Product marketing is commonly organised around four Ps: product, price, place, and promotion, with service providers adding three more Ps: physical evidence, people and processes. However, the distinction between product and service marketing is fading as more and more businesses embrace increasingly customer-centric marketing, which includes seamless service pre and post-sales to the client. At the same time, the traditional concept of ownership is fading, as the tenets of the circular economy are advancing (Beltz and Peattie, 2010). Being able to communicate the added value and ethical purpose that your brand offers, whilst providing proof of credentials, is key for the success of any sustainable business. We have adapted seven more Ps to reflect the key elements of a green marketing mix.
It is vital for managers to involve everyone in a shift towards a more ethical and environmentally friendly way of doing business because becoming truly sustainable as a business, inevitably reflects a change in the organisation’s mission, vision and values. A shared understanding of the value of the business springs from environmental, social and financial perspectives, and helps staff to truly communicate the increased value that a sustainable brand can deliver to clients. Spending time with staff on creating this value proposition is incredibly rewarding and worthwhile.
There are many ways to underline how your products and services are truly sustainable. For example, using life-cycle assessments to highlight the relative (positive) impacts of a product or service; developing innovative products that minimise impacts through shared ownership; or using green packaging to enhance your product and market its sustainability. In her Quick Guide to Sustainable Design Strategies, Dr Leyla Acaroglu, UNEP Champion of the Earth, provides a free circular design template and a wealth of brilliant guidance to help you along the way to more sustainable product design.
Making life easier for your customers to deal with you, and in the journey to get to you, is of paramount importance. So, being green means you need to think about your digital presence. Numerous social media platforms are cost-free and effective to create links to your website for direct booking and sales, or to your channel partners. Although selling virtually is more environmentally friendly than selling through high-street stores, it is not carbon-free. If the web were a country, it would be the 7th largest global emitter of CO2. Many web platforms now use renewable energy and promote themselves as ethical providers and there are many ways that web design can be made more environmentally friendly.
To find out how environmentally friendly your existing website is, try putting your company web address into the Website Carbon Calculator. The BIMA Green Pages also offer all sorts of great advice on how to understand, measure and reduce your company’s digital footprint.
According to a recent IBM study, 77% of consumers share a desire to make more sustainable choices at home and 49% of consumers say they pay more - an average of 59% more - for products branded as sustainable or socially responsible. But many people, rightly, remain sceptical about green claims, so it is important to gain consumers’ trust. According to Capgemini, more than half of consumers (54%) say they struggle to verify corporate sustainability claims.
Ask yourself: “Could we be accused of greenwashing?”. In 2022, the CMA found that 40% of green claims made online could be misleading – suggesting that thousands of businesses could be breaking the law and risking their reputation. To avoid this, the CMA have published the Green Claims Code to help businesses understand and comply with their existing obligations under consumer protection law when making environmental claims. This guidance sets out principles which are designed to help businesses comply with the law and gives examples of how each of them applies using detailed case studies where multiple principles apply. The guidance also sets out the legal framework on which these principles are based.
Proof of credentials
Gaining and sustaining your pro-environmental reputation is an important way to signal your values as well as appealing to green consumers, suppliers and other businesses. Environmental accreditation can add credibility to your green branding and gain access to lucrative supply chains.
Increasingly, large companies are demanding that suppliers disclose their environmental credentials, and by some estimates, around 75% of the world's biggest companies may de-select suppliers based on their environmental performance, now or in the near future (Carbon Disclosure Project, 2019).
There are various standards and frameworks that help businesses calculate their carbon footprint, work towards greenhouse gas reduction and improve environmental performance. The cost, time and expertise required to complete the high-profile accreditations such as ISO 14001, ISO 50001 and PAS2060 may be too high and unnecessary for smaller businesses.
To further increase your credibility, talk about your “commitment behind the scenes,” for example in engaging suppliers to create a stronger value supply chain. Things that you can highlight:
Highlight on a map which of your suppliers are locally based
Photos of suppliers will more clearly depict their human side
Explain how suppliers take good care of the produce they offer to you
You might also consider partnering with local charities or councils to support social or environmental causes.
For a truly transformational company-customer journey towards greener behaviours, you need to raise awareness among your customers of how you do things differently, by talking about your ethical purpose.
Communicating your purpose means explaining the social and environmental impact of what you do uniquely. Rather than simply telling customers you "save water," or “recycle all products”, explain why you do what you do (e.g., we help improve local biodiversity because we want our children to enjoy natural wildlife in this area). This brings your customer along with you, by making them part of the bigger picture and long-lasting supporters of your journey.
Communicating your purpose also means describing the values driving your shift to greener business practices and the people (employees) powering that shift. This transparency and honesty helps to establish a genuine human relationship with your customers, rather than communicating like a faceless corporate business. Get your message across in clear language, in a conversational tone, with images that convey the playful yet purposeful side of your business. Make sure your website highlights key information about your sustainability (How to Avoid "Greenwashing") and you can use social media to tell stories about this sustainability journey.
Barbara Tomasella is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing and Dr Fred Paterson is an Associate Professor at Derby Business School. This blog was originally published on the University of Derby’s blog.