5 Sustainable Marketing Principles That Won’t Expire

5 Sustainable Marketing Principles That Won’t Expire

By Jennifer MalinsSep 16 /2021

Did you know that 57% of consumers want businesses to focus on sustainability? Unfortunately, many companies aren’t using effective sustainable marketing strategies to tell their story. This is understandable, as it’s easy to get lost in the twists and turns of the sustainability maze.

However, using these five sustainable marketing principles can help your company stay on track and reach its sustainability goals. Like stars in the sky, they serve as navigators to point you in the general direction of your destination while giving you space to customize them to fit your brand so that you can authentically communicate your company’s sustainability story.

The 5 Cs of Sustainable Marketing

  1. Consumer-centered
  2. Creative and cutting edge
  3. Community and connection
  4. Cause-oriented
  5. Clarity

Heightened uncertainty has a way of engendering knee-jerk reactions, which is bad for business. These sustainable marketing principles will keep your organization grounded, regardless of the state of the world.

Sustainable Marketing Principle #1: Consumer-Centered

Whether your marketing efforts are B2C or B2B, the end-user or consumer of the final product is ultimately your target since consumer demand drives the free market. Looking at your product and your processes from the consumer perspective is vital.

Let’s say you manufacture plastics for various applications in the automotive industry and your client’s eco-savvy customers are demanding lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles with more durable parts. Your customer, the automotive manufacturer, will also want these things because its customers are demanding them.

What are consumers demanding in your industry regarding sustainability? This can change over time, especially with increasing awareness regarding social justice issues, climate change, global economic crises and other challenges we must overcome to create a sustainable future.

In your rush to keep up in the sustainability race, remember that your products must still add value to the consumer or your business will become unsustainable.

Sustainable Marketing Principle #2: Creative & Cutting Edge

Adding value to the consumer means being forward-thinking. Your company should make continuous improvements, such as incorporating more renewable materials or improving processes for energy efficiency.

While you want to give customers and consumers what they want, to be innovative, you need to anticipate what they’ll want in the near future before they do. As Henry Ford said:Customers doing sustainability shopping will want to understand how your company’s innovations compare to your competition’s. Your marketing content should address this, even if you don’t mention your competitors by name.

Get Inspired

Regularly reading about sustainability trends and innovations in your industry and attending local, national and global conferences are great ways to stay current and learn from the top innovators in sustainability. As a result, your content will show you’re current, concerned and committed.

Find opportunities to get involved with initiatives, campaigns and movements to make valuable connections with like-minded people and spark your creativity as you prepare your sustainable marketing campaigns.

Showcase Your Innovations and Goals

When you know what your customers want and understand the ins and outs of your company’s innovations, you’ll have a better idea of what to focus on when telling your sustainability story:

  • Have you found a clever way to reduce CO2 emissions through more efficient manufacturing processes?
  • Do you have a unique partnership with a sustainable organization, such as the World Wildlife Fund?
  • Are your products made from recycled materials that are also recyclable?
  • What is your Net-Zero goal?

Be sure to share your innovations and goals through inspiring email campaigns and SEO-rich content, such as blog posts, social media posts and web copy.

Sustainable Marketing Principle #3: Community & Connection

Companies, activists, and disgruntled customers are pushing out digital content focused on sustainability in high volumes to the community-at-large through social media platforms, YouTube and more. If you haven’t joined the conversation, the time is now. Here’s why:Here are some Insta Stats:

  • #sustainable: 11.2M posts
  • #sustainablefashion: 12.2M posts
  • #sustainablebrand: 334K posts
  • #sustainablefood: 361K posts
  • #sustainablehome: 195K posts

If you’re a B2C company, there’s huge potential to reach thousands of people who may have never heard of your brand. From sustainable footwear to eco-friendly laundry detergent to ethically sourced food, shoppers on Instagram are looking for sustainable products in high volumes.

Additionally, you should know where your customers hang out on social media. For B2B businesses, LinkedIn can be a great way to feature what you’re doing in the sustainability race and position yourself as a thought leader. For optimal engagement, avoid posting on the weekends as this platform attracts professional community members who aren’t as active during non-working hours.

Regardless of the platform, post regularly, respond promptly when someone comments on your post, and engage with others’ posts in meaningful ways rather than just pushing your own content and moving on.

Sustainable Marketing Principle #4: Cause-Oriented

Your sustainable marketing content should both reflect your brand and show passion for your cause. Even if your company is more traditional and buttoned-up, this is a time to let your hair down just a bit.

What does your company care about? How do you see your role and responsibilities in creating a more sustainable future? If you focus your sustainability efforts on what you genuinely care about, your content will be authentic and inspiring.

Your company doesn’t even have to produce a physical product to join the sustainability movement. While a manufacturing business might clean up its production and create a line of sustainable products, a service-oriented company may donate a portion of its profits to a nonprofit organization that focuses on sustainability.

Create content with the broader societal context in mind rather than just focusing on your products or production processes.

Sustainable Marketing Principle #5: Clarity

Communicate your message often and listen to feedback. Respond to your customers’ criticism and concerns. If you can’t meet their expectations due to logistical factors, offer clear explanations about your challenges in doing so and what you’re doing to overcome those challenges.

If you’ve done a poor job of being eco-friendly and now consumer pressure is forcing you to make your company greener, admit it. This means no greenwashing or tricking the consumer into buying your products that appear eco-friendly but really aren’t.

If you’ve developed a line of sustainable footwear that is 40% sustainable and your customers want to know why it’s not 100% sustainable, let them know why. Are you in the process of developing such a line? If so, when can they expect to see it? Would doing so triple the cost and become prohibitive? Then say so.

Never just say that you can’t do something. Every “no” should be followed by some kind of “yes.” People want to work with winners who find solutions to problems.

Say No to Greenwashing

Remember Volkswagen’s “diesel dupe” several years ago? Yeah, we all do. Although the company admitted to installing software that cheated the emissions tests, they lost the trust of their customers, some of whom never returned.

Honesty and transparency will help your business grow, even if your waters aren’t yet pristine. Misleading your customer for short-term gain will kill your long-term profit. Avoid that at all costs.

The Bottom Line of Sustainable Marketing Principles

Sustainability is about helping the planet and its inhabitants. It’s about the long game, not short-term profit. You know that what you do today affects your great-great-grandchildren.

But to have a sustainable business, you also need to make a profit.

The good news is that consumer demand for sustainable products has risen so much that according to a survey by First Insight, 73% of those surveyed are willing to pay more for them. And if your products or services target a Gen Z population, you really need to be on your game as they are the “greenest” generation.

According to an article in Forbes Magazine, “sustainable investing strategies tend to perform as well as or better than conventional strategies,” so investing in sustainability and sustainable marketing is the economically sensible thing to do.

At Kuno Creative, we’ve worked with local, national and global brands to create content that showcases their sustainability efforts.

While another company’s journey to sustainability may look very different from yours, the ultimate destination is the same: Do your part to ensure the planet and its inhabitants survive and thrive long after we’re gone.

Digital Marketing Solutions

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.