Tom Young

Green Marketing: Drive a Sustainable Business

By: Tom Young | April 1, 2015 | 
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Drive Business Sustainably with Green MarketingBy Tom Young

As sustainability becomes an increasingly important issue, no business should ignore its environmental reputation, but many companies are confused as to the most effective strategy for green marketing and portraying a company’s green credentials.

Luckily we have a lot of great examples to help lead the way.

Take a look at what you can learn from some of the masters of green marketing.

The Sustainable Living Plan from Unilever

Launched in 2010, the 10 year Unilever Sustainable Living Plan had three main goals:

  1. Help a billion people improve their health and well-being;
  2. Source 100 percent of agricultural raw materials sustainably; and
  3. Half the environmental footprint of its products.

To promote their commitment to sustainability they’ve partnered with media outlets known for taking sustainability seriously and organized Twitter chats with their chief sustainability officer, Gail Klintowrth.

But, their corporate branding advertisements will undoubtedly be the most powerful.

This excellent green marketing commercial opens with footage of famous speeches from Martin Luther King and Gandhi before highlighting young people from around the world giving speeches of their own.

How you can implement: Sustainability is inevitably a long-term plan that must look to the future. Share your long-term goals with your customers and don’t be afraid of using notions of the past and future to stir the emotions.

Coca Cola Changing Perceptions

A 2011 survey by OgilvyEarth found 82 percent of respondents considered going green a feminine trait, which made it harder to convince men to adopt sustainable practices.

A Coca Cola green marketing ad launched around the same time challenges this perception in an unexpected way, telling the story of a man in Brazil who transformed from a lowly “garbage picker” into someone who “hunts” for recyclable materials.

In one shot, the hero of the story can be seen wearing a t-shirt bearing the slogan “not wasted,” tying together the concept of a meaningful life and the importance of recycling.

While it packs an emotional punch, Coca Cola is well versed in responding to criticisms of greenwashing from environmental groups.

To work around this ,the company partners with organizations such as the WWF to give external credibility to its sustainability mission.

How you can implement: Working with, or gaining certification, by an independent third-party increases customer trust. While international organizations might be out of reach, even a testimonial from local sustainability groups can help boost green marketing credentials.

 The Nike Materials Sustainability Index

The Nike Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) is the product of more than eight years of research and analysis.

It weighs an extensive range of materials against four areas: C

hemistry, energy and greenhouse gas intensity, water and land use intensity, and physical waste. Recognized as an authoritative assessment of material impact, it’s used to partially calculate the Higg Index score, which is used by hundreds of organizations.

An interactive infographic has been produced to give people a taste of the MSI, but it is the Making of Making app that makes best use of this data.

Its aim is “to inspire better choices that support more sustainable design,” by providing an accessible database of materials and their impact scores.

A great example of green marketing that really helps the environment. A win/win.

According to Newsweek, Nike is one of the world’s greenest companies, but it scores poorly for reputation.

By providing this resource for free it is investing in changing this false perception.

Upon release, the app garnered commendations and coverage, while design colleges have incorporated it into their curriculum. Rather than focusing on quick fixes Nike has developed something truly sustainable that will produce great PR for years to come.

How you can implement: Few companies have the resources to match the commitment of Nike to sustainability or green marketing initiatives, but the philosophy of truly giving back is something we should all work toward.

A Green Marketing Fail

And now for what not to do in green marketing…

How did Hyundai choose to advertise a car with 100 percent water emissions?

With a video that showed a man unable to commit suicide from the lack of exhaust fumes.

Unsurprisingly the offensive ad was pulled shortly after an extremely negative online reaction. 

How you can implement: If in doubt, highlight the real positive benefits of adopting a more sustainable lifestyle and veer away from negative consequences.

What are your favorite examples of well put together and effective green marketing campaigns?

photo credit: another place via photopin (license)

About Tom Young


Tom Young writes for the UK’s newest energy supplier, GB Energy. It is the sister company of renewable energy specialist GB Energy.

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