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Why Marketers Ignore Sustainability — but Shouldn’t

TreefrogA lack of interest from consumers, a presumed high risk factor and a perception that sustainability is boring, expensive or too complicated are some of the reasons given by marketing professionals for failing to promote a green business model, writes Rainforest Alliance president Tensie Whelan in a column for The Guardian.

Whelan says marketers ignore sustainability at their own peril. A typical argument made by marketing professionals is that surveys show that only around 10 percent to 15 percent of consumers actively seek out sustainable products. Instead, Whelan writes that marketers’ job is to make consumers want a product they think they don’t — and sustainability should not be any different.

There is always a risk when trying a new strategy, and using sustainability as a marketing tool carries these risks. Whelan says it’s unusual for companies to lose market share by embracing sustainability and points to McDonalds and UK tea brand PG Tips increasing their sales after using sustainable products.

Furthermore, despite its often dry subject matter, there is no need for sustainability as a subject to be boring, too complicated or expensive, Whelan writes. The article uses the example of the “Follow the Frog” viral video (pictured) produced to promote Rainforest Alliance-certified products. The video reached 1.2 million people and won a TED award.

A study published in June found that so-called meaningful brands outperformed the stock market by 120 percent. Havas Media Group researchers defined the most meaningful brands as those that systematically improve personal and collective well-being of consumers and are rewarded by stronger brand equity and attachment.

The 12 measures of well-being considered include the environment and a “natural” measure. Exactly how much of that good feeling comes from a brand’s environmental performance, Havas didn’t say – though it did note that people in emerging markets place relatively more importance on environmental impacts.

Earlier this month, Walmart and Twentieth Century Fox partnered to promote eco-friendly brands including Brita, Burt’s Bees, Glad, Green Works and Clorox — and the studio’s home-video launch of “Epic,” an environmentally themed animated film.

Walmart launched its Epic Green Warriors campaign — each product, such as Glad compostable trash bags and Brita water bottles and filters, has an Epic Warrior sticker — at 2,800 stores to help boost pre-orders for the kids movie, which will become available on DVD and Blu-ray Aug. 20, according to Variety.

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One thought on “Why Marketers Ignore Sustainability — but Shouldn’t

  1. If you want to encourage businesses to “go green”, the only way to do this is for someone to demonstrate how doing so can improve a business’s bottom line. This is where marketing can benefit environmentalists by showing practical examples of companies (i.e. Walmart, 20th Century Fox, etc.) saving money and improving their bottom line in the process.

    I envision the day when some smart executive at McDonald’s (or whoever) does a commercial where he/she is talking to the camera and says “The reason that we are Promoting environmentally sound practices isn’t because we care about our global community, but rather because of… (and at this point, the CEO pushes a button on a cash register and a drawer full of money opens up).

    Hey, I can dream can’t I?

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