Sustainability in Marketing

[23rd April] Marketers have a role to play in bridging the sustainability gaps in companies according to a new report. Marketing and sustainability: Closing the gaps, from the World Federation of Marketing highlighted three main disconnects:

  • between an organisation’s efforts on sustainability and what their marketing departments are communicating;
  • between consumers’ expectations of brands and what they perceive brands to be doing;
  • between the acknowledged power of brands to make a difference and what they are doing to make sustainable choices easier for consumers.

Some reasons for these gaps are thought to be the lack of sustainability officers and the complexity of the topic, and the lack of knowledge and skills to talk about it.

To address the problems, the study highlights three core implications and action items:

  • the need for education of marketing teams, giving them the confidence and language to speak clearly and confidently about their organisation’s sustainability efforts;
  • the opportunity for behaviour change, as marketers can help consumers to buy and use more sustainably; and
  • the need for collective action, especially around developing a common language and set of metrics tied to sustainability.

Do consumers care about sustainability?

Simply put, yes. According to TGI NI 2020, 82% of people believe it is important for a company to act ethically, 88% agree it’s their duty to recycle, 68% are prepared to make lifestyle compromises to benefit the environment. In addition, 42% of people have a fair understanding of challenges facing the environment e.g. climate change, carbon dioxide emissions and sustainable development.

Our in-house research backs this up too. Published in November 2020, Green means GO-OH found the Covid-19 pandemic had changed how we behave in relation to our environment.

Reflective of the initial study, our own research shows the importance marketers should be placing on environmental topics, with 84% expecting advertising to clearly demonstrate the eco credentials of a product. Marketers have a responsibility to clearly highlight the efforts companies are doing to increase sustainability.

As an industry, Outdoor is striving to become more environmentally sustainable. In recent months, new printing techniques have been adopted allowing the use of water-based inks, allowing greater levels of recyclability for posters on bus stops and billboards. In addition, campaigns in NI and ROI have delivered regional media firsts, with 100% recycled paper used for 6 Sheet posters.

“[Sustainability] isn’t just about convincing people to have shorter showers, eating less meat or using refills. It’s also about making sustainable choices simple for them, recognising that we haven’t always made it easy for people to see both the value and the values of their chosen products” – Conny Braams, Global CMO, Unilever.

In the last year we’ve seen accelerated change in many aspects of life, and with a dramatic difference in our lifestyles now it’s no wonder sustainability and environmental credentials are increasingly important to consumers. Half of respondents in our Green Means GO-OH study consider the environmental benefits of a product when making a purchase decision. So, the message, and how it’s delivered is becoming more and more important to consumers. Marketers should make their sustainability commitments confidently and Outdoor is the perfect platform to make a bold statement.