The worlds of sustainability and marketing are both undergoing a period of significant change. Sustainability is beginning to be adopted by some leading organizations as a key , if not the, driver of business growth, rather than being the largely peripheral concern of a CSR (corporate social responsibility) function.
At the same time marketing is getting to grips with the plethora of new digital and social media channels and working out how best to integrate them into strategy. Whilst these developments are progressing, however, sustainability and marketing are beginning to circle around each other in a somewhat cautious dance.
The two disciplines come from substantially different backgrounds, but will find themselves needing each other more and more in the future. Sustainability practitioners have come to realise the critical role that marketing has to play, in particular in relation to developing consumer insights and encouraging more sustainable behaviour.
At the same time a number of more forward-thinking marketers and companies have begun to see the vital role of sustainability in creating new sources of competitive advantage – some go so far as to see it as the only source in the future.
Sustainability needs marketing expertise; sustainable products, services and messages need marketing; and marketing needs the perspective and disciplines of sustainability to power future brand development. For a growing number of organizations becoming sustainable is also simply the right thing to do in order to meet their obligations to all their stakeholders.
The creation of a substantial area of common ground between sustainability and marketing might have seemed inconceivable a decade ago, but it has profound implications for both professions. As these two worlds collide there will be inevitable tensions and issues thrown up, but also – in all likelihood – some spectacular success stories.
This blog aims to reflect on the issues being raised for both sustainability and marketing in this rapidly changing era and to suggest some best practice.