Sustainability: A Strong Business Strategy
Sustainability can be defined as the ability for us to meet the needs of everyone today without compromising the security and opportunities for future generations. While environmental sustainability is the first thing that comes to mind for most when this term comes up, it also has a great deal to do with social equity (meeting the needs of everyone).
In the business world, companies have been rapidly adopting the sustainability mindset and as a result, have begun to evaluate themselves according to the triple bottom line. This measurement of performance includes three areas: people, profit, and planet. So, while businesses must be profitable in order to survive, for them to be sustainable they need to equally consider the other two priorities of people (all stakeholders in and outside the company) and the planet.
Adopting a sustainability focus can bring enormous positives for companies – this is true in the short-term, and even-more-so in the long-term.
A first major benefit is in terms of attracting customers. Forbes reports that millennials are becoming the most important consumer group, with buying power of $2.45 trillion. Millennials care where they spend their money. In fact, roughly 70% will pay more for brands that support a cause they care about.
Other benefits for sustainable businesses, reported by Harvard Business Review are greater risk management, more innovation and better financial performance, including larger profits, more cost savings and improved efficiencies and logistics.
So clearly, including sustainability as a main principle in your organization can poise it for success today and in the long-run.
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Importance of Sustainable Marketing to an Organization
In any business, there are three functions that are central to success. These are operations, finance, and marketing. Sustainable marketing is absolutely key to the success of any company as it encompasses every activity to do with generating revenues.
However, consumers tend to have unfavourable attitudes toward marketing practices. This is largely the result of traditional marketing using the tactic of pressuring consumers and influencing their perspective in order to make them think they need a company’s product. This manipulative style of marketing leads to unsustainable relationships with customers as they often realize that the product they were convinced to buy didn’t really make their life better.
This is why you need sustainable marketing for your company.
What is Sustainable Marketing
Sustainable marketing is the process of communicating your commitment to sustainability to your customers, employees, partners, etc.
Considering this definition, a natural precursor to adopting sustainable marketing is taking strides to be sustainable in your organization. This could be developing products with lower environmental impact, supporting local community groups, and/or advocating for a healthy work-life balance for your employees. Optimally, your organization should establish company-wide plans for achieving sustainability including small steps that can be taken today, as well longer-term “big picture” goals. For information on how to create an effective sustainability plan, check out How to Create a Sustainability Program: A 10 Step Guide to Creating a Purpose-Driven Business.
After beginning your organization’s sustainability journey, then you can successfully engage in sustainable marketing.
Sustainable marketing works because it promotes the core values that your business and your stakeholders actually value – environmental wellness, human health, resource security, fair trade, social equity, etc. As a result, it makes your company’s advertising stand-out in a market that is still dominated by the traditional “put-down” style of advertising. By engaging in sustainable marketing, your business will earn the trust of consumers and in turn, their loyalty. And in today’s market, loyalty is the biggest competitive advantage of them all.
To learn about the principles of sustainable marketing and specific sustainable marketing tactics you can use in your business, read Sustainable Business Marketing: 7 Tactics to Attract Eco-Conscious Customers, Partners and Employees.
Evolution of Sustainable Marketing
In the past, sustainable business was seen as a fringe, costly way of doing business with little market potential. Now, though, sustainability is seen as a big business driver and a strategic imperative.
With the accelerating global issues we are facing and the increased global awareness of consumers, being a sustainable company and marketing your green mission is not simply a value-add, but is a requirement to compete in the market.
Where many companies fail with sustainable marketing is that they exaggerate the environmental and social impacts they are having on the community – only to be promptly called-out by conscious consumers. This mistake, often called greenwashing or simply false advertising, can cause irreparable harm to a business’s reputation and thus hurt its performance. As the sustainability movement progresses and gains popularity, consumers are getting better at detecting when companies are trying to trick them. So, in sustainable marketing, like most aspects of life, honesty is the best policy.
Ensure sustainability is a key consideration in every facet of your business to maximize the effectiveness of your sustainable marketing. Having all departments on the same page about advancing sustainability within your company will provide lots of material for your marketing and will help protect you from being exposed as a ‘greenwasher.’
The Benefits of Sustainability to Your Business
Whatever sector your company operates in, it can attain significant benefits from engaging in sustainable marketing.
Some of these benefits are:
- Attracting customers from the growing market of sustainability-minded consumers,
- Gaining employees who are passionate about making a difference in the world,
- Winning more bids as a supplier, as large companies and governments are starting to look for suppliers who are socially and environmentally responsible,
- Building a strong brand reputation,
- Building a purpose-driven culture through employee engagement.
Beyond sustainable marketing, there are other significant advantages to operating as a sustainable business such as cost savings from greater resource-efficiency, solution building and room for innovation, and reduced risk of breaking changing industry rules and regulations.
Given the direction the world is heading in terms of corporate social responsibility, incorporating the sustainability ethic into your business strategy and engaging in sustainable marketing is the best way forward for your company.
Sustainability certification programs are a great way to launch your green mission and develop the most strategic path to achieve target goals. Green Business Bureau provides several tools and marketing opportunities for you to realize your potential as a green business.
About The Author
GBB Green Ambassador
Dylan West is a content creator for the Green Business Bureau who is passionate about the pursuit of a better future through sustainable business. He is currently working toward an undergraduate degree in Business Management from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. Outside of his professional life, Dylan enjoys playing sports and exploring the natural splendor that surrounds his home in Vancouver.