What is Sustainability in Marketing?

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30 Apr 2022
5 min read

Post Highlight

It's apparent that everyone is talking about sustainability these days. However, there appears to be confusion because marketers and environmentalists use the terms "green" and "sustainable" interchangeably.
While both "green" and "sustainable" are concerned with environmental preservation and awareness, sustainability entails a broader responsibility to maintain a social, economic, and ecological balance. Green, on the other hand, is concerned with environmental well-being.
Inevitably, the terms sustainable marketing and green marketing are used interchangeably, but it is important to understand that these terms do not always mean the same thing. #TWN

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It's natural for a company to use its entire genetic make-up to promote and differentiate itself in its market. SMEs, for example, frequently use grassroots beginnings or a local focus to give them a distinct tone of voice, whereas larger corporations take pride in winning industry awards.

Another strategy that businesses can use is sustainable marketing, which can be used as both a product and a brand marketing strategy. 'Responsibility' is becoming a common brand value, and several companies have announced environmental and social initiatives that shift the burden back onto the customer, forcing them to choose between the cheaper option and the (morally) 'better' option. However, it is critical to carefully plan and execute sustainable marketing, or your brand may be subjected to intense scrutiny.

What is Sustainable Marketing?

The promotion of environmentally and socially responsible products, practices, and brand values is known as sustainable marketing. You've experienced sustainable marketing if you've ever spent a little bit more on something because you knew it was locally sourced or 100 percent recyclable.

Sustainable Marketing vs. Green Marketing

As global environmental issues worsen, international organizations such as the UN have taken the lead in driving global sustainable action. With this pressure comes a growing need for brands to adapt to and market their "green" status.

So, what is the difference between sustainable and green marketing?

Green marketing is the promotion of environmentally friendly efforts to a specific audience. In other words, creating an environmentally conscious image. However, going green necessitates that brands change their message as well as their manufacturing process.

With the increased emphasis on a greener future, it's important to note that businesses make an effort to appear green. Many businesses use environmental ideals without truly incorporating them into their core values, a practice known as greenwashing. Fortunately, media attention persuades more people to look beyond the attractive packaging and well-chosen words.

Sustainable marketing, on the other hand, takes the concept of "green" to new heights. It entails raising awareness for a brighter, more sustainable future. To achieve harmony between nature and humans, sustainability addresses environmental degradation, climate change, inequality, poverty, peace, and justice.

Sustainable Marketing vs. Green Marketing Image

Examples of Sustainable Marketing and Green Marketing

Starbucks' recent efforts to engage their community in environmental issues are an example of green marketing. The emphasis is on developing marketing materials that include eco-friendly messages. Such as the company's sustainable agriculture methods and 'greener' retail locations.

When it comes to genuine environmental efforts, a massive brand like Starbucks may not be the first brand that comes to mind. However, the company appears to be taking more responsibility for reducing its environmental impact. In addition to reducing energy and water consumption, they are investigating waste recycling solutions, investing in renewable energy, and collaborating with farmers and organizations to address climate change.

These messages help them connect with their environmentally conscious community.

Sustainable marketing Image

Sustainable marketing, on the other hand, has a broader scope. Companies in this field strive to promote a balanced approach that considers not only the environment but also the needs of customers, the long-term interests of society, and global well-being.

MUD Jeans' sustainability story, for example, goes above and beyond the norm as a pioneer of responsible fashion. They claim to work with companies that prioritize employee well-being, have a completely transparent supply chain, and use 92 percent less water to make each pair of recycled MUD Jeans. They also include meaningful terms like "zero waste" and "pesticide-free" in their message.

MUD Jeans also uses their 'Best for the World' B Corp award as proof that they are the best of the best. It means that they are among the 5% of the 4000 certified B Corps in the world with the highest verified score in environmental performance.

It demonstrates their commitment to being truthful in their marketing messaging and sustainability claims.

sustainable marketing and green marketing Image

Now, I'm not particularly fond of fashion. I'm a less-than-perfect minimalist. And not the aesthetic kind, but the content-with-less kind. I've been wearing the same clothes for over a decade and rarely buy anything new. However, MUD Jeans' sense of mission encourages me to consider a pair of sustainable bottoms.

MUD Jeans must be doing something right if they can capture the attention of a minimalist like me.

What about Greenwashing?

Both sustainable marketing and green marketing should focus on promoting environmentally friendly or sustainable products or services.

That does not imply feigning sustainability. Greenwashing is the practice of dressing up in an eco-friendly disguise to deceive people who are concerned about the environment into purchasing. It is the projection of sustainability as opposed to the action of sustainability. Greenwashing, which is distinct due to the level of deception, should not be used in either sustainable or green marketing.

It is, in some ways, marketing, albeit a very malevolent kind of marketing.

If you want to learn more about greenwashing, check out this Akepa post. And here's another excellent resource on green marketing and the distinctions between greenwashing.

Bottom-line

The key distinction is that green marketing emphasizes the 'environmental' aspects of a marketing strategy, whereas sustainable marketing emphasizes promoting a broader vision of a better future that balances society, businesses, and the environment.

According to an African proverb:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Keep in mind that neither approach should involve greenwashing.

I hope you found my article on sustainable marketing vs. green marketing useful.

TWN In-Focus