The Pivotal Role of Sustainable Marketing in Driving Positive Change

In the world of marketing, marketers have a considerable amount of potential when it comes to driving positive change amongst stakeholders. Sustainable marketing is fast becoming a force to drive down industry emissions.

In the world of sustainable marketing, marketers have a considerable amount of potential when it comes to driving positive change amongst stakeholders. Marketers have key data skills, creativity and insight that help change people’s attitudes towards brands and products. It is these very skills that will be vital to businesses to help them on their net zero journey.

Marketing is a highly sophisticated data and technology-driven 700 billion industry that primarily acts to promote the buying and selling of products and services. It is an industry that faces many challenges when it comes to sustainability.

It is a role within an organisation and industry that exists to deliver growth and has played a big role in accelerating unsustainable consumption and the problems associated with this. The Purpose Disruptors have calculated that the uplift of sales generated by advertising in the UK produces 208 million tonnes of CO2e a year, which is 32% of the UK population’s carbon footprint.

Marketing collateral and merchandise can often contribute to plastic pollution. Purchasing large quanties of cheaply built and priced merch that many people end up throwing away anyway. More than 91% of plastic ends up in the bin within 30 days of purchase and nearly half of that ends up in landfill or the oceans.

The emissions related to marketing activations are all contributing to the climate emergency we find ourselves in. 97% of scientists agree that the fossil fuels we have become dependent on to operate our businesses, industries, homes and travel systems have created 1.1°C of global warming since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Temperatures will further increase in the future, causing more extreme weather and significant damage to places, people, and business as usual. Many governments, local authorities and businesses have responded by declaring a climate emergency and making a commitment to reduce their emissions and setting net-zero targets.

The unique skill set that marketing professionals have will be vital for businesses to communicate their net zero targets to customers, clients and internal stakeholders. Marketers have the power to promote the consumer behaviour changes needed to get to net zero and to sell the vision and benefits of sustainable products and services. Concerningly, however, 40% of marketers don’t possess any sustainability-related qualifications.

Influencing positive change will not be an easy task and there will be challenges along the way to net zero. Almost half of marketers fear accusations of greenwashing, and early attempts by marketers to promote green products and credentials have seen some companies come under a lot of scrutiny and accusations of greenwashing.

Research done for the European Climate Pact found that 42% of all current green claims to be incorrect. And the EU has responded to this by introducing new tighter regulations around green claims. Both the UK and US have a Green Claims Code and the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) is clamping down on companies’ spurious green claims. A prime example is RyanAir. In 2020, the airline claimed it had ‘The lowest fares and lowest emissions. ’ They were forced to withdraw this advertisement when the ASA found this to be incorrect.

What will be key for the modern marketer is to understand the sustainability issues and regulations, both current and future, and recognise how best they can use their skill set to play their part in driving decarbonisation among their stakeholders.

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