This article considers marketing within the context of corporate responsibility. There are some who would consider marketing to be the opposite of what a responsible business should be engaged in. But this is not the case.


If marketing is defined as “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.” Then it should be clear that marketing itself is not dangerous, only specific types of misleading marketing and marketing that promotes products and services that damage the earth socially and environmentally.

What is needed is a new kind of marketing that makes sustainability irresistible and causes responsible businesses to stand out.

The good news is, that there are lots of opportunities for businesses who take a creative approach to marketing their responsible business practices.

Businesses that integrate sustainability into their marketing messaging become more responsible businesses. By doing this, you can change consumer preferences and change the way an entire sector is perceived.

This of course needs to be backed up with verifiable and meaningful changes so as to not to be considered greenwash. There should not be any inconsistencies. High standards of corporate responsibility should be found throughout a company’s operations.

Responsible businesses look to develop a new kind of marketing that is distinctly different to what came before it. Let’s look into some of these aspects.

1.    Environmental impacts

In the old style of marketing, environmental impacts would not have figured in any kind of messaging. Now, responsible businesses should use the marketing channel to demonstrate their excellent environmental credentials.

For services businesses, this should be demonstrating that that they have very robust sustainability throughout their operations and supply chain.

For manufacturing businesses, this should be demonstrating that their products are manufactured using efficient processes and that during their lifecycle they will use less energy and resources than competing products. Consumers also care about the products packaging and what to do after the product is needed. The packaging should be made of recyclable material and you should help consumers to be able to repair their product if necessary.

In this regard Patagonia is clearly a leader. Making their products with sustainable materials and helping their customers to repair items. Please watch the video below, where founder Yvon Chouinard sets out how his business is distinctly different from businesses that operate a single use throwaway model.

Yvon Chouinard: Why there is no kinship between Apple and Patagonia

2.  Human impacts

Responsible businesses also take the time to demonstrate that they care about the human impacts of their organisation. Consumers care a great deal about what their money is being spent on and they have a right to know so that they can make informed decisions.

For construction companies, this would be demonstrating exceptional levels of competence in health and safety.

For manufacturing companies, particularly those using factories located in emerging markets, a lot of emphasis should be placed on labour standards. If you have gone to great lengths to ensure that the labour conditions in your supply chain are robust then you should relay this to your consumers via your marketing efforts.

A great company in this regard is Nike and you can learn more about this by clicking the link below.

Nike supply chain disclosure

3.  Cause related marketing

Cause related marketing is a great example of how marketing can be used by responsible businesses.

This is a new form of marketing where a company partners with a charity to tackle a social or environmental problem. The typical setup is that a company enters into an agreement with a charity and a portion of the proceeds from the sales is donated to the cause. The aim is to create value for the company, the charity and the consumer at the same time. This example of a win-win-win outcome is a truly special phenomenon and why cause related marketing is so powerful.

Probably the best known and most successful cause related marketing campaign is the Pampers partnership with UNICEF on their tetanus programme. This works well because of the synergies between the product and the cause. You can find out more by clicking the link below.

Pampers UNICEF Partnership

A recently announced cause related marketing campaign that caught my eye was the Xerox relationship with PrintReleaf. This will allow customers to record, track and monitor their paper usage to ensure an equivalent area is replanted in managed forestry projects. This works well as a monitoring aspect and it works even better as it has tangible benefits in helping their customers to be more sustainable. You can learn more about the partnership via the link below.

Xerox to offset customer paper footprints through reforestation platform

4.  Products as services

This is an attractive option for manufacturing businesses who are developing products with high levels of efficiency and durability.

With this option, products are leased to the customer through a pay for use arrangement. This totally dismantles the incentive for manufactures to load their products with planned obsolescence. It incentivises companies to develop durable products, that are highly efficient and that can be disassembled and recycled easily.

With a normal product distribution model, the incentive is purely to maximise the volume of sales. With a product as a service business model, it incentivises performance and rewards companies that have the most efficient offering. This allows manufacturing companies to capture the environmental and energy benefits that they pass on to their customers.

This is a marketing strategy that results in a number of benefits. The manufacturing company wins through increased sales and more reliable income, the customer wins through access to a higher quality product and the ability to pay over time and the environment wins as perverse incentives are eliminated and the most efficient producer wins.

What you need to know

This article considers marketing within the context of corporate responsibility.

We looked into how responsible businesses should integrate messaging about how they are tackling their environmental and human impacts into their marketing output.

We looked into how responsible businesses can create engaging and memorable customer experiences via cause related marketing.

We also looked at how manufacturing businesses can flip whole sectors on their head by designing their products as services.

All of the different options demonstrate that it is not marketing per se that is flawed, but rather misleading marketing that leads customers towards options that are bad for society and the environment.

It is incumbent on responsible businesses to advertise and market to their customers what a better world looks like and how they are making it possible. Through changes to their marketing strategy, responsible businesses can make sustainability desirable and gain market share as a result.

The overall takeaway is that businesses should focus on the opportunities that integrating sustainability and corporate responsibility into their marketing strategy presents.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. How do you think responsible businesses should market themselves?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


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