In 2020, consumers expect the businesses they deal with to make a positive impact on both society and the environment. The ongoing pandemic has primarily shifted public attention towards our own health & wellbeing, including the environment we live in. What should brands do about this? The answer is green marketing.
What is Green Marketing?
Green Marketing, Eco-Marketing, Environmental Marketing – it has many names but essentially it’s the act of selling products or services based on their environmental appeal. This ranges from how products are manufactured to initiatives such as tree planting. Deforestation, air pollution, plastic waste – these are the issues that increasingly influence a consumer’s purchasing decision.
The pandemic has only exacerbated these attitudes. Months of lockdown and have made consumers more appreciative of their local green spaces and parks. The rise in remote-working is driving flocks of office employees away from the cities and into the countryside, in search of bigger gardens.
The idea of a post-pandemic ‘green recovery’ is rising in popularity. In fact, one report found that many people are willing to continue recent lifestyle changes to help tackle the climate emergency. Social distancing measures have led to more commuters cycling to work. People are spending more time at home, preparing home-cooked meals rather than grabbing a pre-packaged sandwich in town. Staycations in the Cotswolds have replaced city breaks in Barcelona. All these changes are making us more more appreciative of our natural spaces and incrementally shifting consumer attitudes towards environmentalism.
As we outlined in our piece on pandemic shopping behaviour, these lifestyle changes will inevitably influence where consumers purchase products and services moving forward. The age of the social-media led 24hr news cycle only encourages this further. Powerful images of wildfires raging in the US and flooding in South-East Asia draw attention to important environmental issues. Consumers don’t want to purchase from companies that support the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest, or fill the oceans with 18 billion pounds of plastic each year.
This doesn’t just apply to large, multinational conglomerates. Whether a small retailer or a local music venue, independent businesses are increasingly expected to ‘do their part’ in protecting our planet.
How can your business get involved?
Contrary to belief, you don’t have to make massive changes to your business to buy into the ‘green marketing’ movement. Before 2019, 4.7 billion straws were being used in England every year alone. They’ve since been formally banned, but the phasing-out of plastic straws initially driven by the businesses themselves, on the back of customer feedback. Whilst legislation does work (the 5p charge saw plastic bag usage drop by 90%), it’s better to be a leader when it comes to environmentally-beneficial changes. It’s one way to stand out in a highly competitive market.
Customers and businesses are often shocked at the sheer amount of plastic used in daily life. The world has become extremely reliant on synthetic materials in recent decades, and you’ll find it almost impossible to become a completely ‘plastic-free’ business.
A much more achievable goal would be to abstain from using single-use plastics, particularly on the consumer-facing side of your business. Set an example to customers by steadily omitting plastic bottles, takeaway containers and bags from your premises.
For E1MA’s new clothing project, Living Thing, environmentalism forms a key aspect of the brand. From the outset we understood the expectations of our target audience. All our products are made-to-order to reduce waste and made with 100% organic cotton. Even the packaging is plastic-free and fully biodegradable. The key takeaway here is to back-up your words with actions.
Communicating your green credentials
Modern consumers are very perceptive when it comes to ‘green-washing’. A relatively new term, green-washing is designed to “make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is”. This can have the opposite effect and cause customers to distrust your brand – honesty is the best policy.
Genuine changes are beneficial for the planet. They also can be folded into your communications strategy and help attract these environmentally-conscious audiences.
Show your commitment to the cause by setting environmental targets for your business and how you intend to meet them. Noisily Festival has their ‘Looking After the Woods Initiative’ with the goal of becoming a carbon-neutral festival and sending zero waste to the landfill. Every year they publish a Sustainability Review for all to see, and are transparent regarding progress.
The seriousness of a sustainability report gives authority to your words and builds trust. Other long-form content types such as blog posts can provide information to customers in a more colloquial manner. This is the approach our friends at Kapara take.
Many social and environmental movements gain traction on social media. Communicating your green credentials on your channels involves your brand in the wider conversation. Using the right hashtags and associating your brand with an awareness day (e.g. World Earth Day) to reach new audiences or remind current fans of your environmental practices.
The world through a period of immense change and uncertainty. Depending on your business’ circumstances, this could be the best or worst time to change how it operates. It’s easy to become intimidated by terms such as ‘environmentalism’ or ‘green recovery’ but as we’ve discussed, you don’t need a complete transformation. Taking small steps towards being more sustainable will not only protect the environment, but will help retain and attract conscious customers.