For some time now, environmental sustainability has been one of the most relevant issues at a global level and it is involving governments, companies, and consumers.
Consumers have never been as environmentally aware as they are today, and this is impacting the organizational and commercial processes of companies. The importance of communicating sustainability for a company is increasing dramatically on a global scale.
The idea that respect for the environment must also be a corporate responsibility and not just an individual one is increasingly shared. In fact, according to Ipsos research, 60% of Italians expect to see a concrete commitment from companies to solve social and environmental problems. In the last six years, the %age of those who claim to be familiar with the concept of sustainability has tripled, rising from 12% in 2014 to 36% in 2019. Consequently, the attention towards the actions that each person can implement every day to protect and respect the community and the environment is also growing. In particular, 66 Italians out of 100 perceive themselves to be very attentive to environmental issues, and 64 out of 100 say that their sensitivity in this area has grown in recent years.
Companies can no longer worry only about their product, but must take a stand on important issues outside of business. Consumers, likewise, are more likely to buy from environmentally conscious companies.
In fact, companies are increasingly designing new solutions to meet the new environmentally conscious trends within the vast majority of markets.
Environmental sustainability is a precise corporate strategy that was created both to meet the needs of increasingly attentive consumers and for ethical reasons, in addition to a progressively stringent regulatory framework on these aspects.
The worsening of environmental problems worldwide, starting from the high presence of plastic in the seas and oceans of the world, global warming, the consumption of raw materials, and waste disposal, have pushed international bodies and, as a cascade, companies and individual consumers, to review their habits, particularly in the production field.
It is no coincidence that the UN has defined 17 Sustainable Development Goals that must be achieved by 2030 on a global level by all member countries. This means that every country on the planet is called upon to make its contribution to tackling these major challenges together.
Today, the resources consumed by the global population are greater than those that the ecosystems can provide. In order for social and economic development to take place within a framework of sustainability, our society must drastically change its way of producing and consuming goods.
Specifically, Goal 12 defined by the UN promotes the implementation of the 10-year program for a model of sustainable consumption and production. The goal is to use an environmentally friendly approach to chemicals and waste. The volume of waste will have to be significantly decreased, among other things through recovery. Food waste will have to be halved. Businesses will need to be spurred on to more sustainable business management.
What is green marketing
As never before in this socio-economic context, every brand has an ever-increasing need to communicate sustainability and direct its actions under a banner of “green,” thus communicating its values through concrete choices, creating solutions that look at the global welfare and, through concrete actions to reduce expenses, showing an eco-sustainable image and enhancing green marketing strategies.
In the economic context, green marketing refers to all activities that contribute to the development, marketing, and promotion of products and services capable of generating a lower environmental impact compared to the alternatives offered on the market.
The objective is to set the stages of production, marketing, and use of a product in such a way as to convince consumers to opt for a conscious and environmentally sustainable consumption.
Green marketing is used by companies to build or strengthen their image as ecologically sensitive, but also and above all to spread and make normal new lifestyles and consumption habits that make the environment and social concerns the primary drivers of choice, both shared and accepted (Grant, 2007). Green marketing, in fact, has the long-term objective of changing lifestyles and upgrading consumption, making the ecological alternative perceived as normal and acceptable and, consequently, the offer of green products and services as attractive and preferable. This is exactly the opposite of greenwashing, which tries to make normal business activities seem “green.”
Greenwashing means promoting using positive environmental ideals without these ideals really being part of the company’s values. It involves building a falsified image of the company, often to hide the very negative impact it has on the environment.
This type of promotion is very risky. It is true that consumers expect companies to be environmentally sustainable, but it is also true that they tend to be reluctant to believe in the total truth of their claims. That’s why it takes constancy and, above all, consistency to build a company’s image. Attributing an attention to the environment that does not actually exist can be very risky for a company’s reputation.
Therefore, in order to avoid the risk of greenwashing, there must always be transparency and consistency between a company’s objectives and its actions, and all the objectives achieved must be demonstrable with certifications.
The attention that the media is giving to these issues is increasingly influencing more consumers, who are now looking for companies and products that are able to respect the principles of environmental sustainability in terms of green marketing.
Green marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate social responsibility has an economic return, according to the Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability, a study conducted by interviewing 30,000 internet users in 60 countries, including Italy to analyze consumer behavior regarding the social responsibility of consumer goods manufacturers.
Globally, sales of products from brands that are active in being socially and ethically responsible grew by more than 4%* in the last year, compared to other brands that grew by less than 1%. Sixty-six % of consumers say they are willing to pay more for a “responsible” brand, an upward trend from 55% in 2014 and 50% in 2013.
Significant differences can be seen between North America and Europe, where only 44% and 51% respectively are willing to pay more for a responsible brand, compared to other areas where growth or urbanization rates are much higher, resulting in stress on the environment and people. In South America, the percentage rises to 71%, in Africa and the Middle East/Pakistan to 75%, to reach the highest among consumers in Asia Pacific and Southeast Asia (76% and 80% respectively).
Italians are aligned with the rest of Europe, with 52% of consumers recognizing a higher price for so-called “green” products. It should be noted that this is a growing trend, starting with 32% in 2013, a trend shared at the European level.
In a vast panorama of choices, the reasons why people buy one product over another stem from a number of factors. As environmental and social concerns grow, understanding how much consumers’ feelings are reflected in their actions is crucial. Therefore, the analysis assessed the importance of factors such as the social or environmental commitment of companies and products on purchase motivations.
There are great opportunities for companies that adopt a green marketing strategy and thus manage to combine environmental and economic sustainability, combined with efficiency.
Consumers are willing to spend up to 15% more for the same product to choose one that meets the dictates of environmental sustainability.
It is also true that it is no longer enough to talk about sustainability and state that you believe in these values to win the favor of the public.
Today, we need real data on the brand’s concrete commitment to create a solid and credible image, based on sustainable aspects through the construction of a healthy business not in the short term, but in the long term, through dedicated investments.
The other key factor, in addition to transparency, is to be able to effectively communicate this commitment to environmental sustainability, because even today these aspects allow access to new and fruitful markets.
The best examples of Green Marketing
Now, we’d like to mention some of the best examples of sustainable marketing, i.e. companies that are socially responsible and actively considering the long-term environmental impacts of their business practices. Some companies have used green marketing campaigns to promote sustainable core values.
Starbucks, the North American coffee giant, is committed to engaging its community in environmental sustainability issues. It has issued a $1 billion Sustainability Bond intended both to support more ethical coffee growing at its locations and the Greener Stores initiative, through which the company also plans to reduce waste. Starbucks uses 30% less water and 25% less energy during its production processes. It also uses eco-friendly materials to produce, package and deliver your product to consumers.
Both aim to make both products and stores more social and environmentally friendly. But it has gone further by planning to eliminate all plastic straws by 2020 and opening 10,000 green stores by 2025.
Ikea, on the other hand, uses many tactics and sources to manage waste and renew energy: 90% of its buildings have solar panels, it uses wind farms to generate power, it has planted millions of trees, and the company sends only 15% of its waste to landfills.
Ikea has received many awards for its environmental sustainability efforts. It is recognized by Impact Company for demonstrating respect for human and economic rights, as well as for its contribution to the environment through regenerative efforts. Ikea doesn’t plan to stop there; it is currently working towards 100% renewable energy.
Levissima, on the occasion of World Water Day 2019 and in collaboration with Legambiente, launched the Plastic Free initiative, which set the goal of minimizing the purchase and use of plastic bottles in its many points of sale. As part of its initiative, the company installed filtered and revitalized municipal water sources. Levissima then confirmed its position as a green company, inaugurating in Genoa a point of sale designed with a view to total sustainability, equipped with a photovoltaic system, which enables energy to be captured from renewable sources to produce energy. Moreover, the heat emitted by the refrigeration systems is recovered in order to minimize CO2 emissions into the environment.
Instead, Nestlé has focused its environmental strategy on packaging. The company is committed to making 100% of its containers reusable or recyclable by 2025. Nestlé’s main goal is to help its consumers reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 million tons by 2030 by offering more and more green solutions, from fuels for highway and air transportation (which are currently able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90% compared to fossil fuels, rising to 80% for aviation fuel), from the production of polymers and other plastic material from renewable sources to the recycling of organic materials (such as waste oil and animal fats) to be transformed into new energy. By 2025, the intention is to recycle 100% of organic waste (currently at 80%); from 2030 onward, Nestlé aims to process more than one million tons of plastic.
We have seen how large companies have put green marketing as a top priority. To conclude, we can say that environmental responsibility and sustainability must be seriously considered and included within a company’s green marketing strategy, both to respect our ecosystem that is asking us for help and to take advantage of the enormous opportunities that the market offers.
Interested in marketing?