What Is Sustainable Marketing And Why It Matters In Business

Sustainable marketing describes how a business will invest in social and environmental initiatives as part of its marketing strategy. Also known as green marketing, it is often used to counteract public criticism around wastage, misleading advertising, and poor quality or unsafe products. 

DefinitionSustainable Marketing, also known as Green Marketing or Environmental Marketing, is an approach to marketing that focuses on promoting products or services with environmental sustainability and social responsibility as key selling points. It involves creating, communicating, and delivering value to consumers while minimizing negative impacts on the environment and society. Sustainable marketing aims to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Key ConceptsEnvironmental Sustainability: A core principle is the commitment to reducing the ecological footprint of products and practices. – Social Responsibility: It encompasses ethical practices, fair labor conditions, and community engagement. – Triple Bottom Line: Balancing economic, environmental, and social outcomes. – Transparency: Providing clear information about sustainable practices. – Consumer Awareness: Educating consumers about sustainable choices. – Eco-Friendly Products: Developing and promoting products that are environmentally friendly. – Stakeholder Engagement: Involving various stakeholders in sustainability initiatives.
ComponentsSustainable marketing consists of several components: 1. Product: Creating eco-friendly, sustainable products. 2. Price: Balancing affordability and sustainable practices. 3. Place: Distribution channels and accessibility. 4. Promotion: Communicating sustainability efforts. 5. People: Engaging employees and customers in sustainable practices.
ExamplesPatagonia: Known for its commitment to environmental causes and ethical sourcing. – Toms: Donates a pair of shoes for every pair purchased and supports various social causes. – Tesla: Promotes electric vehicles and sustainable energy solutions. – Unilever: Strives to make its products sustainable and eco-friendly.
BenefitsSustainable marketing offers several benefits: 1. Competitive Advantage: It differentiates brands in the market. 2. Brand Loyalty: Attracts environmentally and socially conscious consumers. 3. Cost Savings: Efficiency measures often lead to cost reductions. 4. Long-Term Viability: Focuses on future sustainability.
ChallengesChallenges include the need for authenticity in sustainability efforts, potential greenwashing accusations, and balancing sustainability with economic viability. There may also be regulatory and supply chain challenges.
RegulationsSustainable marketing is subject to various regulations and standards, such as the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides in the United States, which provide guidelines on truthful and non-deceptive environmental marketing claims. Compliance is essential to avoid legal issues and maintain trust with consumers.
Measuring ImpactMeasurement metrics include carbon footprint reduction, energy efficiency improvements, reduction in waste, customer surveys on sustainability perceptions, and sales of sustainable products.
ConclusionSustainable Marketing is a strategic approach that aligns business goals with environmental and social responsibility. It aims to meet the needs of consumers while ensuring the well-being of the planet and future generations. By integrating sustainability into product development, pricing, distribution, and promotion, organizations can gain a competitive edge, build brand loyalty, and contribute to a more sustainable future. However, it requires authenticity, transparency, and a genuine commitment to environmental and social causes to be effective.

Understanding sustainable marketing

Sustainable marketing is any marketing campaign that meets the present needs of consumers with the goal of serving the needs of future generations. 

It can be seen in specific products, causes, or business unique selling propositions. Most commonly, it is described in an environmental context. For example, car dealerships and mechanics who promote the safe disposal of engine oil and other harmful liquids are practicing sustainable marketing.

In the case of LEGO, sustainable marketing is part of their brand and mission statement. The company has a goal to manufacture all of its bricks sustainably by the year 2030 while maintaining the high quality that generations have become accustomed to. Fast-food giant McDonald’s responded to criticism that their product range contributed to global obesity by creating a more sustainable range of foods.

While LEGO and McDonald’s back their sustainable marketing initiative with action, there have been many examples of companies promoting themselves as sustainable without changing any of their practices. As with any marketing campaign, sustainability must align with brand identity and also solve problems that the consumer and indeed the planet is experiencing.

Five principles of sustainable marketing

Sustainable marketing should be guided by five main principles, outlined below.

Consumer-oriented marketing

Consumer-oriented marketing argues that a business should create marketing campaigns from the consumer’s point of view. Businesses must satisfy the needs of current and future generations simultaneously by embodying a passion for the hopes and aspirations of their target audience.

Customer-value marketing

Here, sustainable marketing means that a business resists the urge to increase short-term earnings and instead add long term value to their products – whether that be through quality, features, or convenience. Value is seen as a two-way street, where the business provides value for the consumer which is repaid by the consumer in the form of product revenue and loyalty.

Innovate marketing

Innovative marketing is particularly important for sustainability, but it also delivers on consumer preferences for product and marketing development. Samsung is a classic example of innovative marketing at work. Once the cheaper alternative to Sony products, Samsung invested heavily in research, development, and design in the late 1990s to now be market leaders in consumer electronics.

Sense-of-mission marketing

Sense-of-mission marketing means a business mission should be defined in broader societal terms as opposed to narrower product or person terms. Social missions not only give employees a sense of purpose, but they also allow a brand to adapt and stay relevant to current societal trends. 

Dog food manufacturer PEDIGREE makes high-quality dog food, but the PEDIGREE brand is very much about the dogs themselves. With the tagline “Dogs rule”, everything that the company does is driven by a love of dogs. This includes internal operations and external marketing campaigns. The company encourages employees to bring their dogs to work and is actively engaged in raising money for animal shelters.

Societal marketing

In societal marketing, the business makes marketing decisions by considering the wants and needs of society as a whole – particularly over the long-term. Ideally, societal marketing should make use of so-called desirable products, which offer high immediate satisfaction and long-term benefits to the consumer. An example of a desirable product with benefits to society can be seen with General Electric. Its range of durable, bright fluorescent lights with high energy-saving potential have been a global success.

Case Studies

  • Patagonia’s “Don’t Buy This Jacket” Campaign: Patagonia, an outdoor clothing brand, ran a campaign encouraging consumers to buy less and consider the environmental impact of their purchases. This counterintuitive approach promoted sustainability and responsible consumption.
  • TOMS “One for One”: TOMS Shoes donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. This initiative combines consumer purchases with a social mission to provide footwear to those who need it.
  • The Body Shop’s “Enrich Not Exploit”: The Body Shop focuses on sourcing natural ingredients sustainably and promoting fair trade. Their “Enrich Not Exploit” commitment emphasizes ethical practices and environmentally friendly products.
  • H&M’s Garment Collecting Program: H&M encourages customers to bring in old clothing for recycling. In return, customers receive discounts on future purchases. This initiative promotes recycling and reduces textile waste.
  • Ben & Jerry’s “Save Our Swirled”: Ben & Jerry’s created a campaign to raise awareness about climate change. They even temporarily renamed their popular flavor “If It’s Melting It’s Melting” to emphasize the issue.
  • IKEA’s “Sustainable Living”: IKEA promotes sustainable living through initiatives like energy-efficient products and renewable energy use in their stores. They encourage consumers to make eco-friendly choices in their homes.
  • Starbucks’ Greener Stores: Starbucks commits to building environmentally friendly stores with features like energy-efficient lighting, reclaimed materials, and water-saving technologies. This showcases their dedication to sustainability.
  • Unilever’s Sustainable Brands: Unilever, the consumer goods company, has various sustainable brands like Dove and Ben & Jerry’s. They focus on reducing environmental impact and promoting social responsibility.
  • Tesla’s Electric Vehicles: Tesla’s electric cars are marketed as a sustainable alternative to traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. They align their brand with the environmental benefits of electric transportation.
  • Adidas’ Parley for the Oceans: Adidas collaborates with Parley for the Oceans to create sports apparel and footwear using recycled ocean plastic. This initiative addresses environmental concerns while promoting their products.
  • Ecover’s Ocean Plastic Bottles: Ecover, a cleaning products company, uses plastic bottles made from ocean plastic. This innovation highlights their commitment to reducing plastic pollution.
  • Coca-Cola’s “World Without Waste”: Coca-Cola aims to collect and recycle a bottle or can for each one it sells by 2030. Their “World Without Waste” initiative addresses plastic waste and promotes recycling.

Key takeaways

  • Sustainable marketing involves the promotion of a business with socially and environmentally responsible products, practices, and brand identity.
  • Sustainable marketing requires that social and environmental initiatives be backed up with action.
  • Sustainable marketing offers five guiding principles that explain how a business might be competitive long term while also providing benefits to society and the environment.

Key Highlights of Sustainable Marketing:

  • Definition: Sustainable marketing, also known as green marketing, involves a business’s investment in social and environmental initiatives as part of its marketing strategy. It aims to counter public criticism related to wastage, misleading advertising, and the quality and safety of products.
  • Long-Term Focus: Sustainable marketing aims to meet the present needs of consumers while serving the needs of future generations. It often focuses on environmental issues but can also address broader social concerns.
  • Examples: Examples of sustainable marketing include car dealerships promoting safe disposal of engine oil, LEGO’s commitment to sustainable brick production by 2030, and McDonald’s efforts to offer a more sustainable food range.
  • Principles of Sustainable Marketing:
    • Consumer-Oriented Marketing: Businesses should create marketing campaigns from the consumer’s perspective, addressing current and future needs and aspirations.
    • Customer-Value Marketing: Sustainable marketing adds long-term value to products through quality, features, and convenience, fostering customer loyalty.
    • Innovative Marketing: Sustainability is promoted through innovation, aligning with consumer preferences for product and marketing development.
    • Sense-of-Mission Marketing: Businesses define their mission in broader societal terms, fostering a sense of purpose and adaptability to societal trends.
    • Societal Marketing: Marketing decisions consider the wants and needs of society as a whole over the long term, promoting desirable products that offer immediate satisfaction and long-term benefits to consumers.
  • Action Backing: Sustainable marketing requires that social and environmental initiatives be supported by tangible actions, not just empty marketing claims.
  • Benefits to Society and Environment: Sustainable marketing seeks to benefit both society and the environment, not just the business itself.

Visual Marketing Glossary

Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy where the marketing and sales departments come together to create personalized buying experiences for high-value accounts. Account-based marketing is a business-to-business (B2B) approach in which marketing and sales teams work together to target high-value accounts and turn them into customers.


Ad Ops – also known as Digital Ad Operations – refers to systems and processes that support digital advertisements’ delivery and management. The concept describes any process that helps a marketing team manage, run, or optimize ad campaigns, making them an integrating part of the business operations.

AARRR Funnel

Venture capitalist, Dave McClure, coined the acronym AARRR which is a simplified model that enables to understand what metrics and channels to look at, at each stage for the users’ path toward becoming customers and referrers of a brand.

Affinity Marketing

Affinity marketing involves a partnership between two or more businesses to sell more products. Note that this is a mutually beneficial arrangement where one brand can extend its reach and enhance its credibility in association with the other.

Ambush Marketing

As the name suggests, ambush marketing raises awareness for brands at events in a covert and unexpected fashion. Ambush marketing takes many forms, one common element, the brand advertising their products or services has not paid for the right to do so. Thus, the business doing the ambushing attempts to capitalize on the efforts made by the business sponsoring the event.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing describes the process whereby an affiliate earns a commission for selling the products of another person or company. Here, the affiliate is simply an individual who is motivated to promote a particular product through incentivization. The business whose product is being promoted will gain in terms of sales and marketing from affiliates.

Bullseye Framework

The bullseye framework is a simple method that enables you to prioritize the marketing channels that will make your company gain traction. The main logic of the bullseye framework is to find the marketing channels that work and prioritize them.

Brand Building

Brand building is the set of activities that help companies to build an identity that can be recognized by its audience. Thus, it works as a mechanism of identification through core values that signal trust and that help build long-term relationships between the brand and its key stakeholders.

Brand Dilution

According to inbound marketing platform HubSpot, brand dilution occurs “when a company’s brand equity diminishes due to an unsuccessful brand extension, which is a new product the company develops in an industry that they don’t have any market share in.” Brand dilution, therefore, occurs when a brand decreases in value after the company releases a product that does not align with its vision, mission, or skillset. 

Brand Essence Wheel

The brand essence wheel is a templated approach businesses can use to better understand their brand. The brand essence wheel has obvious implications for external brand strategy. However, it is equally important in simplifying brand strategy for employees without a strong marketing background. Although many variations of the brand essence wheel exist, a comprehensive wheel incorporates information from five categories: attributes, benefits, values, personality, brand essence.

Brand Equity

The brand equity is the premium that a customer is willing to pay for a product that has all the objective characteristics of existing alternatives, thus, making it different in terms of perception. The premium on seemingly equal products and quality is attributable to its brand equity.

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is about creating a mental real estate in the mind of the target market. If successful, brand positioning allows a business to gain a competitive advantage. And it also works as a switching cost in favor of the brand. Consumers recognizing a brand might be less prone to switch to another brand.

Business Storytelling

Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long-term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is one of the most powerful commercial activities which focuses on leveraging content production (text, audio, video, or other formats) to attract a targeted audience. Content marketing focuses on building a strong brand, but also to convert part of that targeted audience into potential customers.

Customer Lifetime Value

One of the first mentions of customer lifetime value was in the 1988 book Database Marketing: Strategy and Implementation written by Robert Shaw and Merlin Stone. Customer lifetime value (CLV) represents the value of a customer to a company over a period of time. It represents a critical business metric, especially for SaaS or recurring revenue-based businesses.

Customer Segmentation

Customer segmentation is a marketing method that divides the customers in sub-groups, that share similar characteristics. Thus, product, marketing and engineering teams can center the strategy from go-to-market to product development and communication around each sub-group. Customer segments can be broken down is several ways, such as demographics, geography, psychographics and more.

Developer Marketing

Developer marketing encompasses tactics designed to grow awareness and adopt software tools, solutions, and SaaS platforms. Developer marketing has become the standard among software companies with a platform component, where developers can build applications on top of the core software or open software. Therefore, engaging developer communities has become a key element of marketing for many digital businesses.

Digital Marketing Channels

A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.

Field Marketing

Field marketing is a general term that encompasses face-to-face marketing activities carried out in the field. These activities may include street promotions, conferences, sales, and various forms of experiential marketing. Field marketing, therefore, refers to any marketing activity that is performed in the field.

Funnel Marketing

interaction with a brand until they become a paid customer and beyond. Funnel marketing is modeled after the marketing funnel, a concept that tells the company how it should market to consumers based on their position in the funnel itself. The notion of a customer embarking on a journey when interacting with a brand was first proposed by Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. Funnel marketing typically considers three stages of a non-linear marketing funnel. These are top of the funnel (TOFU), middle of the funnel (MOFU), and bottom of the funnel (BOFU). Particular marketing strategies at each stage are adapted to the level of familiarity the consumer has with a brand.

Go-To-Market Strategy

A go-to-market strategy represents how companies market their new products to reach target customers in a scalable and repeatable way. It starts with how new products/services get developed to how these organizations target potential customers (via sales and marketing models) to enable their value proposition to be delivered to create a competitive advantage.


The term “greenwashing” was first coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986 at a time when most consumers received their news from television, radio, and print media. Some companies took advantage of limited public access to information by portraying themselves as environmental stewards – even when their actions proved otherwise. Greenwashing is a deceptive marketing practice where a company makes unsubstantiated claims about an environmentally-friendly product or service.

Grassroots Marketing

Grassroots marketing involves a brand creating highly targeted content for a particular niche or audience. When an organization engages in grassroots marketing, it focuses on a small group of people with the hope that its marketing message is shared with a progressively larger audience.

Growth Marketing

Growth marketing is a process of rapid experimentation, which in a way has to be “scientific” by keeping in mind that it is used by startups to grow, quickly. Thus, the “scientific” here is not meant in the academic sense. Growth marketing is expected to unlock growth, quickly and with an often limited budget.

Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that seeks to utilize low-cost and sometimes unconventional tactics that are high impact. First coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book of the same title, guerrilla marketing works best on existing customers who are familiar with a brand or product and its particular characteristics.

Hunger Marketing

Hunger marketing is a marketing strategy focused on manipulating consumer emotions. By bringing products to market with an attractive price point and restricted supply, consumers have a stronger desire to make a purchase.

Integrated Communication

Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is an approach used by businesses to coordinate and brand their communication strategies. Integrated marketing communication takes separate marketing functions and combines them into one, interconnected approach with a core brand message that is consistent across various channels. These encompass owned, earned, and paid media. Integrated marketing communication has been used to great effect by companies such as Snapchat, Snickers, and Domino’s.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy designed to attract customers to a brand with content and experiences that they derive value from. Inbound marketing utilizes blogs, events, SEO, and social media to create brand awareness and attract targeted consumers. By attracting or “drawing in” a targeted audience, inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing which actively pushes a brand onto consumers who may have no interest in what is being offered.

Integrated Marketing

Integrated marketing describes the process of delivering consistent and relevant content to a target audience across all marketing channels. It is a cohesive, unified, and immersive marketing strategy that is cost-effective and relies on brand identity and storytelling to amplify the brand to a wider and wider audience.

Marketing Mix

The marketing mix is a term to describe the multi-faceted approach to a complete and effective marketing plan. Traditionally, this plan included the four Ps of marketing: price, product, promotion, and place. But the exact makeup of a marketing mix has undergone various changes in response to new technologies and ways of thinking. Additions to the four Ps include physical evidence, people, process, and even politics.

Marketing Myopia

Marketing myopia is the nearsighted focus on selling goods and services at the expense of consumer needs. Marketing myopia was coined by Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt in 1960. Originally, Levitt described the concept in the context of organizations in high-growth industries that become complacent in their belief that such industries never fail.

Marketing Personas

Marketing personas give businesses a general overview of key segments of their target audience and how these segments interact with their brand. Marketing personas are based on the data of an ideal, fictional customer whose characteristics, needs, and motivations are representative of a broader market segment.

Meme Marketing

Meme marketing is any marketing strategy that uses memes to promote a brand. The term “meme” itself was popularized by author Richard Dawkins over 50 years later in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. In the book, Dawkins described how ideas evolved and were shared across different cultures. The internet has enabled this exchange to occur at an exponential rate, with the first modern memes emerging in the late 1990s and early 2000s.


Microtargeting is a marketing strategy that utilizes consumer demographic data to identify the interests of a very specific group of individuals. Like most marketing strategies, the goal of microtargeting is to positively influence consumer behavior.

Multi-Channel Marketing

Multichannel marketing executes a marketing strategy across multiple platforms to reach as many consumers as possible. Here, a platform may refer to product packaging, word-of-mouth advertising, mobile apps, email, websites, or promotional events, and all the other channels that can help amplify the brand to reach as many consumers as possible.

Multi-Level Marketing

Multi-level marketing (MLM), otherwise known as network or referral marketing, is a strategy in which businesses sell their products through person-to-person sales. When consumers join MLM programs, they act as distributors. Distributors make money by selling the product directly to other consumers. They earn a small percentage of sales from those that they recruit to do the same – often referred to as their “downline”.

Net Promoter Score

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measure of the ability of a product or service to attract word-of-mouth advertising. NPS is a crucial part of any marketing strategy since attracting and then retaining customers means they are more likely to recommend a business to others.


Neuromarketing information is collected by measuring brain activity related to specific brain functions using sophisticated and expensive technology such as MRI machines. Some businesses also choose to make inferences of neurological responses by analyzing biometric and heart-rate data. Neuromarketing is the domain of large companies with similarly large budgets or subsidies. These include Frito-Lay, Google, and The Weather Channel.


Newsjacking as a marketing strategy was popularised by David Meerman Scott in his book Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. Newsjacking describes the practice of aligning a brand with a current event to generate media attention and increase brand exposure.

Niche Marketing

A microniche is a subset of potential customers within a niche. In the era of dominating digital super-platforms, identifying a microniche can kick off the strategy of digital businesses to prevent competition against large platforms. As the microniche becomes a niche, then a market, scale becomes an option.

Push vs. Pull Marketing

We can define pull and push marketing from the perspective of the target audience or customers. In push marketing, as the name suggests, you’re promoting a product so that consumers can see it. In a pull strategy, consumers might look for your product or service drawn by its brand.

Real-Time Marketing

Real-time marketing is as exactly as it sounds. It involves in-the-moment marketing to customers across any channel based on how that customer is interacting with the brand.

Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing involves businesses and their brands forming long-term relationships with customers. The focus of relationship marketing is to increase customer loyalty and engagement through high-quality products and services. It differs from short-term processes focused solely on customer acquisition and individual sales.

Reverse Marketing

Reverse marketing describes any marketing strategy that encourages consumers to seek out a product or company on their own. This approach differs from a traditional marketing strategy where marketers seek out the consumer.


Remarketing involves the creation of personalized and targeted ads for consumers who have already visited a company’s website. The process works in this way: as users visit a brand’s website, they are tagged with cookies that follow the users, and as they land on advertising platforms where retargeting is an option (like social media platforms) they get served ads based on their navigation.

Sensory Marketing

Sensory marketing describes any marketing campaign designed to appeal to the five human senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are enabling marketers to design fun, interactive, and immersive sensory marketing brand experiences. Long term, businesses must develop sensory marketing campaigns that are relevant and effective in eCommerce.

Services Marketing

Services marketing originated as a separate field of study during the 1980s. Researchers realized that the unique characteristics of services required different marketing strategies to those used in the promotion of physical goods. Services marketing is a specialized branch of marketing that promotes the intangible benefits delivered by a company to create customer value.

Sustainable Marketing

Sustainable marketing describes how a business will invest in social and environmental initiatives as part of its marketing strategy. Also known as green marketing, it is often used to counteract public criticism around wastage, misleading advertising, and poor quality or unsafe products.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing is a marketing strategy skewed toward offering a great experience to existing customers and incentivizing them to share it with other potential customers. That is one of the most effective forms of marketing as it enables a company to gain traction based on existing customers’ referrals. When repeat customers become a key enabler for the brand this is one of the best organic and sustainable growth marketing strategies.

360 Marketing

360 marketing is a marketing campaign that utilizes all available mediums, channels, and consumer touchpoints. 360 marketing requires the business to maintain a consistent presence across multiple online and offline channels. This ensures it does not miss potentially lucrative customer segments. By its very nature, 360 marketing describes any number of different marketing strategies. However, a broad and holistic marketing strategy should incorporate a website, SEO, PPC, email marketing, social media, public relations, in-store relations, and traditional forms of advertising such as television.

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