Marketing Sustainability (Or How Not To Greenwash In 2022)
In the wake of the climate crisis, sustainable brands are on the rise. Consumers are demanding more environmental action from brands than ever before, and it’s clear there’s a strong appetite for sustainable products. So, when it comes to marketing sustainability, how can brands stand out from the crowd?
The market for sustainability is growing steadily. By 2023, the ethical fashion market is expected to be valued at nearly $8.25 billion. Sustainable fashion is one key industry that has experienced exponential growth in recent years.
With apparel manufacturing releasing around 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases every year, fashion and textiles are one of the most polluting industries. With such a dirty reputation, many brands are making an effort to clean their acts up.
What can brands do?
There’s increasing cultural pressure on consumers and brands alike to make more sustainable choices. As a result, sustainable marketing is becoming far more than a passing trend. Marketing sustainability effectively is becoming a strong business strategy and imperative for any brand looking to succeed in the current market.
Forbes reports that millennials are becoming the most important consumer group, with a combined buying power of $2.45 trillion. On average, Millennials are highly politically active. They are also the most likely to pay more for items from brands that support the causes they care about.
By calling yourself a sustainable brand, a certain level of social responsibility is placed upon you. Customers will expect more. And customers are smart. Nowadays, the average consumer can spot a greenwashed campaign from a mile away.
If you’re a brand looking to improve your sustainable-focused marketing, you’re in the right place. With over six years of experience marketing some of the industry’s most forward-thinking and disruptive brands, here are our top industry insights when it comes to marketing sustainability in 2022.
Our top tips for marketing a sustainable brand in 2022
Sustainable sales — fact or fiction?
There is an inherent tension between the concept of sustainability and discount sales. In a perfect world, a brand running 100% sustainably would rarely, if ever, have the need to heavily discount its stock. We know that unfortunately, this isn’t the reality.
Running a sustainable sale is possible… if you do it correctly. This takes a whole lot of guts because it usually involves publicly owning up to a mistake your company has made somewhere along the supply chain.
However, we have seen this done effectively. Organic Basics are one brand who are leading the sustainable sale movement. Their marketing operates on a basis of transparency, explaining to their customers that their sales are specifically planned to ensure they don’t let any stock go to waste. Their marketing tells this story in a straightforward, transparent way. Below, we’ll get more into brands who are marketing sustainability well.
When it comes to huge discount sales, it’s also important to remember how this can impact your brand’s equity. Will consumers come to associate your brand with having constant sales, thereby cheapening your eco-friendly claims?
Practice True transparency
Don’t just tell your customers that you use sustainable business practices. Show them. Today’s consumers are intelligent and expect you to be able to back up your claims with evidence.
Show the life cycle of your products, from production to sale. Show your production team, warehouse, and transportation methods. Honesty and transparency are incredibly important when strategising impactful sustainable marketing. Shallow environmental marketing can do more harm to your brand than good.
Certifications are another great way of simply communicating your commitment to helping the environment. However, they shouldn’t become the be-all and end-all of your eco-focused marketing.
Honesty is the best policy
People make mistakes. But for brands, it’s important for your reputation to be honest and own up. In a volatile social media landscape where cancel culture runs rife, bad press can fiercely impact your reputation.
If you’ve made a mistake, whether that be in the present or the past, the first thing you need to do is apologise. Then, and most importantly, make a solid strategy to change.
Communicating this with your customers will do so much more for your brand reputation rather than sweeping it under the rug. Customers make mistakes too, and it’s important we own up to them and make a conscious effort to do better for the environment.
There is no one way to become the perfect climate-friendly company. But what matters the most is that you’re putting conscious effort into meeting your sustainability goals, and making that known to your customers.
The Power Of Social Media Marketing
Social media has played an integral role to brands marketing sustainability. Many users go to social media to learn about sustainable practices and smart brands have realised this. There’s a growing expectation for brands to show their environmental stance and actions via social media. It’s also important to note that posting on social media opens your brand up for instant criticism. This is where the practice of true transparency really shows its importance.
Social media is also an incredible tool to build a dialogue with your audience. Creating a community that is united by a common goal is one of the most powerful ways to build customer loyalty.
Let’s take a look at some ethical brands doing sustainable marketing well:
A Danish eco-friendly underwear brand, Organic Basics run with a truly transparent marketing strategy. They inform their consumers on everything from the eco-rating of their fabric to the individual carbon footprint of each garment.
One of the reasons we love Organic Basics’ marketing campaigns is their sustainable sale strategy. They market their sales as ‘no-waste,’ making sure their customers know they aren’t simply burning through stock to turn a bigger profit. They are actively trying to mitigate waste in their supply chain and make sure their garments are enjoyed rather than thrown away.
Patagonia is a brand that is pushing the boundaries of sustainable marketing. Back in 2011, they famously ran an ad in the New York Times that read, ‘DON’T BUY THIS JACKET’ followed by an image of one of their most recognisable styles.
Why would a brand do such a thing? While unconventional, their strategy here was incredibly intelligent. They subverted industry expectations and drew attention exactly where they wanted it. They showcased their ‘Common Threads’ initiative where customers can trade in their used items to keep them out of landfills.
Patagonia is a brand that understands circularity is one of the most climate-friendly practices a business can adopt and made sure their customers understood that.
As an online consignment and thrift store, it would be remiss of ThredUp not to adopt a climate-first marketing strategy.
Their entire brand is propelled by one simple concept; the most sustainable garment is the one already made. This is the driving force behind their marketing, and it’s incredibly powerful. ThredUp also does an incredible job at incorporating social media into its sustainable marketing.
Users tag ThreadUp in their OOTD posts, creating high-value UGC. ThredUp also places a lot of emphasis on its Instagram, knowing most of its target demographic are Instagram users. They regularly share sustainability tips and eco-life-hacks with their audience, creating more of a community online.
One of the most innovative brands on our list, Alohas are an on-demand eCommerce store based in Barcelona. This Spanish brand has based its entire business concept on helping to stop overproduction in the fashion industry. Their goal is to bridge the gap between fast fashion and sustainability.
The concept is so simple, yet ingenious. They release a pre-sale drop with various styles at 30% off. Customers’ are thereby incentivised to purchase through a made-to-order model, helping to reduce wastage. It’s amazing more brands haven’t adopted this business strategy!
Alohas also expertly leverages the power of influencer marketing in its campaigns. They know that influencers have communities following them who take their opinions seriously. Through this network, they showcase their innovative production and design methods regularly on social media, again creating a deeper connection with their customers.
Asket’s marketing campaigns inspire customers to commit to the pursuit of less. Asket is fighting overconsumption by designing one simple and timeless capsule wardrobe, designed to be worn time and time again.
They use sustainable and recycled fabrics and make sure their customers know their garments and manufactured to the highest ethical standards. They offer both a men’s and women’s line, with many of their products also being unisex.
A quick look at their website will tell you everything you need to know about their production process, including the cost of making that individual item and its CO2 impact. Asket also offers a yearly report tracking how they are meeting sustainability goals. This takes transparency to the next level and really shows a commitment to marketing sustainability.
Son Of A Tailor
What could be more sustainable that made-to-order garments? Son Of A Tailor makes clothing that fits you, and only you. Their innovative strategy has reengineered the production process to make clothes that fit you perfectly every time, to help end overproduction for the planet.
Son Of A Tailor’s marketing focuses on showcasing this unique supply chain for made-to-order production that is just as efficient as mass production.
Their business model is environmentally-driven, meaning that their marketing strategy follows suit. Their commitment to supply change is what sets them apart in the market and also makes their marketing strategy stand out.
Whether you’re already implementing sustainable marketing in your campaigns or looking to start, researching the brands above and implementing our industry tips is a great place to start.
If you’re a sustainable brand looking to elevate your paid social strategy, reach out to The Graygency today.
If you’re looking for more digital marketing tips and industry insights, head over to our blog to read more.
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