Being sustainable is getting more and more of a key issue for companies to show how they care about the environment.
Doing well for the world is what really matters for companies to create a lot of publicity and to attract a larger customer base. But there will always be a line between what is just to promote yourself and what is to make it a better world.
In the Netherlands we have a bottle, called Dopper. It´s just an empty plastic bottle, but everyone is carrying one and it´s a really hot item. Ten percent of the turnover will be given to a charity so they have a good story to tell. Use less disposable plastic bottles, by using Dopper and drinking tap water. Meanwhile a bit of your money will go to a charity, but no one knows how this ten percent is calculated and fits into the profit margin.
Now let’s take a look at the global jeans brand, G-star. They have launched a new fashion line using thread made from floating plastic rubbish recovered from the sea. So they are doing well for the environment and they use Pharell Williams to represent them. Pharell was on the Dutch television to talk about his life and his success. At the end he also used the interview as a platform to mention G-star’s new fashion line and how they use sustainability to clean up the oceans. Before he mentioned that he took the platform to talk about how well G-star is doing in general. As a result they created a lot of publicity, but would they still do this if they didn’t make a profit from it and didn’t get that publicity in general?
Then there is Unilever. I have been to their presentation about sustainable entrepreneurship. Although they are doing a lot with being sustainable, they talk about it a lot as well and they made it part of their marketing strategy. They are innovative in being sustainable, and that helped them to enter markets in countries where they previously had problems selling their products. For example, they launched a laundry soap that needed just ten percent of the normal water, so that´s great for the people in some African countries. However they do not spend money on getting more water for those people. Meanwhile, in contrast, in Western Europe, a lot of food is thrown away while Unilever encourage over consumption with special three for the price of two offers resulting in wasted food.
So what is the difference between helping the world or helping yourself to make a profit? It is an interesting question. I asked Unilever as well and they told me it´s all about keeping the feeling of being ethical. As a marketer I support brands’ sustainable entrepreneurship if they are genuinely concerned about the environment whether they are making a profit out of it or not. So both the consumer as the producer can feel satisfied that they are doing something good for the world.
To come back to my first question “Is marketing really sustainable?”. Probably yes, and it does not matter if you use sustainability to be commercially successful only as long as you feel that you are acting ethically yourself.
Gideon Tailleur – Retail Marketing specialist with omnichannel focus. Founder g-tail.com. Open for freelance possibilities. Follow me: @gideontailleur