3 Sustainable Marketing Examples and Why They Work

3 Sustainable Marketing Examples That Work

By Jennifer MalinsNov 2 /2021

As the earth’s temperatures continue to rise, so does the consumer demand for eco-friendly products and ethical business practices. If you want to compete in today’s market, using good sustainable marketing practices to show the world what your company is doing to positively impact people and the planet is imperative.

Crafting your sustainability message is easier said than done. You have to combine the right ingredients in the right combination so that you convey your sustainability mission while reinforcing your brand in an authentic way that resonates with your customers.

That’s a big undertaking, so let’s take it one bite at a time. First, analyze the sustainable marketing efforts of other companies. What brands are doing it well? What do the sustainability efforts of your competitors look like?

This will give you ideas for creating or refining your sustainable marketing message and plan. To get started, let’s examine three sustainable marketing examples that make green marketing look as easy as pie.

3 Sustainable Marketing Examples

1. Apple®: Amplifying Your Eco Voice

apple sustainable marketing exampleThe Apple® logo is one of the most recognizable in the world. Unlike some of the abstract symbols we see in other logos, the apple is a tangible, everyday object that our brains recognize instantly without effort.

Words are symbols that create images in the mind. Apple cuts out this middleman by letting images tell part of the story of its webpage dedicated to the environment. Through images, they show us rather than tell us that the company is harnessing the power of nature to make their products. This gives the brain a break and also connects the company to the environment in our minds. Juxtaposition is powerful.

Apple carefully selects the words it does choose to feature on this page. For example, connecting the word “fight” to “every voice matters” speaks to the egalitarian, social justice warrior within us who wants to be heard and wants everyone else to be heard as well.

Considering that the company literally allows us to be heard by making one of the most popular communication devices on the planet, this message is an authentic, powerful way to connect its brand to the sustainability movement.


2. Lego®: Building Trust and a Sustainable Future

lego sustainable marketing exampleAs soon as you land on Lego’s sustainability page, you’re greeted by the image of a treehouse made of Lego. This isn’t just cool. It ties the idea of sustainability and Lego together in a vivid, inextricable way. Their powerful mission statement appears just below the image:

“We want to play our part in building a sustainable future and making a positive impact on the planet our children will inherit.”

A beautiful cake is dependent on all of the ingredients that went into it, so let’s look at each piece of this statement to see why it has so much power.

Part 1: “We want to play our part…”

Manufacturers create a large source of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Lego is taking responsibility without using the word “responsibility.” Instead, they use the word “play,” which is a more appropriate word for a toy manufacturer.

Part 2: “...in building a sustainable future...”

Although many companies use the word “building” in connection with sustainability, Lego practically invented the word. Again, they’re connecting what their brand is known for with their mission to bring sustainable products to market.

Part 3: “...and making a positive impact on the planet our children will inherit.”

They don’t just stop at helping the planet. They pull on our heartstrings by mentioning children and make you feel like a complete jerk if you don’t care what kind of mess you might leave behind for them and all of their descendants. Since Lego is a toy manufacturer, it also reinforces the brand.

Wow. This is well-crafted sustainable marketing. And that’s only one section of the page!

3. Patagonia®: Making a Positive Impact on the Planet

While the apparel industry is notorious for low wages and poor working conditions, this producer of outdoor gear has earned a reputation as a sustainable clothing brand. Here are a few reasons:

  • They voluntarily submit to rigorous audits of their supply chain and publish the information, regardless of how poorly it might reflect on the company. Then, they do something about it.
  • They donate a percentage of their sales to help the natural world
  • They focus on long-term impact over short-term gains

While Lego didn’t start out as a sustainable business, Patagonia has always focused on doing good things for the planet while still making a profit, proving you can have your cake and eat it too. Let’s take a look at their carbon footprint page:

patagonia screenshot

The first thing you see is the above message with a video reel to the right that shows positive and negative images, such as factories emitting smoke and people spending time in nature.

Like Lego, they are claiming responsibility for their actions while being true to their brand. They could have easily said, “Everything we produce has consequences.” That’s more abstract and therefore less powerful. It’s also more common to use the word “make” to describe something we’ve created with our hands, reminding us of a simpler time.

The word “impact” has the idea of powerful movement attached to it, which is appropriate for their customers, who lead active lifestyles that may involve high-impact activities.  Both “make” and “impact” are also much easier to visualize, especially when those ideas are reinforced by the video on the right side of the page.

Finally, they use the word “planet” as the unfortunate object of our irresponsible actions, including their own.

[Sustainable] Food for Thought

Now that you’ve analyzed the sustainable marketing efforts of some of the world’s most popular brands, take a look at your own company’s stance on climate change and the steps you’re taking to do your part.

Even service-based, paperless companies can still play a role. For example, your company could support environmentally focused nonprofit organizations through donations or volunteerism.

If you already have a sustainable marketing message, reevaluate it. Does it reflect your company’s values, your customer’s values and your brand in an authentic way?

While Lego’s appeal to helping children will emotionally resonate with its customers, that same message could fall flat with the outdoorsy, nature-loving Patagonia customers who may or may not have children. Apple’s message reinforces its commitment to social justice, which it spent millions on in 2020.

The key ingredient in all of these? Strategic authenticity. All of these companies carefully selected the images and words that not only reflect their brand and mission but appeal to their customers and therefore their bottom line.

Regardless of your industry, commit to helping people and the planet and communicate your efforts with honesty and integrity through effective sustainable marketing practices. If this is still a bit too much to swallow, look at some of Kuno’s case studies or simply contact us to learn how we can partner together to strengthen the triple bottom line of people + planet + profit.

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Jennifer Malins
The Author

Jennifer Malins

Jennifer uses her journalism background to capture client narrative and translate it into marketing that matters. Previously, she wrote SEO-rich web copy and blogs for a variety of healthcare practitioners and served as the VP of Programs for a literacy nonprofit.