5 trends in sustainable marketing

02 feb 2020, karen defranc

Sustainability is no longer just hype. The demand for less disposable products-profits-quantity and more circularity-humanity-quality no longer only comes from a handful of concerned families. It is repeated more and more loudly by your lover, friends, colleagues, coach, brother, the next in line at the baker’s, even your talkative neighbour across the street. And start-ups, as well as more experienced entrepreneurs, are responding with a new way of working, producing and selling. These five trends have since become an integral part of sustainable marketing.


What is sustainable marketing?

Sustainable marketing is marketing aimed at sustainable development. This is generally defined as: 'Meeting the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same'. With sustainable marketing, you want to give your new lover and that nice neighbour what they need, without depleting the world’s resources.


1. Socially responsible digitalisation

Digitalisation ensures more transparency and a larger scope. It connects people worldwide and makes everything measurable and discussable. Thanks to a clear app or an easily accessible website and a strongly developed online community, you know what is going on in the lives of your target audience and you can share your organisation’s insights to try and do things differently together. Patagonia’s Black Friday campaign is a great example of this: the clothing company repeated its successful 2011 marketing campaign with one effective online ad, on the biggest shopping day of the year (in the US).


2. Disruptive innovation

Things have changed: products are out, solutions are in. The entrepreneurs of tomorrow are redefining concepts of mobility, heating, lighting... you name it. And they tend to find solutions through flexible services rather than rigid objects. This is why Philips has come up with light as a service, a subscription or leasing contract for lighting, you can share your car and travel expenses on BlaBlaCar, and Too Good To Go provides shops with a platform to sell their food scraps - offering people a great way to grab a cheap meal and save good food.

products are out, solutions are in.

3. Less choice

Less is more, and better. Retailers know that they have to have a clear focus if they want to differentiate themselves from their competitors. That’s why supermarket chain Lidl opts for fairtrade chocolate and Delhaize for sustainably caught or grown fish. By limiting their offer, they increase their social commitment and make it easier for their customers to make a choice.


4. Environmental commitment

Climate change is a hot topic. Terms like ‘plastic soup’, ‘zero waste’, ‘impact’, ‘upcycling’ and ‘eco-design’ are booming on news sites, social media, in trams and at baselines. The environmental crisis has become a direct reason for companies to re-evaluate and/or reposition their activities. Because they should. Because they want to take responsibility for their part in the problem. And it pays off, both for those companies and for the planet. More and more brands stop using (disposable) packaging and call in consultancy agencies like CO2logic to neutralise their carbon emissions before, during and after the production process. Committed organisations like vdk bank and Unilever join independent climate initiatives and organise team-building activities related to ecology, thanks to pioneers like Plastic Whale.


5. Humanity & employer branding

The social pillar of sustainability is also gaining popularity. The purpose of your organisation and each individual within that organisation has become a condition to motivate your employees and turn them into real brand ambassadors. Successful companies recognise the importance of personal development and investments in the growth of each individual. They improve their organisational structure and culture with happiness managers, autonomous teams, periodical feedback moments, team-building activities, #trashfreetuesdays, and after-work events on Fridays. This month we started a Team Development project with Quinx.

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