Published 3 years ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Innocent Drinks/Facebook
If consumers are to embrace sustainable products en masse, they need better information to be able to make an informed choice — and this is where marketeers have a vital role to play.
Producers of consumer goods and services can no longer ignore
market demand for more sustainable offerings. Generation Z already makes up 40
percent of global consumers; and research in the
shows their clear preferences for products and brands that can create positive
impacts in the world — and they’re willing to pay 10 percent
to support those that do so. A similar story is reflected in the EU, where a
reported that 78 percent of consumers found the likely environmental impact of
household appliances ‘very important’ or ‘fairly important’ when making their
choices. Pitching the environmental benefits of a product (and its packaging) or
service is now an integral part of a marketeer’s day job.
of online sustainability claims in the EU found that a whopping 40 percent was
deemed as ‘greenwashing,’ with false and exaggerated claims. This kind of
mis-information is not only frustrating for consumers, it is preventing the
advancement of a sustainable and/or circular economy. If consumers are to
embrace sustainable products, they need better information to be able to make an
informed choice — and this is where marketeers have a vital role to play.
Here are seven steps to success for authentically marketing your company’s
Collaborating with other departments is essential to find the sweet-spot between
consumer demand and your unique selling proposition. Typically, the marketing
department is most in tune with market needs and new opportunities, while the
R&D department understands the impacts of certain design decisions. High-level
conversations tend to reflect cost savings in order to deliver to budget and on
time. However, conversations with the people who actually delivered those
savings will often reveal that they were achieved through energy-saving
measures, use of alternative materials, product weight reduction, or resource
and transport efficiencies.
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Making this information easily available to your customers is where the skills
of the marketeers come in. UK brands such as Innocent
and Fat Face use improvements
to their packaging as ways to engage their consumers, and demonstrate that facts
and figures about sustainability don’t have to be in the small print.
Without supporting explanation, these words are empty and don’t add value. It
may be surprising, but often brands often don’t want to publicize the measures
they have taken to make their products more sustainable. Our CEO, Willemijn
Peeters, gives an example: “Our clients frequently ask us how they can
contribute to the prevention of plastic
A really effective way to make a significant impact is to use recycled material,
and we regularly help brands to do this. However, they are then hesitant about
marketing this change — believing there is a stigma around quality.”
By persuading brands that features such as recycled content are desirable and
should be promoted, marketeers can substantiate their sustainability claims by
providing the details that today’s consumers are demanding
Another example from a Searious Business
client shows how providing clear information brought fruitful results: Our
client in the furniture sector was interested in reducing waste — so, we worked
on making one particular product circular by optimizing the design for easy
repair, disassembly and recyclability. The client switched from selling sofas to
selling seating as a service, with a deposit return scheme on every item
delivered. The marketing department was fully engaged with the ‘zero waste’
target; and the company quickly won its biggest-ever tender, to supply furniture
to a government organization.
Consumers are aware of greenwashing in advertising and understandably want
solid evidence about sustainability claims. Tell them where they can find
out further information about sourcing, manufacturing processes, etc — and
make the information easy to comprehend.
When conveying information about the environmental impact of a product,
simplifying the communication isn’t always the best answer. For example, just
because a product can be recycled in theory, doesn’t mean that it is easy to
recycle in reality. The geographical variations in recycling capability are well
known; so, marking a product such as a plastic bag as “recyclable” is about as
helpful as saying that Timbuktu is “commutable.” Adopt a clear labelling
that is relevant to the specific product, as
well as the location of your customers. Reinforce this information by telling
your customers why a product has high potential for recyclability — for example,
mono-materials are generally easier to recycle than multi-layer materials.
What is the problem that is being solved? Marketeers should communicate not only
what is being done to improve a company’s
but why action is needed. If consumers understand the extent of the issue of the
take-make-break cycle, they will be more inclined to look for a more sustainable
option. Provide clear information about the issues and be transparent about your
roadmap towards improvement. Listen to your customer base, embrace suggestions
and avoid excuses.
For the last century, the focus on convenience has led to a faster-paced society and a throw-away culture. For today’s more conscious consumer,
convenience now means ease of use without waste and a mindful approach to
health, happiness and prosperity. By adjusting the message about convenience
marketeers can both future proof their business, and create a trend for more
sustainable habits to the benefit of people everywhere, and the planet.
New initiatives and government policies are being introduced all over the
world to drive a circular economy — including Europe’s Circular Economy
Action Plan and the
just-launched Regional Coalition on Circular
for Latin America and the Caribbean. Business needs a license to
operate in this new economy — and it’s time for marketing departments to
collaborate with product developers to drive it forward.
Published Feb 12, 2021 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
Emma is a British expat living in the Netherlands. Suffering from a severe Netflix addiction, she enjoys spontaneity and procrastination in equal measure. She is proud to join the fight against plastic pollution by spreading the word to the ears that matter.