The Rise of Ethical Consumerism - And What That Means For Sustainable Marketing
Published : 08 Oct 2021 Industry: Consumer Goods
Marketing products as “sustainable” can be tricky. It’s one thing to be a company that publicly supports sustainability, and another thing entirely to be a company that puts sustainability into practice with its products and services. Sustainability and other forms of ethical consumerism are huge priorities for the modern consumer. In fact, two-thirds of consumers in a Barron’s study preferred to buy from eco-friendly companies.
While not every business or industry can take advantage of this, consumer goods retailers are increasingly coming under scrutiny by shoppers who want to support sustainability, or avoid supporting companies that fail to uphold any sustainability practices. Making sustainable products can be incredibly lucrative with the right partners, resources, and in the right market.
The Demand for Responsible Brands
As mentioned, an overwhelming amount of consumers prefer to shop from eco-friendly brands. More than that, 95% of consumers believed that their actions could make an effect on reducing unsustainable waste. So not only is there a demand from consumers for sustainable products but also for companies to follow sustainable and ethical manufacturing practices. This could mean all sorts of things depending on your industry and business model, including by not limited to:
- Purchasing Fairtrade;
- Using biodegradable packaging;
- Sourcing from local vendors;
- Implementing a recycling initiative;
- Reducing the use of harsh chemicals;
- Decreasing waste generation by digitizing receipts, order forms, and so on.
These are just a few practices that businesses can implement to create sustainability. These changes can be low or no cost, and may even be eligible for tax credits. For example, businesses that install solar panels are eligible for a 26% tax credit of the total system cost. Not only does this help your business reduce its carbon footprint, but it can also save you money on your utility bills.
Steps To Marketing an Eco-Conscious Company
Once you’ve implemented your sustainable practices, you can start making them a part of your company ethos. There are a couple of steps that you should follow as you start making sustainability a part of your marketing. It’s important that you’re ethically conscious of your marketing efforts, as to not undermine the impact of your efforts. Some of the steps you can take to effectively market your company as eco-conscious can be found below.
Make a Long-Term Commitment
Making a long-term commitment to sustainable practices is the best way to show your consumer’s you believe in sustainability as a company, not just as a selling point. One of the best ways to do this is to be transparent with your practices. For example, you could post them on your website in the ‘About’ or ‘FAQ’ section, and include when you started your eco-friendly initiatives. This way, anyone who is curious about how you’re committing to sustainability can see it clearly.
Produce Tangible Results
This is another area where transparency can benefit you. Producing tangible results is a great way to showcase your commitment to sustainability. You can do this in a few ways. For example, you could substitute styrofoam or plastic take-out containers for paper ones, then post about waste reduction. This is a tangible way that your consumers can interact with your sustainable practices that reinforces your branding.
Greenwashing is a marketing term that means presenting the false impression that your products or practices are environmentally friendly. Fast fashion brands, such as H&M, often provide us with good examples of greenwashing. For example, H&M’s circulose fabric, which is made up of upcycled clothes, may read ‘sustainable’ or ‘eco-friendly’ on the label. However, the manufacturing, shipping, and life cycle of these clothes may still be contributing to worker exploitation, carbon emissions, and textile waste. This makes claims of the clothes being ‘sustainable’ misleading — while they are recycled, sustainable means a practice that can be continued without harming the environment around it.
Be Internally Conscious
To avoid greenwashing, it’s important to be conscious of how sustainable processes are being carried out and implemented. You can’t solve a problem you don’t know is happening, so make sure you communicate with your teams and have frequent check-ins. This can be made easier by hiring people who share the same core values as your company— this way you can build trust with employees on sustainability matters.
Working with partners who have similar sustainability goals to your company is a great way to ensure meaningful, eco-conscious change. This way you can ensure that every part of your supply chain is committed to sustainability. You can vet your partners by researching their processes, or by checking to see if their business has a green certification.
Support Other Eco-Conscious Causes
Another way to increase your impact on sustainability is to support other eco-conscious causes. Holding fundraisers for environmental non-profits or sponsoring a city clean-up by providing tools or refreshments are just some of the ways that your business can support other sustainable causes. Not only are these causes beneficial for the environment, as well as your marketing ethos, but many charitable contributions can be tax write-offs, which can support your business financially.
Higher Sustainability Demand Means More Profit
Another reason to follow a sustainable business model is that it can increase your profit margins. Not only can it help you attract more customers, but you can mark up products and services if you follow all of the above steps. This mark-up is what allows you to continue to grow your sustainability efforts, and many consumers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products. However, if you increase your prices under sustainable reasoning while taking shortcuts or engaging in greenwashing, the consequences could be severe.
Sustainability isn’t just about caring for the earth — it’s about engaging and giving back to your community, innovating business processes, and connecting on a deeper level to your consumers. Sustainable business practices can be a lot of effort but done right, business owners can reap big rewards.