Global Marketing
Management Consultants
Global Marketing
Management Consultants
mobile-logo
Global Marketing
Management Consultants
Top

Managing Marketing – Sustainable marketing, what does it mean for marketers?

sustainable marketing
219
Page Views

Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Christopher Sewell, Managing Director of the Gaia Partnership chats with Darren on the benefits of sustainable marketing and the opportunities for companies committed to sustainability. Also discussed are the challenges and the considerations when embraced as a strategy.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Follow Managing Marketing on Soundcloud or iTunes

Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome. This week I’m talking to a long term friend and colleague, Christopher Sewell, who’s the CEO of Gaia Partnership, the creators of the C02 Counter. Hi Chris.

Christopher:

Hi Darren, thanks for having me.

Darren:

It’s a pleasure. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while because I think it was eight years ago, you started talking about sustainability and especially sustainability in business and then in marketing. Can you explain to me again, exactly what you mean by sustainability.

Christopher:

In a context of when we started talking about this, it was when I first met you and it was around measurement. We were trying to put all of these measurements and a matrix around how to make marketing better. The one thing that seemed to be missing was what we were doing about sustainability in the marketing field.

Lots of green products were out there and lots of green advertising was going on but there was no metric that said that this was actually a well-produced green product or a sustainable product so that was the challenge that we had.

Darren: 

Yeah, that’s right, because at the time, there was a lot of discussion and conversation in the media. I think we were leading up to Copenhagen, wasn’t it?

Christopher:

It was around about that time in Australia, there was a lot of interest in the environment. It was a bi-partisan agreement that there was something that was going to happen. Everyone was aligned so all the businesses got aligned as well, because there was going to be some policy coming into the market place which would force change so everyone was getting on board so it was a good time.

Green washing and offsetting is not sustainability

Darren:

Yeah and I remember because there was a conversation we had at that time about green washing. It had almost got to the point where, everyone was wanting to be environmentally responsible.

The cynicism had crept in about people deliberately green washing what they were saying about their product’s environmental sustainability. To the point that people were calling on them, right?

Christopher:

Yeah there was a short cut to actually become a green company, which was to do some spurious measurement around what your emissions were and then to offset them with some penny dreadful company.

Darren:

Buy a few offsets?

Christopher:

Yeah buy a few offsets and put the green banner out and then claim to be environmentally friendly but…

Darren:

That’s not sustainability.

Moving towards a triple bottom line

Christopher:

That’s not sustainability. Sustainability is having something built into your policy, the way you run your business and it should go the whole way through the business. Not just the marketing part of what you actually do, saying you’re green without really meaning it.

Darren:

Or the sales area…

Christopher:

Yeah.

Darren:

We’re the green choice, we’re the green choice!

Christopher:

Yeah. I think the encouraging thing, even without any guidance from the political parties in this country, has been that the businesses of now are starting to embed and join the sustainability reporting with their financial reporting.

So we don’t have these two separate documents, now we need to do something about sustainability. Companies actually understand this space now. They’re actually getting it together and putting it as part of their business, not something that they need to do.

Darren:

So even with the political environment changing, especially in Australia, it’s become part of the triple bottom line that they talk about. The idea of financial bottom line, social responsibility, corporate responsibility and sustainability, a part of that triple bottom line.

Christopher:

Yeah. As I say, the good thing is, it’s actually being joined. They’re talking about it in the same language, at the same time. They don’t try and separate the two.

What you see now, are things like the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. All the top companies, the listed companies out there, they are actually in that and trying to do this stuff properly as well.

They’re looking for reporting and are trying to do that throughout the business, not just in their products and services but also, the way they go to market as well. That is the area that we have started looking at. When you go to market, how can you be as targeted and, therefore, as green, which means sustainable as possible.

Darren:

Yeah, because there has been that shift, hasn’t there? It was all about carbon, now it’s all about sustainability.

Christopher:

Yeah.

Darren:

Because carbon’s only a very small part of the measure of sustainability, isn’t it?

Christopher:

It is, yeah. There are a lot of academic arguments about what sustainability is. One that comes up all the time is sustainable development, but that is normally confused with economic sustainability, where we’ll make money for a long term.

That’s not what we’re talking about here. It’s actually how to build a green product and service for the long term, so you’re here in twenty five years, and you go about that not just in your own business, but with the people you choose to do business with in your supply chain.

Darren:

I remember my mother, who was very involved in Girl Guiding, she brought up this concept of sustainability for me in the 70s.

Christopher:

Right.

Darren:

I remember she always said to me, whenever we’d go camping, she said, sustainability is when you walk away from the site, the next person that comes in finds it better, in a better place than when you arrived there.

She said that was sustainability well before any of this conversation. What do you think of that?

Christopher:

That’s exactly what it is. I think the term we’re using now, recycle was actually the term that was used.

Darren:

Yeah.

Christopher:

As long as you disposed of it and it actually got made into something else.

It shouldn’t be cradle to grave, now the term is cradle to cradle. It needs to actually come back as a useable product again and again that will be the big change and businesses are looking at that at the moment – taking the product back.

You see a lot of that coming out of Europe, we don’t hear about a lot of it in this country. Again that’s part of marketing, how do you take these products to marketing so that you can actually bring them back again?

What are the roles for marketers in a sustainable organisation?

Darren:

Yeah, because a lot of marketers seem to be suspicious or confused about the role of sustainability in marketing itself. I mean, in business when someone’s manufacturing or delivering something, it’s quite tangible. What do you think the roles are for marketers in being part of a sustainable organisation?

Christopher:

Well if there’s a policy in place, they normally have to reflect that with the way they communicate. But the more important thing is when they take those products and services to market, they do that in a sustainable way. So that’s understanding what impact you have in an environment when you talk to your potential customers.

There was the easy way out, that was, let’s put it on recycled paper.

Darren:

Oh yeah.

Christopher:

Nowadays, it’s let’s go digital. Now there are easy things to do where you can maybe tick the box. You begin being more sustainable than you were five years ago, but you haven’t actually benchmarked where you were. You haven’t really got a path to where you actually want to go, to allow a carbon future in the way you communicate.

You need to understand what they are. Again, it has always been in marketing it’s about targeting. It’s about reducing waste. It’s exactly the same language but it’s actually overlaying that with how sustainable can we be, how can we actually reduce the impact of getting to those customers?

Darren:

So that’s an interesting concept, because people in my experience are inclined to think of sustainability or being environmentally sound or friendly, as requiring a huge additional investment to actually meet the objectives.

But what I’m getting from what you’re saying, is that measuring sustainability actually goes to the very heart of reducing waste, which has to be about also reducing cost, wouldn’t it?

Sustainable marketing is about efficiency

Christopher:

They go hand in hand, they really do. Again with advertising, if we target better, you get to your customer easier, you don’t have to spend so much money. But if you target better, you also get a better, sustainable outcome. We take the carbon example, there’s less carbon emissions if you don’t do mass letter box drops when something can go out in a lot more efficient manner.

Darren:

Or mass display ads on digital.

Christopher:

Exactly.

Darren:

Electricity in this country is still a heavy carbon impacting resource, isn’t it?

Christopher:

Yeah and you need to actually understand what the impact is for what you are doing. There’s a great story we did a few years ago for a large brewery and they had a green beer…

Darren:

What, literally green?

Christopher:

No I don’t think it was…

Darren:

St. Patrick’s Day lager?

Christopher:

No it wasn’t a St. Patrick’s Day.

Darren:

All right, okay.

Christopher:

They were saying this is a carbon neutral beer…

Darren:

Right.

Christopher:

So therefore, they felt it was also necessary to understand when they advertised this, to sell lots of this product, that they were as green as possible. One of the things they decided to do was build these great big outdoor displays and put plants on them.

Darren:

To lock up the carbon.

Christopher:

To lock up the carbon and also to attract things and these are on a couple of major highways and they moved around the country. These things were great. They looked really green.

The problem was, when the lights went down at night time, they put these great big floodlights on it so there was this massive carbon footprint from these huge floodlights. That’s sucking up the grid obviously from the power generation, and they were actually causing this. But until we actually did some measurement and said, “You should understand that,” they went, “Oh, oh yeah.”

No one realised.

Darren:

Yeah.

Christopher:

They actually hadn’t bothered to look at it, or look at the communication and how it would be viewed, not the actual, the way it was actually measured and understood at that front end.

Darren:

So in your work with organisations, you’re obviously seeing a lot of corporations for instance, building this as part of the way they do business right?

Understand where you are, then identify where you can reduce impact without disrupting your business

Christopher:

Yeah. At the moment people need to understand where they are, that’s the first thing. To actually build a path. They’ve still got to run their business to sell their products and services. But the starting point is to understand where they are and then identify places over a period of time where they can actually reduce that impact they’re having without disrupting their business.

So a lot of companies are doing that, a lot of global companies are doing that. We’re seeing that come across from global companies, with no guidance from the government at all in most cases. There’s not much legislation, there is no legislation in this country that you need to measure, understand or reduce your carbon. That went out the window.

Darren:

So if I was a marketer in one of these organisations, they clearly have a strategy?

Christopher:

Sure.

Darren:

Or a commitment to sustainability.

Christopher:

Yeah.

What’s the best way forward for me as a marketer?

Darren:

So what would you suggest would be the best way forward for me as a marketer because I can imagine a lot of marketers sitting there going, “Oh another thing I have to do.”

Christopher:

Exactly but if there’s a policy and they are actually promoting the policy and reflecting the way the brand is positioned when they actually go out to market, there’s a bit of a corporate risk there. With social media and the way things are communicated someone could call them out if they’re actually not doing the right thing, they’re saying they’re doing the right thing but not doing it.

They might be doing a fantastic job, with how they go to market but if you don’t understand it, you don’t know. It’s guess work at the moment. As I say, recycled paper isn’t the answer, there’s actually a lot, lot more to it.

The first thing the enlightened companies are actually looking at is what they’re doing, measuring it, understanding it and as I say having a path to a lower carbon future and a more sustainable future.

Darren:

Because it’s very different in Europe, isn’t it, compared to for instance Australia? I read recently that Denmark is now producing 140% of their electricity needs through renewable sources and they’re actually exporting renewable energy to the other Scandinavian and Nordic countries. Whereas here, we have a government that says that coal is the future.

Christopher:

Yeah, coal is the future, it’s going to save the poor and you see vested interest. It’s actually a major export of this country, so can understand that metric, completely disagree with it but do understand where they’re coming from.

That’s the leadership and the guidance we’re getting at the moment. But as I say, you find any international company that’s doing business here, they’re just ploughing on regardless.

Darren:

Yeah.

Christopher:

There will be some legislation that will come in. It won’t affect advertisers on day one, it’s going to affect the big businesses but it actually will trickle down as time goes on. The idea here is, to be prepared. So start understanding where you are and then plot out where you want to get to. It will take time.

How the printing industry got sustainable

Darren:

It does take time because in your previous life, you were very much involved in print and print production, you’ve moved on and you’re now working across all aspects of business.

But the print world, is an example of an industry that got very smart, didn’t they, about learning to be more sustainable?

Christopher:

Yeah, there’s quite a few things…

Darren:

Beyond just recycled paper?

Christopher:

Yeah beyond recycled paper, there’s some good printers out there who are surviving. There’s a lot who haven’t and again it’s back to what we mentioned earlier. It’s about being more efficient in your operations. The ones that are still there have actually kept their equipment up to date, made sure they’ve got the actual premises working as efficiently as possible, put LED lights in, done everything that they can to ensure that…

Darren:

They reduce paper wastage.

Christopher:

Wastage, so therefore, shorter, less run-ons actually, less time to get the job up to speed and actually looking right. Lots of them invest in the software technology to allow all that to happen so it’s not hours spent on the press looking by eye to see that that’s the right colour. Trust the maths on this stuff and get it up and running quicker.

There’s a lot of printers doing a really good job. A lot of marketers take the easy way out and try not to print, where print is still a really good communication tool if used correctly.

Darren:

And can be a very sustainable tool if you select appropriately.

Christopher:

Yeah it’s the same as we all eat our Weetbix for breakfast. That actually grows in the ground, we cut it down, we make Weetbix and then we grow some more. Same with plantation timber.

Darren:

Yeah.

Christopher:

We cut it down, it will grow again, if we do it in the appropriate manner. So there’s nothing wrong with actually trees as used as a crop, if one views it that way. But again, not for mass market, letterbox drops that end up straight in the recycle bin and come back round the SITA way.

Darren:

As far as approaching that measurement process, because as you said earlier, you need to know where you are now…

Christopher:

That’s correct.

What’s the best way for a business to start looking at where they are now, in regards to sustainable marketing?

Darren:

From a marketer’s point of view, what’s the best way for them to start looking at where they are now, in regards to sustainable marketing?

Christopher:

It’s to look at all the channels that they are actually looking at, with their yearly plan. Where are we going to go, the recommendations from their media company and from their agency of what the plan is for that year.

Take that plan and run the numbers on it. That will actually give you a really good indication of where you’re actually sitting today. That’s some simple advice. The story I told earlier about the floodlights, the change they made to that, they actually put in solar panels.

Darren:

Yeah.

Christopher:

On the outdoor site.

Darren:

Very simple.

Christopher:

Simple, it actually solved the problem but they didn’t realise there was a problem in that case. So there’s some simple things you can do. Again, they’re not necessarily expensive, it gets back to targeting but first of all you’ve got to understand.

Darren:

What are the areas that are the biggest opportunity for disruption? Where are the key areas that you should be looking at once you understand where you are now?

I mean I’d sit there and think from a marketer’s perspective; there’s media, there’s digital, there’s production, there’s all of these different moving paths. Do you look at everything at once? Do you have to look at it holistically? Can you pick off key areas?

Waste is waste, even in the digital world

Christopher:

You should look at everything because just because you put something online, if you’re actually being wasteful and doing hundreds of thousands of views that don’t necessarily get looked at, that’s got a footprint because there’s a massive server farm driving that data.

So that’s not the answer to put it online.

There are some basic things in the print media. The way we actually use newspapers, magazines, commercial printing, there’s actually some savings that can be made there from a carbon point of view straight away. So it is to understand and actually work better.

We are doing a lot of work at the moment on the whole transition away from print but I always make the point, it’s got to be done in a timely manner. You’re not leaping across but again, understand where you’re going.

Don’t just start getting wasteful in a digital world. Don’t replace doing good work in print that’s actually high quality and valued with something that’s not going anywhere in the digital world. Do it in an organised fashion and you can definitely get some savings.

Darren:

Yeah because waste is waste.

Christopher:

Waste is waste yeah.

Darren:

It doesn’t matter whether you’re wasting it in print form or electronic.

It does seem to me that the biggest opportunities are in the manufacturing part of marketing. What I mean by that is, it’s where a marketing strategy starts to come to fruition, to fulfilment, it’s where the biggest opportunity lies.

I mean, in some ways sustainable strategy developments, sustainable ideation, isn’t the biggest impact where we start manufacturing things?

Christopher:

Yes it is and it needs everybody in that process to understand what the end game is on this.

Darren:

Yeah.

Christopher:

When we’re in a marketing world we’re producing something normally, or shooting a TV commercial or we’re printing a product…

Darren:

Or creating a website.

Christopher:

Or creating a website or putting things into a warehouse as opposed to printing them on demand.

Darren:

Yeah.

Christopher:

It’s those sort of things, they’re good business practices as well as being good sustainable practices. So there the place to actually look at first, but you’ve got to have a vision of what you’re doing. If you know everything you’re doing, you can then start looking at it. We’ve also come across marketers that don’t necessarily understand what’s going on in a siloed organisation.

There could be stuff going on, they don’t even know about. So, it’s getting a view into that, then bench marking it and then working with everybody to improve it. Not just internally but also those valued partners you’ve got in that supply chain. Be it printers, be it TV, producers, be it whatever area it is.

Darren:

Yeah that’s the point isn’t it, because it has so many fingers…

Christopher:

Yeah.

When we talk about sustainability, we’re not talking about offsetting

Darren:

It reaches out into so many different areas. I remember at the time that we first started talking, there was a whole lot of TV production people that had this thing where they added, I think it was one and a half percent to every budget because they had worked out that that was enough to offset with carbon credits.

Christopher:

Sure I think it was called the Rozelle protocol or something.

Darren:

That’s it, the Rozelle, yeah.

Christopher:

Yeah and that was a way of shooting a green commercial but again it’s back to that same point, all we’ve done is offset.

Therefore, the marketers paid a fee for offsetting. Wouldn’t a better thing to do be to really understand everything that was going on in the production of that TV commercial and work with those producers of the commercial to actually reduce the footprint?

Darren:

It’s a bit like airlines saying for a few extra dollars you can offset your flight, whereas isn’t it better for the airlines and the aircraft manufacturers, to come up with more efficient ways of actually achieving the same thing?

Christopher:

Exactly right, yeah.

Darren:

When we talk about sustainability, we’re not talking about offsetting.

Christopher:

We’re not talking about offsetting at all, no. We’re talking about understanding and working to reduce it.

Darren:

Waste reduction.

Christopher:

It is and again targeting and waste reduction they’re the two ends.

Darren:

Which is something that everyone talks about but not in the terms of sustainability.

Christopher:

No they don’t, no.

Darren:

It’s some sort of disconnect, because to be honest, every time I have this conversation, around sustainable marketing, I get this reaction like, “oh it’s recycling, it’s carbon offsets….” I think people are having trouble understanding the deeper benefits of being a sustainable business and a sustainable marketing department.

Christopher:

Yeah, most people don’t get it. So as an educationalist I spend so much of my time actually talking to people to understand the level of knowledge they’ve got and giving them advice on the best way to approach this.

It’s not easy and it can be very complex and if done incorrectly, it can be very expensive. There’s some great consultants who’ll come in and charge you lots of money to tell you something that you can’t actually do anything with. The whole life cycle assessment work to offset and what’s that achieved?

As I said, a green flag outside the building hasn’t done anything to improve the business process.

Darren:

Yeah.

Christopher:

That’s what we’re actually engaging to do, is to get people to understand and then reduce waste where we can.

Darren:

So if you were sitting there opposite a marketer and they said, give me three reasons why I should. What are three reasons they should think about or embrace a sustainable marketing strategy?

Christopher:

I still think there’s a bit of a corporate risk if you’re telling people that you’re a sustainable business. If you’re doing something that could be viewed as inappropriate, there’s the first one that’s going to affect your brand, that’s going to affect everything.

The second reason…… I think I might get lost here.

Why should a marketer be looking at sustainability?

Darren:

That’s all right. What are the three sorts of reasons that a marketer should be looking at sustainability?

Christopher:

I think there’s corporate risk.

The second reason would be, it’s actually running a more efficient business.

Therefore, getting it from marketing because it’s not just the manufacturer of the goods, it’s actually the way you take those goods to market, that’s definitely one.

Also there’s a big one who sealed his five, six styled green buildings. The reason they’ve been built and going for a premium is because they’re attracting employees. People actually want to go and work in those buildings and they’re more productive. There is more productivity from those people when they start.

So, therefore, it’s actually attracting the right people inside your business as well. If they can see concrete evidence that you care about this stuff…

Darren:

Yeah.

Christopher:

You’ll attract more people to your business.

Darren:

That’s a really interesting area because it gives you a differentiation.

Christopher:

Very much so, yeah.

Darren:

Because, everyone could do this.

Christopher:

Yes.

Become more sustainable and set yourself apart

Darren:

But if you do do it, then it will immediately set you apart from everyone else.

Christopher:

That’s right. You can have a market difference in those various industries where there’s not a lot of work that’s going on. So to become a market leader, would be a very good differentiation.

It could just be a bit of added value for your product but if you’re in a tender situation; that could be a major plus for you. If it’s line ball and you’re actually sitting there in what is clearly a green environment with a greener business proposition.

Darren:

Or people, employees, shareholders and your customers, all want to be part of something that is actually better than what it was.

Christopher:

Yeah and you start looking at the statistics now or some of the research coming out in this country, it’s moved again. Moving up to Paris, that’s beginning in December this year.

Darren:

Yeah.

A rising groundswell of positive change

Christopher:

Which is the United Nations Climate Convention.

That’s coming up. You see the movement in the media everywhere; you even see in some of those strange News Limited newspapers. We’re actually seeing that they’re talking about the environment not just from a negative point of view. So people have changed again.

When we had this strange thing called the carbon tax, it was the other way, but it’s actually come back again. So people do actually care. It might be a bit passive at the moment but they are the customers you’re talking to.

Darren:

But there is a ground swell….

Christopher:

Yes. It’s very much a ground swell.

Darren:

Of support…

Christopher:

Very much. Yeah.

Darren:

For companies and organisations…

Christopher:

Yeah.

Darren:

That are taking steps to reduce the impact they have on the environment.

Christopher:

That’s exactly right and they are doing it. The ones that are doing it, are not necessarily telling everybody about it. The big international companies are doing it and they need to do more.

Darren:

In short, if there’s a way of summing up sustainability – it is not using recycled paper; it is not putting your aluminium cans into a separate container; it is not paying a premium for a whole lot of carbon offsets or any of those things. It’s actually much more holistic in actually bringing about reduced waste.

Christopher:

That’s exactly right and wanting to know where you are today, and planning for the future and it’s not next Monday we’ll be green or more sustainable. It’ll actually be, how we plot a really sensible, sustainable path into the future.

Darren:

So green, sustainable…

Christopher:

There are so many terms.

Darren:

What do you use? Sustainability?

Christopher:

It’s sustainability, but again it’s been hijacked a bit. I think sustainable developing is the classic one.

Darren:

Well that’s what I’ve noticed.

Christopher:

It’s economic sustainability. It’s been hijacked a bit so there are many terms and many papers floating around that actually explain and go into depth about this subject. It’s a whole other conversation Darren.

Darren:

All right, well thank you Chris, that’s been very enlightening. I guess the next thing is for us to find some marketers that really want to embrace this.

Christopher:

That would be good, and to start with, to understand, is not an expensive exercise but it definitely has some value down the track.

Darren:

I guess it’s not going to be a mining company though.

Christopher:

Maybe not.

TrinityP3’s Sustainable Marketing Assessment provides a detailed evaluation of how your marketing strategy aligns with the sustainability policy of your organisation. Read more here

Want more articles like this? Subscribe to our newsletter:

Fill out my online form.

Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

We're Listening

Have something to say about this article?
Share it with us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn

Tweet
Share16
+113
Share55
84 Shares