The Ultimate Guide to Sustainable Marketing


“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela

Consumers today typically have mixed or unfavorable attitudes toward marketing practices.

Whether it’s the promise of more value than can be delivered, being persuaded to buy something you don’t need, or buying unsafe, shoddy products, unsustainable marketing leads to distrust. 

Marketing has been criticized for harming consumers with deceptive claims and practices and high-pressure sales. Unsustainable marketing has often fueled the desire for materialism versus a quality of life. Increasing demand for more and more stuff has also led to environmental consequences.

Consumers today want a better quality of life and be more active in making the world a better place. They want to support companies – big, small and in between – that demonstrate strong ethics and stewardship of human beings and the planet.

In fact, according to the Ethical Consumer US report of 2015 by Mintel, more than 63% of consumers feel that ethical issues are becoming more important . And consumers are strongly supporting businesses that incorporate meaningful values into their core business.  

This desire to make a positive impact translates into a key concept in today’s business world: sustainability . Sustainability as a business strategy is becoming increasingly appealing to managers, executives and business owners, and more businesses and organizations are driving change – and success – with sustainable business goals.

Here, we’ll take a close look at sustainability and how it plays out as a strategy for both business and marketing. What do sustainable businesses look like? And how can sustainable marketing help those businesses succeed?


Sustainability as a Business Strategy

Sustainability in business is the ability of an organization to thrive over time in a way that protects and replenishes resources.

Although the concept may seem new, sustainability has actually been around for decades. The modern-day concept of sustainability was developed from the World Commission on Environment and Development, an organization launched by the United Nations in 1983. The Commission was led by Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland, and thus became known as the Brundtland Commission.

After four years of work, the Commission concluded that government and industry needed to practice more environmental and social responsibility. The term sustainable development was coined and defined as:

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs

Since then, sustainability in business has driven value.  Harvard Business Review reports that companies that have sustainable business practices experience greater risk management, more innovation and better financial performance, including larger profits, more cost savings and improved efficiencies and logistics. Moreover, sustainable businesses benefit from improved customer loyalty.

According to the  Clarkston Consulting 2014 Corporate Sustainability Trends Report, “sustainability has emerged to a prominent position in corporate and consumer consciences.”

Among the consumers who are noticing the movement toward sustainability are millennials, who now boast $2.45 trillion in spending power.  Forbes reports millennials not only have money to spend, they care where they spend it: roughly 70% will pay more for brands that support a cause they care about.


As the purchasing power of millennials increases and the population of conscientious consumers continues to grow, authentically sustainable, purpose-driven brands and the people-planet-profit model are winning across the board – economically and socially.

Triple Bottom Line Business Model

A primary sustainability strategy is the triple bottom line . Developed by entrepreneur John Elkington, this approach is about finding opportunities to build competitive advantage across three areas of an organization:

A crucial element of this approach is to broaden the consideration of stakeholders beyond shareholders to all groups that have interest in and are impacted by the organization.


Sustainable Business At Work

Sustainable business strategies require a level of systems thinking that can only be accomplished by bringing together people across the spectrum of an organization's operations. Such cross-functional teams can provide different views of an organization's opportunities, strengths and weaknesses for a whole-system perspective into sustainability outcomes.

Several companies have embraced best practices of sustainable business with success. Patagonia and Interface are two that have created sustainable solutions while differentiating their brands and winning consumer loyalty.

Patagonia founder Yves Chouinard brought his love of outdoors, concern for the planet and passion for sports together in a company that supplies the world’s top climbers, fishermen, surfers and outdoor enthusiasts with high-quality gear. To be successful and profitable, the company has built its mission on sustainable sourcing, supply chain innovation and valuing relationships with vendors, customers and stakeholders.   

After starting his business in the 1970s, carpet manufacturer Ray Anderson realized it was contributing to pollution, and he challenged his company to make carpet sustainably. In a major mid-course correction, Interface reinvented nearly every aspect of its business based on the  Mission Zero goal of zero impact on the planet. With their new mission,  Climate Take Back ,™ the business is committed to creating a climate fit for life while calling on others to do the same.


What Is Sustainable Marketing?

As the consciousness of sustainability has made its way into the mainstream of business strategies, a new paradigm of marketing is emerging with it.

Sustainable marketing is a critical part of operating a sustainable business. But what does the term sustainable marketing really mean? 


Sustainable is the ability of a system to maintain or renew itself perpetually . It can also mean: conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.

The term sustainable has branched into sustainable development and sustainable business , setting the stage for sustainability to become a key indicator of an organization’s success.

"In recent years, sustainability has been recast as a broader concept encompassing the social, economic, environmental, and cultural systems needed to sustain any organization. A sustainable organization, and similarly a sustainable person, is prepared to thrive today and tomorrow.” – Adam Warbach, author of Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto

The American Marketing Association’s definition of marketing is comprehensive, and works well toward building the definition of sustainable marketing as a multiple stakeholder approach:

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

In our rapidly accelerating digital age, business leaders often lose sight of the three core functions that are needed to create value:

All of these functions are needed to build value. Without any one of them, an organization is likely to fail.


Sustainable Marketing

Here is the textbook definition of sustainable marketing , as stated in  Sustainable Marketing by Diane Martin and John Schouten .

“[ Sustainable marketing is the]  process of creating, communicating and delivering value to customers in such a way that both natural (resources nature provides) and human (resources people provide) capital are preserved or enhanced throughout.”

Believing that marketing has “great potential as a force for creating cultural change,” Martin and Schouten set out to illustrate that marketing has two imperatives: to market sustainably and to market sustainability .

Market sustainably is an inward practice that ensures all marketing processes are environmentally and socially benign.

Market sustainability is an outward practice that helps bring about a society in which striving for sustainability is the norm.

A good way to practice sustainable marketing is to be committed to honesty in marketing messaging and sustainability claims.

What Sustainable Marketing Isn't

It’s not regular marketing..

Marketing efforts to make an organization stand out in the marketplace are part of any marketing strategy.

It’s not “green” marketing.

Green marketing means marketing the sustainability efforts of a company to a target audience, as in what a marketing agency might do for Patagonia or Interface. Another example is Starbucks' creation of marketing assets that incorporate sustainability messages (such as the company's fair trade sourcing or sustainable agriculture practices). Like regular marketing, green marketing simply involves executing tactics driven by a marketing strategy.

It’s not green-wash marketing.

Green washing is what happens when a brand makes sustainability claims in their marketing messaging that they can't back up in operations.

A well-known example of green washing is illustrated by the the Volkswagen emissions scandal. Beginning in 2009, VW sought to dominate the diesel car market in the U.S. A huge marketing campaign was created to tout it cars' low emissions.

Eventually, the Environmental Protection Agency found that Volkswagen had intentionally programmed the diesel engines to activate their emissions controls only during emissions testing. This allowed the vehicles’ nitrogen oxide (NOx) output to meet U.S. standards during regulatory testing, but emit up to 40 times more NOx with routine driving.

Volkswagen deployed this programming software in eleven million cars worldwide, in model years 2009 through 2015.

As this scandal went public, Volkswagen's stock prices fell, and its executives resigned or were suspended. The Volkwagen Group spent almost $20 billion to fix the issue and conduct a recall program. The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Diesel Sedan was named “Green Car of the Year” by Green Car Journal;  in October 2015 that award was rescinded.

Five Principles of Sustainable Marketing

Here are the five principles of sustainable marketing that you can embrace today and put to work in your organization:

Sustainable marketing goes beyond the concern for the needs and wants of today’s society, but focuses on the well-being of all stakeholders and the broader world.


In turn, this mega-trend in business is rewarded with competitive advantage by earning the trust and loyalty of consumers. Win-win!

For business owners  who care about creating a sustainable world, the powerful tool of sustainable marketing can both enhance connections with conscientious consumers and drive success across the triple bottom line.

For consumers, sustainable marketing educates and empowers them about ways to support businesses and nonprofits that share their vision of changing the world for the better.

Sustainable marketing, when done authentically, brings consumers and companies together toward shared goals and success, both now and into the future. And that’s ultimately what sustainability is all about.

To learn more about how Yodelpop implements sustainable marketing strategies for nonprofit organizations and big hearted businesses , talk to our sales team. .


Sustainable Marketing Download-cover

Blue and Green Tomorrow


Sustainable marketing strategies for small businesses.

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Concerns about the environment, sustainability, and climate change deeply influence consumer choices. Data from a 2021 survey found that more than 60 percent of U.S. consumers consider a company’s sustainability practices when making a purchasing decision.

If you are already implementing environmentally-friendly practices into your business, demonstrating your efforts to your customers can lead to a major boost in sales.

Consider how you can advertise your sustainable approach through the following marketing channels:

Incorporating your environmentally-conscious practices into your visual identity is a simple way for customers to associate sustainability with your business. However, overly vague claims, like producing lower carbon emissions, are not strong enough to convince consumers of the value of your work. 

The most successful branding strategies highlight a specific area where the company excels in sustainability. For example, a restaurant can emphasize its efforts to reduce food waste, while a sustainable construction firm can specialize in energy-efficient retrofits and building materials. 

Once you’ve identified the angle that fits most authentically with your business, redesign your marketing material to reflect your ecological values. Adding earth tones, like green, brown, or yellow, and nature symbols to your contractor truck wrap , website, and logo solidifies your company’s image as an eco-conscious brand. 


While adapting your brand identity can help showcase your values, savvy consumers will want to see some proof that your company is actually engaging in environmentally-considerate practices. 

Earning an industry-recognized sustainability certificate from a respected third-party organization can lend your business credibility. As certification processes are rigorous, earning a credential lets your customers know that your actions align with your claims. 

The right certification track depends on your industry. Retailers can aim for B-corp status, which affirms commitment to environmentally sustainable and ethical business practices. The Green Business Bureau offers a tiered certification seal to companies across industries that perform highly on its sustainability assessment. 

Landing Page

Some customers will need more information than a logo, certification stamp, or tagline can provide. Devoting an entire section of your homepage to your sustainability efforts will ensure that customers and other industry partners can access in-depth explanations of your eco-friendly approach. 

This page is also the ideal place to report your impact. This helps customers translate your practices into tangible outcomes. Your landing page can also provide some background about your company and why sustainable practices are such an important part of your work. 

If your approach is novel and has the potential to reduce waste and improve conservation across the industry, sharing this information on your webpage positions your firm as a thought leader and can widen your reach.  

You can also use this section of your website to educate the public. In addition to describing your sustainability efforts, link resources that explain how your industry impacts the environment.  Your social media content can also feature actions consumers can take to reduce their own waste and consumption. 

Achieving sustainability is not as easy as checking off a to-do list. Instead, it requires ongoing monitoring, revision, and adaptation. If shifting to a more sustainable business model is not financially viable at this time, run the numbers and set a strict but reasonable deadline. Publicize your commitment to reaching these sustainability goals and update your consumer base on your progress. 

Companies that build their core values around sustainability are better positioned to reach their goals. Ensure that you have buy-in from your employees, managers, and investors before embarking on green-focused goals. 


Even if your intentions are pure, overstating or misrepresenting any of your sustainability claims can cause consumers to lose trust in your business and brand. In the worst case, you risk accusations of greenwashing. 

The most famous case of greenwashing is the Volkswagen emission scandal . While the carmaker touted the carbon-reducing benefits of its new models, it secretly cheated emission regulations by installing sophisticated software in more than 11 million vehicles. 

The VW case may be on the more severe end of the spectrum, but any type of deception will lead to a  loss of consumer confidence. You can avoid greenwashing by being fully transparent with your sustainability claims. Don’t overstate the impact of your approach and acknowledge if some aspects of your production process are not as eco-friendly as they could be. 

Transparency also means going a step beyond and vetting your vendors and suppliers. If you are serious about centering your company’s identity on sustainability, you must hold the same standards for any other business you associate with. Being selective about your partners also builds trust with customer.

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How To Integrate Sustainable Marketing Materials Into Your Business Strategy

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A recent study showed that 88% of all consumers say they would like businesses to help them live more ethically and sustainably. Since sustainability is such a crucial part of a buyer’s purchasing decision, it’s essential to create and distribute sustainable marketing material s that catch the attention of your target audience and guide them toward the end of the sales funnel. 

In this article, we’re going to focus on the following topics:

Why Is Sustainable Marketing Important?

How to plan a sustainability-focused business strategy, companies that prioritize social and environmental sustainability, what is sustainable marketing.

Sustainable marketing is a marketing strategy that companies use to promote their eco-friendly products, services, and practices. While nonprofits and sustainability-rooted companies naturally promote the concept of sustainability , there are many marketing practices that non-sustainability-rooted businesses can follow to attract potential customers. Overall, sustainable marketing aims to emphasize a company’s mission and values rather than the products or services they offer. 

While the terms “ green marketing ” and “ sustainable marketing ” are commonly used interchangeably, they are different. Green marketing specifically focuses on marketing campaigns and strategies that strive to promote environmental awareness and protection. On the other hand, sustainable marketing is more of an umbrella term because, in addition to environmental impact, sustainable marketing campaigns also include measures your business takes to promote social responsibility .

For example, if your commercial cleaning company uses green cleaning products that are safe for animal and environmental health, this would be an excellent green marketing opportunity. On the other hand, if a portion of your company’s annual revenue is donated to underserved schools in the community, this would be an example of a sustainable marketing opportunity.

Sustainable Marketing Principles for Small to Medium-Sized Businesses

As you think about how to approach your sustainable marketing material s, it’s essential to keep these five principles in mind:

In the 2020 IBM study on consumer behavior, research revealed that when millennials look into different businesses to work with, they’re most interested in their sustainability efforts. In addition, baby boomers and Gen Xers strongly consider a company’s social and environmental impact when choosing a brand. 

Today, consumers prioritize a brand’s social and environmental impact more than ever before. Here are some of the most significant benefits of sustainable marketing material s:

Supports Long-Term Impact

Above all, the goal of sustainable marketing is to provide long-term impact. When you develop sustainable marketing material s for your business, you’re striving to change the world and how we go about our lives. By creating and distributing sustainable marketing material s, you’re also setting future generations up for success because you’re enhancing the environment they live in. In return, they will continue to do the same with their businesses.

Boosts Company Reputation

When your company aligns with strong social and environmental missions and values, you boost your company’s reputation in the community and industry. Without sustainable marketing efforts, people see businesses for exactly what they are—businesses. As you integrate sustainability into your overall business strategy , your company becomes so much more than just another enterprise to invest their time and money into. In addition to investing in your business, they’re investing in the community and generations to come.

Encourages Prospects To Connect With Your Brand

Sustainable marketing material s are great for supporting a person’s connection with your brand. If your company partners with an organization that is significant for your target audience, a potential customer may feel more inclined to work with your business because you share the same or similar values. The work you do with the local organization could be what converts the potential customer from a lead into a loyal customer.

Helps Your Business Stand Out Among Competitors

Many B2B businesses share the same product or service offerings, making it difficult to stand out among competitors. With sustainable marketing material s, you can do just that. Integrating sustainable marketing material s into your business strategy gives you the opportunity to show prospects that you’re more than just another company trying to grow its clientele. By promoting your company’s sustainability efforts, you increase the likelihood of a potential customer remembering your business.

Developing and integrating a sustainable marketing strategy isn’t as simple as it may seem. Before you launch your sustainability-focused marketing strategy , it’s important to remember the following: 

Think Beyond Your Business

While most marketing and business strategies follow similar pathways, the sustainability approach should look different. Most B2B companies measure their success through numbers: number of clients they have, how much money is generated, and so on. However, when you launch sustainability marketing practices , it’s essential to look at the bigger picture.

A sustainability marketing program’s success simply cannot be measured by a number because it’s something so much larger than profit. When done properly, a sustainable marketing and business strategy can be rewarding as it builds credibility, trust and strengthens relationships with consumers. While the efforts may not be immediately recognized in the annual report, over time, your customer’s loyalty will make up for the immediate ROI.

Once you launch your business and marketing strategy , consider what your business has gained. Do you see a spike in new customers? Is your retention rate higher than before you launched your sustainable marketing material s? When implementation managers speak with onboarding clients (and customer success reps meet with long-term customers), consider asking them why they chose to partner with your company. In addition, ask them why they continue to stay loyal to your business. This can allow you and your team to gain more insight into why the relationship has been successful thus far and if your company’s sustainability efforts have had an effect on the relationship. 

When you’re strategizing your company’s sustainable marketing products , make sure your mission and vision are clear so your audience can understand them. In addition, your company’s sustainability practices should correlate with the industry you serve. 

For example, if you’re a construction company that wants to promote your sustainability efforts, consider making more of your project materials recyclable and non-toxic. This could include your paints, insulation, adhesives, and more. 

While many B2B businesses decide on sustainable marketing initiatives just to have something, it’s crucial that it makes sense to your company, target audience, and the region you serve. This adds much more value to your business’s mission and vision and makes your brand more trustworthy.

Marketing your sustainability efforts is all about building long-lasting value for the environment and your community. A common mistake that many B2B businesses make is constantly looking for an immediate return on investments. For example, when companies invest in Google or social media ads, they want to see results as soon as possible. However, with sustainable marketing material s, the approach is much different.

As you promote your sustainable marketing efforts, it’s essential to use these values to nurture relationships with leads throughout their buyer’s journey and after they convert into customers. When you promote your sustainability, it’s vital to start sharing information about it in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. This allows you to start your relationship on the right foot and sets your company apart from competitors.

If your sales and business development reps are cold calling prospects, make sure they introduce your company with sustainability efforts in mind. For example, let’s suggest that a prospect wants to repave their parking lot, but they’re now considering their paving options. Every paving company can repave a parking lot, but what makes your company’s approach different? Your reps can pitch how your company’s cement is made with recycled glass and thick rubber from used tires during this stage. This can differentiate your business from competing paving businesses.

Be Customer-Oriented

While marketing in and of itself is customer-oriented, this specifically matters when pitching your sustainable marketing material s. Traditional marketing strategies encourage B2B businesses to focus on the products or services they offer. However, the problem is that most companies in the same industry provide very similar benefits, which is why a sustainable marketing and business strategy is crucial to stand apart from competitors.

When creating sustainable marketing material s, make sure they align with the interests of your target audience. This could be centered around the region you serve or the industry itself. For example, if you’re pitching local businesses in a small town, highlight the organizations you partner with in the area. This could resonate with potential buyers in that region.

Let’s suggest that the small community you’re pitching is passionate about supporting underserved schools in the area. In that case, you could center your business’s sustainability efforts around a portion of your profits going toward school resources. In addition, your business could donate books and classroom materials to teachers and students throughout the year.

Stay Authentic—Avoid Greenwashing

When developing sustainable marketing material s, it’s crucial to stay authentic without greenwashing. Greenwashing is when a business spends too much time highlighting its sustainability efforts than the business itself.

While promoting your company’s sustainability efforts is crucial, it’s important not to overdo it. This could be perceived as inauthentic and could reflect negatively on your company. When developing sustainable marketing content, make sure you look at it through a holistic lens. Sustainable marketing material s should be used to build your product, service, and business, not diminish it.

When you decide which sustainability effort to align your company with, make it meaningful to your business, industry, and target audience. Sustainable business strategies should not be a marketing ploy but something you work to achieve every day. In addition, your sustainable marketing strategy should be attainable and measurable throughout the year. When a sustainable marketing goal is set too high, it can reflect poorly on the company.

Sustainable marketing isn’t a new concept. It’s been around forever, and many companies have been very successful with their sustainable marketing efforts. Here are some of the top tech enterprises that effectively promote their sustainability efforts:

Salesforce strives to develop new technologies that enhance relationships between companies and customers. In 2018, they declared that they are creating new technologies that reduce carbon emissions across all economic sectors.

When Salesforce announced their new sustainability efforts, they also mentioned that they are striving to achieve the following goals:

As an innovative leader in technology, Google seeks to promote sustainability by following these green initiatives:

Google has developed a great reputation for being an eco-friendly company and is one of the most forward thinking and innovative organizations in the world.

When possible, Microsoft creates products made from recycled and reused materials. By 2023, Microsoft aims to run 70% of its massive data centers on renewable energy sources. In addition, the tech company aims to be carbon negative by 2030 and remove any of its historical carbon emissions by 2050.

Key Takeaways

Since consumers value social and environmental sustainability from B2B companies, it’s essential to integrate sustainable marketing material s into your overall business strategy . Sustainable marketing practices provide many benefits to the world, your business, and your target market. However, it’s vital to develop your sustainable marketing plan strategically without greenwashing. 

At Abstrakt Marketing Group, our sales reps and digital marketing specialists help B2B companies pitch and create sustainable marketing material s to guide each prospect toward the end of their buyer’s journey. When you’re ready to promote your company’s sustainability efforts, contact your lead generation partners at Abstrakt Marketing Group!

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How to Develop a Small Business Sustainability Plan

If you’re a small business owner, you may be wondering what you’ll gain by adopting a small business sustainability plan. In a word, plenty! Regardless of your industry, adopting sustainable business practices can improve your bottom line—in both the traditional and the environmental sense.

Your cost savings, reduced risk, positive brand association, improvements to the environment and public health, and ability to meet demands for eco-conscientious products and services will more than offset the costs of up-front integration of sustainability initiatives. In other words, your small business sustainability plan’s initial costs are a wise investment!

marketing strategies for small business sustainability

What Is a Business Sustainability Plan?

A business sustainability plan is simply something an organization develops to achieve goals that create financial, societal and environmental sustainability. A business impacts communities and resources, so taking these steps to sustainability is in the best interests of the environment, the business owner and the consumer.

Reasons to Build a Sustainable Business

Making the case for a sustainable business is simple: an environmentally friendly business can be a profitable one. You can decrease your business’s negative impact on the environment and potentially save money. Just take it from the many  companies around the world that generate at least $1 billion a year in revenue from sustainable products or services. These companies manufacture everything from burritos to sports cars. Collectively, these businesses generate more than $100 billion in annual revenue from their green product lines alone, and they can outperform competitors by nearly 12 percent annually.

Small businesses can easily scale these practices and implement them in their own organizations through a small business sustainability plan. From saving money and promoting public health to improving public relations, the benefits of building a sustainable business might surprise you.

Benefits of a Small Business Sustainability Plan

5 Steps to Sustainability for a Small Business

If you’re ready to develop your small business sustainability plan, we’re here to help! With these five steps to sustainability based on going above and beyond mere regulatory compliance , you’ll be equipped to make your business more up to date and efficient. The result will be rewards for both the environment and your bottom line.

Step one to sustainability for a small business

Step 1: Learn about Sustainability

The first step in creating a small business sustainability plan is learning what, exactly, sustainability is all about.

Step two to sustainability for a small business

Step 2: Assess Areas of Improvement

If the federal government and major corporations can find ways to improve sustainability, so can your small business! It just takes some research.

Step three to sustainability for a small business

Step 3: Find Opportunities

Start embracing the entrepreneurial spirit of innovation and asking yourself the hard questions: check out these opportunities for creating the best small business sustainability plan possible.

Step four to sustainability for a small business

Step 4: Create a Vision

Your vision for sustainability is all about what makes you and your business tick.

Step five to sustainability for a small business

Step 5: Implement Changes

The final of the five steps to sustainability is an exciting one. Implementation!

After you’ve taken the five steps to sustainability, make sure you can substantiate your sustainability claims before going public with the environmental advantages of your products or services. You can avoid making unqualified claims by following the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines and general principles that apply to environmental marketing. You’ll learn how consumers will interpret your claims and how to support and qualify your claims without being misleading. Then you’ll be ready to let people know about your small business sustainability plan. The financial, societal, environmental and public relations rewards are sure to follow!

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