Marketing Sustainability

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Many businesses attempt to navigate today’s economic landscape using the same old marketing gimmicks.  It just won’t work. Today’s organizations need to understand marketing sustainability and how to utilize it.

Frank-Martin Belz and Ken Peattie, authors of Sustainability Marketing, note, “Conventional marketing thought and practice have struggled to adapt to a world that we now realize could be destroyed (or at least impaired to the impoverishment of us all) by unconstrained consumption as we strive to satisfy an ever-longer list of wants for an ever-growing global consumer class.”  Given these perimeters, the average individual would argue that marketing sustainability must be an oxymoron. Marketing is about meeting customers’ needs and wants.

Phillip Kotler and Kevin Keller, authors of Marketing Management, suggest the importance of marketing to buyers:  “Many people want a Mercedes; only a few are able to buy one. Companies must measure not only how many people want their product, but also how many are willing and able to buy it….Therefore, businesses must connect with customers in other to convince them to purchase.”  However, some people would suggest marketing involves the mass consumptions of goods and services at any cost.


With the depletion of natural resources and the ever growing population demands from such countries as China and India, many experts worry that the world is headed for a train wreck unless something changes.  Governments race to find new energy sources while businesses search the world for cheaper labor and lesser costs for producing their products.

Consequently, more and more organizations recognize that sustainability is more than keeping the environment clean.  Yet, the concept of sustainability is often difficult to define. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, sustainability is defined as “everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.”

Consequently, one person may view sustainability simply as the ability to use resources continuously without any long-term depletion.  Andres Edwards, author of The Sustainability Revolution, breaks down sustainability into several key components, which are: ecology/environment, economy/employment, equity/equality, and education.

Marketing sustainability focuses on the triple factors of ecological, social, and economical in harmony. The managerial approach of sustainability marketing encompasses several key elements, which include (a) socio-ecological problems, (b) consumer behavior, (c) sustainability marketing values and objectives, (d) sustainability marketing strategies, (e) sustainability marketing mix, and (f) sustainability marketing transformations.

Belz and Peattie further maintain, “The point of departure in sustainability marketing is an understanding of social and environmental problems in general (macro level) and an analysis of the social and ecological impact of corporate products in particular (micro level)….To implement sustainability marketing strategies, a comprehensive marketing mix has to be developed.”  In fact, marketing sustainability then relates to an organization’s ability to balance environmental, social, and economic factors in order to be successful over the long-run.

However, some business executives quietly argue that profitability supersedes many other priorities, such as the environment.  Edwards disagrees: “Creating a healthy environment, free of pollution and toxic waste, and simultaneously providing the basic for a dynamic economy that will endure for an extended period are viewed as complementary rather than conflicting endeavors.”

With the growing demands from a global market, companies must readjust their business strategies. Marketing and sustainability are key components of this economic equation.  Therefore, organization must learn how to manage marketing sustainability to be successful in the future.

Please discuss marketing sustainability from your own professional experience.

© 2013 by Daryl D. Green

5 thoughts on “Marketing Sustainability

  1. A number of factors have caused business firms in some industries to incorporate an environmental ethic into their operations. The principal factor, of course, is the growing public awareness of the environmental degradation that has resulted as a consequence of the growth in population and natural resource consumption throughout the world during the last 50 years (, 2007). As the article above and previous sentences state it only makes sense for business to include some type of sustainable marketing plan. Many consumers seek out and will only conduct businesses with companies that they know are environmentally aware and committed. Social and humanitarian causes are just as important to many consumers as well. Scripps Networks tells consumers in commercials on their channels that they are environmentally and humanitarianly supportive of certain organizations. For example, on their HGTV network they do work with Habitat for Humanity. They show commercials supporting that. This does many things like supporting both brands, but mostly promotes the corporate belief in social concerns.
    Green Marketing.” Encyclopedia of Small Business. 2007. Retrieved September 25, 2013 from

    • Josh,

      Excellent! Companies are more aware of environmental concerns.


      Do you consider this change of heart by businesses (previous focused on profitable solely…in general) a direct result of consumer demand or not?

      Professor Green

  2. Dr. Green,

    I certainly consider this change of heart from organizations as a direct result to consumer’s changing perceptions. The current market trend revolvers around the word “green.” Consumers are obsessed with the idea that technology can be beneficial not only for ourselves but for our planet. After all, there’s that notion that technology causes more harm than good. But to think that certain popular products can become more green or environmentally-friendly is very appealing. It’s no longer a geek-like mentality that’s associated with caring for the planet. It’s now cool to be green – and that’s why smart business leaders are promoting “greener” strategies in order to appeal to a wider range of consumers.

    According to the online publication, Environmental Leader, a recent study “found that so-called meaningful brands outperformed the stock market by 12 percent. By promoting the idea of personal and collective well-being, these meaningful brands built reputable brand equities and consumer attachment. It’s no surprise then that an organization as big and powerful like Wal-Mart has invested in the “greenmania” by offering products such as Brita, Burt’s Bees, Glad and Green Works. Good to know that not all market leaders ignore sustainability.

    Jospeh, Jim. (2013). “Why Marketers Ignore Sustainability – but Shouldn’t.” Environemtanl Leader. Accessed from: (Blog response posted on 09-25-2013).

  3. Tensie Whelan, president of Rainforest Alliance, wrote that a lack of interest from consumers, a presumed high risk factor and a perception that sustainability is boring, expensive or too complicated are some reasons why marketing professionals fail to promote a green business model. There is always a risk when trying a new strategy and using sustainability as a marketing tool carries these risks. According to Whelan, it is unusual for companies to lose market share by embracing sustainability and points to McDonalds and UK tea brand PG Tips for increasing their sales after using sustainable products (environmental leader, 2013).

    There is a market for sustainability because everyone wants to maintain a clean environment. Many of the consumers today like to buy products that are eco-friendly and many of the companies today have changed their operations to be more eco-friendly. Marketing sustainability can be a challenge but it seems like companies would benefit more from doing this because it allows their customers to see them handling their social responsibility.

    Source: Environmental Leader. (2013, August 14). Why Marketers Ignore Sustainability-But Shouldn’t. Retrieved from

  4. Dr. Green,
    To the question of an organizations change of heart being a direct result of customer demand. I believe that it does. Companies have seen a shift in how customers are not only looking for the best product with a good price they like for the product to be environmentally friendly. They have noticed that customers will pay more if it is a environmentally friendly product. I have found over time at work that companies continually are trying to innovate new products to fit a customers need. Since my company is aligned with the trucking industry the push for more fuel efficient engines has pushed us to develop new products. The new products are generally more expensive than their predecessors. But this is being driven by the customer. So companies are adapting to their customers and its being passed down the chain of suppliers. “In line with the value of the product comes the environmental and social burden incurred during different stages of production. With regard to this, focal companies of supply chains might be held responsible for the environmental and social performance of their suppliers. Focal companies are those companies that usually (1) rule or govern the supply chain, (2) provide the direct contact to the customer, and (3) design the product or service offered [208] and [220].” (Seuring, 2008) In order for a comapany to sustainably market to its customers it will need to pass customer demands down through its supply chain.
    Seuring, S. (2008, October). From a literature review to a conceptual framework for sustainable supply chain management. Retrieved from

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