Regardless of the industry, high levels of competition and over-saturation in marketing have made it extremely difficult for businesses to stand out and attract consumer attention, that is why applying sustainability as a marketing differentiator could be a suitable route to follow.
With B2B companies setting aside between 2-5% of their revenue, and B2C between 5-10%, there’s a huge amount of pressure to make the most of this budget. It is evident that sustainability is one of the most important considerations a company has in the modern market. Statistically, 88% of consumers will be more loyal to a company that supports social or environmental issues, yet despite this, although 90% of business leaders think sustainable issues are important, only 60% of companies actually have a developed sustainability strategy.
Sustainable business practices are important for multiple reasons – supporting the health and wellbeing of our world, complying with legal obligations, catering to growing consumer awareness of what businesses are doing behind their products, and as a way of increasing profits by capitalizing on this awareness.
Sustainability as a sales point isn’t a tactic that can be done in isolation. Reportedly 72% of businesses believe climate change presents risks that could significantly impact their operations, revenue, or expenditures, which does prompt a company-wide shift towards sustainable practices.
But, purely from a sales perspective, if a company promotes sustainability and uses this as a sales point, it has to be backed up with action from the business – there has been a definite shift towards consumer investigation, and with social media providing platforms to ‘call out’ offending individuals or businesses, if a business isn’t ‘walking the walk’, as well as ‘talking the talk’ – it’s not going to take long to be found out, and ‘shamed’ online.
If this happens, the marketing and budget applied to it will have been wasted as the company gains a negative reputation, which could even potentially lead to a loss of sales or worse. Despite this risk, 40% of companies make misleading claims regarding environmental issues, which doesn’t just upset the consumers, but could also violate consumer laws.
With 77% of consumers more willing to purchase from companies with a CSR pledge, and 73% of investors agreeing with them, it’s hardly surprising that some of the biggest brands in the world are making CSR pledges, this includes Amazon, Apple, Dell, and Google; and these pledges are being supported by action.
For example, Amazon launched a $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund to ‘decarbonize’ the Earth and are aiming to be at net zero carbon by 2040. The talking point here is that they’re aiming to do it 10 years earlier than the Paris Agreement. This encourages consumers to support their business because they’re not just doing more, they’re doing it sooner.
It’s not just tech companies either, who are understanding that actions speak louder than words, Clorox has committed to making 90% of its product packing recyclable, in order to reduce the amount of plastic being sent to landfills around the world, and its product highlights include compostable cleaning wipes and changes to the Concentrated Clorox Bleach.
By taking action, then creating a specific content page on their homepages, these brands are directing attention to their CSR efforts – it gives consumers the ability to do their research and encourages them to support the brands because they can see exactly what the company is doing, and the impact it will have.
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Action on its own may be great from an altruistic point of view, but to make CSR a sales point, it needs to be discussed and have consumer attention directed to it. This loops back to the idea of ‘not in isolation’, because it has to be supported by the actions of the whole company in order to appear genuine, authentic, and not a cynical attempt to cash in on people’s goodwill and desire to do better by the world.
The main goals to be aimed for in using sustainability as a marketing differentiator, are to increase brand awareness, build trust, encourage customer loyalty, and generate more sales – and to stand out, companies need to innovate, you can’t differentiate yourself from others if you’re doing the same thing.
CSR reporting is a crucial step in identifying what your business can do better. If you know exactly what the status of your business is, how you’re impacting the world (for example, with carbon emissions), and what your wastage levels are like – you can strategically design company-wide policies and process changes that are better for business, and the world.