It ain’t easy being green: top tips for sustainability & marketing

Sustainability in business is no longer a nice-to-have, but a necessity. It increasingly plays a deciding role in how organisations fulfil strategic goals, secure futures, and gain competitive advantage. As well as individual buyer attitudes shifting, many sectors are legislating positive change also. Accordingly, the environmental and social impact of IT and technology is being put under the microscope.

  • 29th August

In recent times, many of our clients have approached us to help form their internal and external marketing strategies for their sustainability journey. The most common theme we’ve noticed however is that businesses just don’t know where to start. So, we wanted to gather some of our insights together and share some top tips.

Getting the green ball rolling

There are loads of stats out there that substantiate how quickly sustainability is moving up the boardroom agenda. A biggie is that 90% of business leaders think sustainability is important, but only 60% of companies have a sustainability strategy. With that gap, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing a drive across our clients to get started.

People are passionate about this from the top down, but it takes a collective effort to make it happen. Your marketing has great potential to be the fire starter within your organisation to drive progress forward and generate commitment from across the business.

Why is a sustainability strategy so important? And so fundamentally linked to marketing?

From a purely mercenary angle, promoting your sustainability strategy is vital to demonstrating your corporate social responsibility (CSR). Doing so not only demonstrates publicly that you’re complying with standards and legislation changes, but also helps to attract customers who are now actively looking for environmental credentials. The same goes for potential employees – top talent can be particular about the organisations they work for, and 2 in 3 workers say that sustainability is an important factor when applying for a job.

But beware of publicising any claims that cannot be backed up. Your sustainability strategy cannot just be an ‘idea’ that’s thought up and promoted, it has to be lived, breathed and demonstrable. It’s often better to be able to show that your business is acting on and maintaining small-scale incremental changes than it is to make lofty declarations that are hard to achieve.

Our Director and Co-founder, Geoff Undrell, was recently invited to speak at a partner event for Cisco about sustainability and marketing, where he shared some of our top tips for blending the two.

If you haven’t already, check out the first part of this blog series that reveals 11 top sustainability statistics to help inform your sustainable marketing strategy.

Geoff’s insights into the topic will be covered in more depth in the coming weeks, but for now let’s look at our 3 key steps to nailing your sustainability marketing plan:

Step 1: Evaluate your starting point

The first step when it comes to implementing a sustainability marketing plan is assessing where you’re truly at today.

Ask yourself the following, and be painfully honest with the answers:

  • Do you have a functioning sustainability strategy? If so, does it accurately reflect your activities?
  • Have you been asked about your company’s sustainability credentials? How do you respond?
  • Does sustainability feature in your company value proposition?
  • Have you set sustainability targets for your business?
  • How are you promoting your sustainability credentials inwardly and outwardly?

If you find yourself not being able to answer these questions, then it might be time for a re-think and time to set those targets.

Step 2: Discover what you want to achieve and whether it’s achievable

When you’re armed with the answers to these questions, the next step is deciding what you actually want to achieve. It cannot just be what you want to be known for, but what’s actually possible. By setting out small, achievable goals and including your teams in the decision-making process, this’ll help you stick to plans.

If your goals are unattainable and you’re not dedicated to acting on them, but you continue to promote this through your marketing, then you run the risk of greenwashing accusations, which could ultimately land your business in hot water.

Greenwashing is when companies use their marketing to appear as ‘greener’ than they actually are. It’s rife in the business world. A recent survey revealed only 3% of consumer companies produce sustainable data that is accurate and verifiable. And customers know it. The reputational impact of greenwashing is trickier to quantify, so it’s important to not only talk the talk through your marketing strategy, but walk the walk with your actual sustainable efforts.

Step 3: Follow these top tips for setting your sustainability strategy

A goal without a plan is a wish (cheesy, we know), so when planning out your sustainability strategy, follow our very own top tips:

  • Audit your efforts – treat your sustainability strategy in the same way you do your financial data, making sure your actions can be stuck to and proven.
  • Make sure that each of your goals correspond to the three P’s:
    • People – will this create a positive reputation.
    • Planet – does it help and support the environment.
    • Profit – am I able to make profit without waste but with economic gains.
  • Align strategy and sustainability – by having sustainability as part of your wider business strategy, it creates value internally and externally for your business.
  • Compliance first – ensure that you’ve achieved the correct compliance to align with any legal regulations and guarantee that you aren’t greenwashing. Once it’s clear that you’re compliant, then you can use this as a competitive advantage.
  • Be transparent – be honest about your goals and what your company has achieved, greenwashing   will backfire. Have open communications about your sustainability and potentially start with modest, achievable targets.
  • Involve the board – tell your board the plan and help gain some more ideas. Key board members hold a lot of power over business decisions, and so working together to lay out goals and how you plan to stick to them is vital.
  • Engage your ecosystem – by engaging your whole ecosystem with your plans it helps them to feel included and supports the likelihood of sticking to the strategy by reinforcing it through collaborative efforts.
  • Update your organisation – when your whole organisation is involved in sustainable efforts, it’s proven to contribute to the success rate of plans.
  • Keep the momentum going – sustainable efforts aren’t just a one-time event; you’ve got to keep updating goals and striving for more. Internal promotion will be vital to this.

We know just how many considerations will go into building your sustainability plans. And we know how crucial marketing will be to ensuring the success of those plans. If you have questions about how your marketing can shape, support and sustain your green goals, just ask a member of our team today.

Keep an eye out for our next blog in this mini sustainability blog series, where we’ll delve into more of Geoff’s insights and what you next green step should be.

The latest Asgardian to join the ranks, Emily Fellows is one of our Marketing Assistants. She's come on board to help support all of our clients, and the wider team, to keep delivering top notch work.

Emily Fellows, Marketing Assistant, Asgard Marketing

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