As the march towards the target of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 continues to gather pace, as set out in the Paris Agreement, businesses have doubled down on meeting their environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. That has also meant they have had to refocus the marketing of their products and services to make sure they fit the criteria.
But it’s not just the regulator demanding that companies adhere to the new ESG framework. Consumers also want to see greater sustainability, with 60 per cent rating it as one of the most important factors when looking at buying a product or service. One-third of customers will even pay higher prices for sustainable goods and services. This is something that businesses ignore at their peril if they want to attract customers.
By its nature, marketing is a resource-intensive process that involves sending out vast amounts of correspondence to existing and prospective customers. That can range from letters or leaflets to text messages or emails, or even through their website or social media.
The bottom line is that, whatever the channel, it all has an impact on the planet, whether it’s the trees that are cut down for the paper or the fuel to transport them, or the carbon footprint produced by sending an email. A single email alone produces 0.3 grams of CO2, which when applied to the 62 trillion spam emails sent every year, equates to 1.86 million tonnes of CO2
Being eco-friendly is more important than ever to customers, with 45% citing sustainability and environmental responsibility as very important, according to an IBM report. Failing to heed that message can be fatal for a company.
Revise inefficient strategies
The fact is that so much marketing is unnecessary and wasteful. To avoid that, firms need to look at their marketing strategies and decide exactly who it is they are trying to reach and how they can do that more effectively and efficiently.
Companies can make some simple changes to their marketing process that will make it more sustainable. The most effective ones are reducing or stopping paper usage, and the number of emails and text messages sent out.
One of the biggest problems is junk mail. With 17.7 billion pieces of mail being sent and received in the UK every year, equating to 262 pieces per person, most ends up either being left unopened or thrown in the recycling bin.
It’s a highly inefficient way of marketing, given the decline of postal services, the regularity of strikes and the time it takes to be delivered. It’s much cheaper, quicker and more efficient to send emails.
In some instances direct mail has to be used, for example, to send a product. In that case, companies should use sustainable paper or packaging, with correspondence printed on both sides of the letter. Any plastic attached, should, if possible, be removed altogether or replaced with a biodegradable alternative.
As mentioned, while emails produce CO2, they are still the most effective way of reaching an end user. But businesses can still cut down on the amount they send.
Instead of sending out blanket emails and hoping for the best, companies should customise them to their target market. That requires looking at who their customer is, what their interests are and what they want. Then they can market products and services to them that are both relevant and timely.
Using eco-friendly materials
Freebies made from throwaway plastic used to promote a business are another big issue. Rather, firms should use products that are made with reusable or recyclable material, such as branded refillable coffee cups, if they want to send promotional material. If they can be sourced locally, all the better.
Despite the need to be sustainable, the product also needs to be one that represents the brand and is both practical and useful for the customer. By using subliminal messaging, it will soon become synonymous with the company and remind the customer of the brand every time they see it.
Being clear and consistent
Companies also need to walk the walk. That means, proudly showing the customer what it is doing to be more sustainable.
Examples include talking about how much not sending post has helped to offset its carbon footprint. Or how much it has reduced plastic waste used in promotional items and packaging by switching materials or suppliers. Reputation-wise, businesses are also viewed more favorably if they use suppliers that maintain green and sustainable standards and practices.
This applies to environmental initiatives too, for example, pledging to plant a tree for every 10 cups of coffee the customer buys, or donating 10% of proceeds to environmentally-friendly organisations. If successful, it can become a marketing campaign in its own right.
Most importantly, businesses need to be clear and consistent in all their marketing communications about what they are doing to be sustainable. By positioning themselves at the forefront of environmental sustainability, they stand to benefit both their customers and their long-term future.
Gope Walker, CEO of Data Kraken
After working for blue chip companies for 16 years, Gope was disheartened by the lack of innovation in the analytics arm of most businesses. The desire to innovate in order to optimise and improve businesses using data-driven techniques was rarely seen at the level Gope deemed appropriate – hence the birth of Data Kraken.
Today, the Data Kraken team are working with clients across multiple continents, offering data-driven insights that allow companies to manage their business as effectively and efficiently as possible.