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Responsible marketing: A sustainable connection

22nd Aug 2017
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Sustainability is more than just a buzzword; it’s a commitment, a culture that can make a break a company. In today’s marketplace, businesses that make sustainability and environmentalism central operational concerns are more likely to earn positive public attention and build a loyal customer base. Still, there are multiple layers to a sustainability-oriented strategy and every company needs to understand how to address these issues within their field.

Perception, Politics, And Profits

In many ways, the logic of corporate sustainability is a straightforward one. Consumers care about the environment and many will spend more money to support companies that focus on sustainable production. It makes social responsibility profitable.

Take Pepsi’s Performance with Purpose program as an example of smart, environmentally conscious business management. According to PepsiCo’s CEO Indra Nooyi, Performance with Purpose provides corporate direction by focusing on sustainable, locally sensitive operations in global communities. It reduces the company’s environmental footprint, boosts productivity, and when paired with shareholder education, the program feeds into long-term profitability.

In addition to driving profit, sustainable business practices are good for public relations. The simple fact is that customers talk – 38% of customers in the UK post about positive brand interactions on social media, and a much larger percentage will tell family and friends about positive business experiences. That being said, 31% will also post on social media about negative interactions. Businesses know that pushing sustainable practices will gain them positive attention – and the reach of even average citizens on social media can be extensive. What customers say can have serious consequences.

Communicating Commitments

What your business does behind closed doors can’t benefit you if customers don’t know about it, which is why a communication strategy is a key component of any sustainability project. This, of course, looks different depending on the field and how your customer base typically interacts with your brand.

In traditional fields like banking, documents such as annual reports are the norm when it comes to communications. Annual reports include key disclosures, describe operations and earning information, and for serious investors, these reports provide everything they need to know to make smart financial decisions. In the past, though, sustainability initiatives and environmental impact statements wouldn’t have been considered worthy of an annual report – but the times are changing.

In a groundbreaking recent lawsuit, Environmental Justice Australia sued Australia’s Commonwealth Bank for failure to disclose information about the company’s environmental impacts. EJA claims that failure to disclose such information means investors can’t make informed, long-term assessments about investing in the bank since issues such as climate change, for example, can impact the housing market.

Ultimately, the failure by Commonwealth Bank to disclose this information – and the public commentary on that – is likely to impact the bank more severely than if they had disclosed the environmental concerns in the first place.  This is one advantage of digitally driven communications; companies can speak generally about environmental concerns in their niche in a manner that’s ongoing and contextually appropriate.

After the lead poisoning scandal in Flint, Michigan caused by a change in the water delivery system, lead is back on everyone’s radar; so while lead paint has been banned in the United States for several decades, real estate agents are being more forthright than ever about the risks of lead poisoning. Visit a site like Morgan Lane Real Estate, a California based agency, and you’ll find a clear exposition on the risks of lead paint and how homebuyers can avoid and address the issue.

Morgan Lane Real Estate’s discussion of lead paint risks is the kind of upfront communication that customers expect and respect, and we’re going to see more campaigns of this nature every year as social responsibility becomes the norm rather than the exception.

As of Summer 2017, General Mills is labeling products containing GMOs because this is a core customer concern. People associate GMOs with potential health dangers and a general sense of experimentation and mystery. Labeling these products is a form of responsiveness and outreach, meeting customers where they’re at around a modern cultural concern.

The Enterprise Of Engagement

When we think about the big picture at the corporate level, it’s clear that social responsibility campaigns, such as those that emphasize sustainability, are vital to modern customer engagement. Such efforts are a way of demonstrating a broad commitment to the community, building customer loyalty, and boosting your brand’s reputation. They also help boost organic promotion because these campaigns get customers talking.

National energy brand PG&E’s customer engagement campaign is a prime example of how social responsibility can benefit a brand. In addition to boosting their customer service efforts and increasing responsiveness, PG&E’s energy saving efforts stem from the fact that they take sustainability seriously. They’re saving their customers’ money but they’re also protecting the environment and reaping the rewards.

More than ever before, money follows responsibility. It follows the brands that live their values but consumers can only spend accordingly when you communicate with them. Tell your customers what you’re doing to take care of the world beyond the four walls of your office, to take care of their world. Answer to their concerns and cement long-term loyalty.

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