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Published March 18th 2024

How to Market Your Sustainability as a Brand in 2024

This Global Recycling Day, we’re diving into why it’s important to market your brand’s sustainability efforts – and how to do it properly.

Worldwide investments in renewable energy are higher than ever before. Brands are continuing to focus on improving their sustainability initiatives, for the sake of the planet – and your profits.

With consumers demanding greener operations from their favorite brands, companies need to listen to see a benefit to their bottom line.

But what methods should brands implement to make customers aware of their sustainability efforts?

We dove into the online sustainability conversation to see what the sentiment is towards recycling and sustainability, and discover how you can market sustainable products and practices the right way.

Do consumers actually care about sustainable products?

We used Brandwatch Consumer Research to look at mentions about sustainability on social media, blogs, forums, and review sites over the last five years. And the results were intriguing.

Online mentions about sustainability and recycling are at the highest they’ve been. In the last few months, a number of things have contributed to this uptick in climate concerns, including Nigeria and Germany signing agreements towards sustainable developments and sustainable initiatives being revealed at technology event CES 2024.

In November, online mentions hit a peak of almost 5 million, showing just how important sustainability is for consumers right now.

So, how does this translate to business?

In January and February this year, 52% of online mentions about sustainability and recycling also mentioned brands, products, and services. This means consumers are actively discussing brands and products that promote – or avoid – sustainability.

A huge percentage of mentions about sustainable brands and products were positive, showing that consumers are quick to celebrate companies for their efforts towards sustainability.

Alternatively, it’s also common for brands to come under fire for not acknowledging or working towards incorporating greener practices.

So, it’s clear that working towards having a more sustainable brand or product is important for consumers. But how can you translate these efforts into bottom-line growth?

The power of marketing your sustainability efforts

Interestingly, some brands are anecdotally reporting an inability to generate sufficient consumer demand for sustainable products. So it’s understandable that some brands are skeptical about investing in greener operating methods.

But what do the facts say about the profitability of incorporating ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) initiatives into businesses?

McKinsey set out to answer this question: Is it actually beneficial to a brand’s bottom line to implement sustainability?

And as it turns out, yes – it is. Products making ESG-related claims averaged 28% cumulative growth over the past five-year period, versus 20% for products that made no such claims.

As McKinsey puts it, “Creating such products turns out to be not just a moral imperative but also a solid business decision.”

So, why are some brands not seeing any success with their sustainability efforts? In part, the answer can be found in their marketing efforts.

Marketing sustainable products effectively could be the deciding factor on whether consumers are receptive to your ESG activities. So, let's look at how your brand can ensure you benefit from your green initiatives.

How to market your sustainability efforts effectively

Let’s look at some ways you can keep sustainability at the forefront of your marketing efforts, and look at ways other brands are seeing success.

Release a report on your sustainability efforts

A deep dive into your business’ current sustainability standings is always a good place to start for any company wanting to improve their green initiatives. While this can be great for brands to have a format to assess their sustainability efforts internally, sharing your sustainability report online can also bring great publicity.

You don’t need to be perfectly sustainable to put effort into creating a sustainability report, either. If anything, acknowledging your downfalls and committing to improving over time is exactly what consumers want to see.

If you have a report, or you’re looking to make one, make sure you show it off online. Make it visible on your website, share it on social media, and consider keeping consumers in the loop over email.

Shipping and logistics company Maersk is a great example of leading with sustainability reports. The brand releases one every year in accordance with regulations to keep themselves accountable – but they don’t shy away from shouting about the report. Their ESG commitments – which include a comprehensive strategy to reach net zero across their business by 2040 – have a dedicated page on their website, making it easy for customers to learn and understand that sustainability is one of Maersk’s core values.

Customers are receptive to this kind of content too – there were over 13k mentions about Maersk’s sustainability initiatives on social media last year. And over 65% of emotion-categorized mentions expressed joy, proving there’s a largely positive reception to these initiatives.

The brand also regularly posts about their latest environmentally-friendly schemes to a receptive audience.

Committing to sustainable practices and demonstrating concrete changes to your operations can often be enough for customers (and potential customers) to be pleased with your green initiatives. So, if you have the resources, consider putting together – and showing off – a report analyzing your commitment to sustainability.

Utilize your packaging

If you’re looking for ways to show your customers that you’re committed to caring for the environment, why not consider your packaging?

Your packaging is something that is seen by all of your customers, so by tweaking the design – think reduced packaging, using sustainable or recycled materials, or seeking certifications – you can be certain that your sustainability initiatives will not go unnoticed.

Adding a small note about your sustainability on your packaging can be enough for customers to notice your green commitments. But if you’re really committed to sustainability – why not explore the possibility of giving your brand a complete overhaul? Let's delve into an example of additional steps a company can take for sustainability.

You could offer limited edition products that have a greener focus, or use more of your packaging’s real estate for your sustainability messaging. You could even alter your product entirely, offering “greener versions,” which might cost more, but where some of the profits go to relevant charities.

An excellent example of this is toilet paper retailer Who Gives A Crap, who offer 100% recycled toilet paper and packaging. The company is all about sustainability, which is a core value that eclipses their branding. They even donate 50% of their profits to “ensure everyone has access to clean water and a toilet.”

Their packaging is covered with nods towards their sustainability efforts, including both the box the paper is delivered in and the individual wrappers.

They also recently ran a campaign dedicated to raising awareness about deforestation. They reworked illustrations of the popular children’s character Winnie the Pooh, where Winnie and his friends are surrounded by felled tree stumps that represent the impact of land clearing to make traditional toilet paper.

And people were receptive. The brand released a series of Instagram post’s about the campaign which saw plenty of engagement, and many followers expressed their appreciation of the awareness campaign in the comments.

So why not consider implementing different packaging options, or simply tweaking your design slightly, to better market your green initiatives?

Focus on community through events

Sustainability is a physical problem, so you might argue some of your marketing campaigns should be too. Focus on ways you can host local events targeted at solving sustainability issues, or get involved in local communities to see how you can help.

Try to keep these activities relevant to your brand so consumers can make a connection between your brand and the messaging behind the event you’re hosting. An excellent example of this is the activewear brand Athleta, who hosted an activation in February aimed at recycling old leggings.

Athleta asked locals to bring used leggings from any brand in-store to exchange them for a brand new pair of Athleta leggings. Used leggings were then sold via resale platforms or recycled. The campaign was a hit – over 2,000 people showed up to the New York City store and queued for their free trade-in.

Athleta went a step further and promoted the activation after it happened with an online giveaway for those who missed out – making sure to keep non-local customers engaged too.

Promoting and engaging a community – both online and offline – is a trend we predict will dominate this year. And brands wanting to promote sustainability can utilize communities to assist in these efforts.

Roundup

It’s undoubtedly beneficial to work towards running a greener company – both for your brand image and for the planet. But it’s only advantageous to your profits if you market these sustainability efforts successfully.

From sharing ways you’re committed to greener operating practices to hosting events that showcase and encourage local sustainability, there are plenty of ways you can market your brand’s ESG efforts effectively.

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