This episode of EnvironMental answers the question, What is Sustainable Marketing?
We’re on a mission to embed sustainability into mainstream conversations around the world. We operate two businesses dedicated to sustainability, Dandelion Branding and the Living Brand Directory.
Although we’ve been on this sustainable marketing journey since 2019 and we have been investigating sustainability with EnvironMental Podcast since 2020, this is our first time combining the two! So in this episode, we’re finally talking about how we infuse sustainability into our digital marketing business every day.
What is sustainable marketing?
Just like the idea of global sustainability, when it comes to marketing, “sustainable” has several meanings.
We always work with brands that are dedicated to their sustainable journey. We help them communicate their brand values and stay transparent with their sustainability goals. Just like with the brands on our directory, our clients are LIVING brands, they’re not perfect. But they’re working on it.
When it comes to answering, “what is sustainable marketing?”, we prioritize two definitions:
- Making holistic marketing strategies that are maintainable for the brand in time, effort, and money over time.
- Choosing marketing methods that have a lower carbon footprint.
It seems simple enough, but after years of working in this industry, we know there are a lot of challenges along the way.
Sustainable Marketing Challenges
Some of the challenges that sustainable brands face in marketing are because of marketing industry norms and others are just because navigating communication around sustainability is, itself, challenging.
Marketing is an unregulated industry
Anyone can say they’re a marketer. Anyone can tell you that they’ll build you a website, write your articles, build you a strategy, help with SEO, write emails, or run paid ads.
This is the number one challenge that we see. Sustainable brand owners take on additional overhead when they work to find better sourcing, sustainable ingredients, plastic-less packaging, and longer-lasting options. More often than not, caring about your supply chain doesn’t leave a huge marketing budget.
Unfortunately, the marketers that charge bottom rate prices, are most often not going to be the best quality agencies. There’s no standard for pricing, quality, or client relationships. More often than not, our clients have had experiences with agencies that have left them wanting.
Choose a marketer that focuses on sustainable marketing, and can produce examples of their work is very important for sustainable brands – more so than a typical business.
Sustainable brands have to go above and beyond with content marketing
Sustainable brands cannot afford to tell half their story.
You have to share it all, and share it transparently. Because sustainable audiences are dedicated to conscious consumerism, they often don’t impulse buy. That means paid advertising isn’t going to be as successful IF you’re trying to go straight to purchase.
There is a balance between teaching folks about how to live a sustainable lifestyle and to sell products to them. Striking that balance will build brand trust and loyalty over time.
Greenwashing is getting more sophisticated
Greenwashing is extremely detrimental to sustainable brands.
The obvious issue with greenwashing is that it causes misplaced trust in brands that aren’t doing real good for the planet. Consumers have to get better at spotting greenwashing and marketing wordsmithery.
The less obvious issue is how as greenwashing gets more sophisticated, it becomes more difficult for small, sustainable brands to communicate about their own sustainability issues.
The Green hush
The Green Hush is a new term in sustainable marketing. It’s where small, sustainable brands are afraid to share their efforts and goals for fear of the eco-cancel culture.
Between non-eco brands investing in greenwashing to increase their profits and sustainable business owners NOT investing in transparent, holistic marketing methods – there’s a huge trust gap in communication.
Maintainable Marketing Strategies
This is the least talked definition of sustainable marketing. It’s about making sure that it’s sustainable, maintainable for you.
It’s important to know that more isn’t more. The algorithms are shifting to sharing quality. You can post 5 times a day, but your audience aren’t going to see all your posts unless you’re sharing extremely relevant, high quality content. Instead of spending your energy on posting a ton, focus on quality and consistency.
Maybe that’s one blog post a month and 2-3 weekly social posts. Can you do extra one week? Schedule it!
7 Ways to be sustainable with your marketing
When we talked to Toby, he gave some real insight into where sustainability can play a role, which is in energy consumption. The energy consumption of sending data packets with google searches, streaming sites, etc makes a big difference. There’s energy from server to server, but also from a server to a device.
1 – SEO
SEO is one of the most sustainable marketing strategies. Optimizing your content leads to less unqualified traffic AND better targeted traffic!
2 – Repurpose content
Reduce and reuse are just as important when it comes to sustainable marketing as it is on your lifelong sustainability journey. Rewrite and reuse content that you already have on your website! It saves space cause you’re not adding more content (more weight) to your site. Leave the link alone, identify SEO keywords for your articles, and update your content!
3 – Deleting pages and plugins that you don’t need or use
Every time your website loads, it loads all the pages and all the code on your site. If you’re not using a plugin, remove it. If you don’t need all those landing pages – remove them! This will help with the weight of your site living on servers.
Along with this, use plugins efficiently. Lots of apps and plugins can be used in more than one way. Before you download a new app or plugin, see if you can use something you’ve already got on your site.
4 – Smaller images on your website
Make your images smaller. When you download from stock photo sites, photos are often huge. Be considerate of the image sizes you upload to your site because rich media is often the heaviest part of your website.
Additionally, try to use .jpg images, they’re typically smaller file sizes than .png images.
5 – Watch your site speed
We don’t put a lot of energy into improving site speed unless a site is really slow. In general, big, rich media files and outdated plugins are the reasons that a site loads slowly. If you notice that a page is loading slowly, figure out why. It’s likely you’ll identify a way to make your website a bit more sustainable.
6 – Choose a sustainable host/server
We use SiteGround, and we are also looking at GreenGeeks for hosting their sites.
SiteGround is carbon neutral, have redundant servers in the US and the EU, and they legit have great customer support. If you’re not using a sustainable site host right now, this is one of the best ways to change it up!
7 – Choose digital and be thoughtful about printed things
Instead of having a ton of printed materials, consider digital business cards. We use HiHello for our business cards where we can put a QR code on our phone screens. It’s so much better than having a card printed up that could be out of date soon!
When you are creating something for print, think about it. One example is that we just made a proposal for service and felt unsure if the board of the company would print it so we made a printable version! We removed rich imagery and used dark grey instead of rich black coloring for the text.