How to build a sustainable marketing strategy: 6 important steps

19 Jan


Written by

Louise McNutt




How to build a sustainable marketing strategy: 6 important steps
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Spurred on by increasing concern for the world we live in, and regulations imposed by governments and bodies such as the European Union (EU), companies are now making major changes to every part of their business, in order to become both sustainably focused and driven, and this includes defining sustainable marketing strategies. 

Whilst fundamental changes can be applied to the values and strategies of a business, we must remember that such actions apply to all aspects of a business, with each team considering how to reduce their carbon footprint, and the work of the marketing team is no exception. In this way, defining a way of working that puts digital sobriety and sustainable marketing at its core is now a leading concern for marketing teams. 

As of April 2022, there were more than five billion internet users worldwide, equal to 63.1% of the global population.

With every email, streamed video or type of cloud computing contributing to increasing CO2 emissions, it is now more crucial than ever to think about how marketing and digital technology can work to positively impact the planet. 

With this in mind, the goal of building a green marketing strategy must be defined in order to understand how it can be achieved. But what exactly do we mean by sustainability? According to the World Council on Economic Development (WCED) the definition is “development that meets the needs of present generations without compromising the needs of future generations.” 

In this way, actions must be taken by businesses to reduce the emissions generated, define new carbon-friendly initiatives and alter the values of a company to incorporate greater Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). 

Why do businesses now need to establish sustainable strategies? 

With consumers now increasingly focused on the way businesses deal with the subject of sustainability and the measures that they put in place, it is becoming essential to establish a fully-round strategy that impacts all areas of a business. This means that every part of a business is aware of the goals of the organisation and understands its pathway to reducing its carbon footprint. This in turn means that they are able to communicate this information to their clients, stakeholders and contacts. 

According to the Harvard Business School, “the general goal of a sustainable business strategy is to positively impact the environment, society, or both, while also benefiting shareholders.” 

To achieve this, the Harvard Business School cites the idea of the triple bottom line, a way that businesses can “commit to measuring their social and environmental impact—in addition to their financial performance—rather than solely focusing on generating profit, or the standard ‘bottom line’.”

This theory is made up of three parts: profit, people and the planet. Here, “profit” refers to a new drive to not only focus on financial performance but to use businesses to provoke positive change for the planet. Whilst historically businesses have focused on financial performance, leaders who are now more purpose-driven have realised that pushing for positive change has also resulted in business success. 

“People” is a revived way of creating value for all those impacted by a business and not only the shareholders. By rethinking sustainability strategies, companies are now considering more keenly how to embrace the needs of customers and employees, by for example establishing fair and diverse hiring methods and encouraging volunteerism in the workplace. 

The final part of the bottom line is the impact that companies have on the planet and their commitment to improving it. Businesses now must show genuine engagement and make real and lasting steps to reducing their carbon footprint, rather than providing superficial statements or engaging in greenwashing. 

Green data

Environmentally focused change creates impact

By openly following a corporate strategy that favours social and environmental change, businesses are able to enjoy the benefits of their impact. Indeed, Research by Nielsen showed that 48% of American consumers were willing to change their buying habits to reduce the impact on the environment.  This is reinforced by a Forbes report which demonstrated that millennials, who are the most important consumer category, are also the ones that care the most for the social responsibility of their purchases. With a significant buying power of $2.45 trillion, companies are very willing to demonstrate their green values in order to tap into this consumer group. 

Companies therefore need to focus on ensuring all parts of the business uphold the same values for sustainable change and subsequently portray a consistent image. 

By being able to demonstrate a genuine commitment, companies will be able to respond to the following new challenges: 

  • Concern from consumers to buy into brands that demonstrate a genuine commitment to sustainable change
  • Competition from other brands 
  • Responding to the need from other companies to have sustainable suppliers 
  • New regulations that require businesses to uphold certain sustainability promises
  • The need to reduce the use of diminishing natural resources 

Why establish a sustainable marketing strategy? 

As businesses begin to define their sustainability strategies, the work of the marketing team becomes a crucial part of the overall drive.  

With all areas of a business setting targets to reduce emissions, the marketing team must also work to reduce the carbon footprint of their activity, in particular by focusing on a digital sobriety approach and sustainable marketing.

Combined with this drive is also the ability by the marketing team to communicate to a wider audience, whether internal or external, the values of their company in terms of environmental commitments. Indeed, the strength of the marketing team for this lies in the way an audience can understand the commitments of a company to make positive change for the planet. 

Take for example research carried out in hotel restaurants to encourage diners to reduce plate sizes in a bid to reduce food waste. These non-intrusive communications were able to reduce waste by 20%, demonstrating that clear and adapted information targeted at a consumer can have the desired effect of prompting positive change. 

How to ensure your marketing is truly sustainable? 

From the number of articles that you’re producing to the way in which you are storing your digital assets, each marketing action has an impact on the environment. How then to rethink your ways of working in order to be as green as possible? Here we take a look at exactly how to embark on a sustainable marketing strategy that favours digital sobriety. 

  • Carefully define your marketing roadmap 

When it comes to marketing, it’s often worth remembering that sometimes less is more. Rather than bombarding your audience with heaps of content, content that is carefully targeted to them and provides them with the information that they are looking for is far more helpful than an endless supply of digital newsletters. 

Set out a roadmap for the year and plot important moments for your company, thinking about the content that can be created around these and notably how it can be optimised. 

  • Measure the impact of your campaigns 

Are you sure your marketing campaigns are performing in the way that you want them to? In order to understand how your audience is responding to your content, make sure you are creating regular reports that benchmark your most important KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). 

Understanding how your KPIs change each month or for each campaign is an important step in ensuring that the content that you produce is relevant to your audience and that you aren’t producing content that isn’t hitting the mark. 

Once you’ve set up a regular reporting document, you can start thinking about how to make changes to improve your stats. What about A/B testing or segmenting your contacts in order to ensure your messages are tailor made for the person who is receiving them? These small changes can make a big difference and help limit what you’re producing, whilst increasing the quality and interest of your content. 

  • Think about the tools that you’re using 

Are the tools that you are using helping to reduce your carbon footprint? Investing in the right kind of support for your marketing activities will help you to build a more sustainable marketing strategy. 

For example, using a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system is a way of streamlining all of your digital content, as well as allowing you to measure the performance of your media. Using a DAM also gives you the possibility to understand the usage of your assets in order to understand how much space you’re using, in turn meaning you can optimise, recycle or archive your media. In this way, assets which are no longer used or have become obsolete can be removed to free up space and reduce bandwidth. 

What’s more, it is important to look at how your suppliers talk about sustainability. Are they putting in place measures to reduce their own carbon footprint? In this way, you ensure that the extent of your business decisions is virtuous. 

  • Create evergreen content 

If you’re working to reduce the amount of content that you produce in a bid to decrease storage and bandwidth, it’s worth focusing on creating evergreen content. 

Evergreen content is content which stays relevant months or even years after it has been published. The idea is therefore to create highly relevant topics for your business which provide in-depth information for your audience. Focusing on an evergreen marketing strategy means producing high-quality pieces of content rather than regular bite-sized news. 

The added benefit of creating evergreen content is that it will continue to draw in viewers long after its publication date, meaning that the traffic for this kind of content grows over time. This means that this kind of content also supports your SEO strategy, helping to bring in greater numbers of people to your website. 

  • Promote the sustainability actions of your business

In order to share with customers, suppliers, partners and shareholders the work that your company is doing to reduce its carbon footprint, it is important to talk about these actions through your communication channels. 

If your business has made steps to reduce its carbon footprint, by for example cutting down on the use of paper, providing employees with incentives to use green mobility methods to get to the office or integrating biodiversity within the office, it’s the perfect opportunity to let your audience know. 

Whilst you must ensure that you don’t oversell the actions that you have put in place, in order to avoid greenwashing, it is important that your audience hears about the sustainable work that you have been doing. This is important for your brand image but also for those people who are choosing to work with you. Demonstrating your sustainability credentials in a clear and transparent way allows potential clients or partners to decide if they are happy to work with you, having their own sustainability targets to meet. 

A word of warning though, make sure the information that you provide has been carefully checked. For example, when McDonalds first announced that they were replacing plastic straws with paper ones, it was later found that the paper equivalents could not be recycled, thereby sparking outrage at the statements which were deemed as greenwashing. 

Therefore, think carefully about the information on sustainability that you are sharing, but at the same time don’t shy away from promoting the actions which you have put in place. 

  • Go paperless

It may seem obvious but moving away from paper marketing actions is a notable way of investing in sustainable marketing techniques. Instead of handing out brochures at an event for example, why not display QR codes that link to an online white paper or a video. In this way you not only drive people to your website or social media sites, but you cut back on the environmental cost of printing. 


Green office environment

The importance of digital sobriety for your marketing strategy

Building a sustainable marketing strategy is now more important than ever. As we move into a new era marked by greater digital communications, it is the perfect time to reconsider the tools you are using and how they can support you in your quest for digital sobriety. 

By investing in a tool such as a DAM, you have the possibility of building a central hub for marketing, sales and communication content, giving you the ability to reuse, repurpose, track and optimise your content more seamlessly. As marketing content becomes more diverse and rich in volume, it becomes crucial to centralise assets in a single repository. As the use of 3D and Virtual Reality increases, so too does the challenge of adapting to different formats and resolutions. A DAM allows for various formats and resolutions to be stored , which are then automatically adapted to different devices and contexts. 

With Wedia committed to digital sobriety, we focus on improving the efficiency of content and reducing storage volumes and bandwidths through each new release. This means not only reducing your own carbon footprint but working with a supplier who shares the same values. 

For example, Wedia continues to improve its response to the climate crisis, by working to find new sustainable solutions. One way of taking on this subject is Wedia’s work with Reforest’Action, an initiative conceived to plant trees in France and Guinea. Wedia offers its clients the equivalent number of trees to be planted in line with the amount of storage each client uses within their DAM. Launched in 2021, Wedia, along with Reforest’Action, has planted 11,650 trees, equal to 1, 747 tonnes of stored CO2. In this way, through Wedia’s solution and expertise,  customers are able to reduce their content volume and subsequently their carbon footprint. 

By addressing all areas of your marketing activity and understanding the small steps which can make a big difference, you will be able to set in motion a new green and virtuous roadmap. Working in this way not only streamlines your day-to-day actions but sets you and your organisation up for the environmental challenges of today and tomorrow.

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