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In its earliest origins, sustainable marketing strategies focused almost entirely on environmental issues. Doomsday in tone, content promoted brands’ sensitivity to fuel savings, green issues such as worldwide forest depletion, fossil fuel evils and broader concerns for global warming. The descriptive social content usually resonated from a “the sky is falling” diatribe that many consumers found disturbing. The process failed to motivate consumers to get behind the message or buy the products and added little value to brands’ reputation. The problem with predicting the end of the earth by a certain end-date becomes obvious the day after, when the sun comes up and life as we have known it for generations goes on. Brand authenticity and credibility too often were the only aspect of life that experienced demise.
The communications marketplace soon learned that if a sustainable marketing strategy was to produce a positive response from consumers and an uptick in a company’s profitability, the message needed to be reformatted to come from the positive side of the messaging equation and the content expanded to include non-environmental, social issues. Today, 90 percent of CEOs understand the importance of developing sustainable products, services and policies that drive solutions to consumers’ significant social concerns. Preaching the sermon isn’t enough; practicing the tenants of the message through positive, solution-based tangible actions is what motivates consumers to reward a genuinely sustainable brand. According to a 2018 Nielsen report, “Brands that are able to strategically connect (sustainability) to actual behavior are in a good place to capitalize on increased consumer expectation and demand.” The report adds that “Sustainability claims on packaging must also reflect how a company operates inside and out.”
The challenge for business leaders looking to implement a sustainable marketing strategy is that the process from initiation to some measure of realization can be longer, rather than short term. The stubborn metric that ROI must be experienced in the next quarter rather than in two years or more tends to discourage participation from any organization other than those with a more extended strategic vision. A recent report published by the Shelton Group indicated that brands who journey down the sustainable product and service path are like to enjoy favor from 86 percent of consumers who say they support companies that take a stand on social issues. “According to Nielsen’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report, 66% of consumers would spend more on a product if it came from a sustainable brand.”
Enlightened corporate executives from consumer product companies, finance, auto, energy and even the fashion industry are creating new Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) positions at the highest level of their organizations. Citi Bank is focusing on the risk that climate change may have on the value of its loans and will be targeting $100 billion worth of financing towards environmental solutions through 2023.
“Shareholder expectations of what banking and the private sector can do has never been higher,” says Val Smith, Citi Banks new CSO. The responsibility of a CSO is to integrate sustainable goals and objectives within the operational fabric of the company and to facilitate inter-industry collaboration on sustainable interests. With the establishment of CSO positions at the highest level of corporate leadership, it is clear that sustainable marketing strategies are here to stay.
The experienced professionals at Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) can assist small or large organizations in crafting a positive, responsive sustainable marketing strategy. To learn more call 678-686-1125 today.