pledge to do so themselves. There are zero purchasing maximums and Zoya uses the honor system for customers who don’t send old products in.
This annual green marketing campaign helps get toxic polishes safely off the market, raise awareness about harmful cosmetics, and promote the brand.
Kia: Super Bowl 2017
Kia’s 2017 Super Bowl advertisement took actress Melissa McCarthy on a mishap-filled mission to save the planet. McCarthy’s attempts to save whales, trees, ice caps, and rhinos don’t turn out so well, but she does enjoy traveling to her destinations in a Kia Niro.
The commercial promoted Kia’s new Niro hybrid crossover as an achievable, easy, and enjoyable way to save the planet.
Apple is known for its sustainability marketing. Some of its standouts include its climate change promise video, can an Apple grow a forest video, recycling program, advertisements making sustainability recommendations for other companies (targeting Samsung), and there’s sustainability in an iPhone promotion.
Sustainability isn’t just something to talk about every now and then for Apple. It’s a core brand value that’s integrated into its operations, ESG initiatives, and green marketing.
Sustainable Marketing Made Easy
Feeling inspired by those seven ways to make an impact and seven companies making a difference?
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We partnered with the World Sustainability Organization to help brands and their customers offset plastic consumption from shipping. To find out more, please email DailyKarma at firstname.lastname@example.org.