How green is your marketing?


Concerns around climate change are, quite rightly, gaining significant momentum. We know governments are declaring climate emergencies, although it may take time for governmental action to be fully determined and implemented. So rather than wait, it would seem to logical start taking proactive measures to reduce our impact on the environment. Even if these are small changes, they will have the potential to set in motion positive behaviour changes within the marketing profession towards protecting our environment.

As someone who is concerned about climate change, not knowing how much we all need to do to ensure the long term sustainability of our planet is genuinely worrying. I can only hope that anyone reading this will use it as an opportunity to put and keep the environment on the agenda.

Of course it’s not just the marketing function that needs to consider and reduce its impact on the environment, this applies to all business functions. However, as I specialise in marketing I’ve looked at this from the perspective of the marketing department to identify ways the function can lessen its impact.

Different businesses and organisations will have varying levels of commitment to improving their environmental footprint. If you lead a marketing function you’ll already know the position your business has adopted. This gives you the opportunity to review this position and ask what more can be done. You may need to see your CEO to sound out their thinking, and if needed present the business case for genuinely deepening your commitment to the environment. This is also the ideal time to discuss with the management team their views on the environment to help you to understand the scale of the challenge your business will face in adopting further meaningful measures.

You may be asking: Is this the role of marketing? Well, that depends on your organisation. If no one has taken ownership of the green agenda then it presents an opportunity for marketing to do just that and start the process within the business. Ultimately, marketing is a function that aims to change the way people behave, it’s the department with the communication experts and tools. So arguably marketing is best placed to develop and deliver the environmental messages both internally and externally for the business.

Ideally, you want all of the business to be on board working together to make a positive difference. You may find it easy to gain widespread support, or it may prove more of a challenge, and again this will depend on the culture within your business. An environmental policy may already be in place, this should reviewed to identify: if it is still relevant, if it is working and making a difference, and to find ways to enhance it. If a policy exists working with and offering to support the owner of the policy makes sense.

By this point you’ll have gained an understanding of where your business is in terms of its commitment to reducing its impact on the environment, and hopefully you’ll have identified a genuine appetite for further action to be taken. As the communications experts marketing will have a central role to play in helping to ensure these actions are energised and successfully adopted. This should become part of a defined environmental strategy for the business.

Whilst this is being developed your focus can shift to looking at reducing the environmental impact of your marketing activity from an operational perspective. I’d fully recommend engaging with the marketing team from the outset, and would start by running a team workshop on the subject of: How green is our marketing?

Give everyone the opportunity to create a vision of your green marketing department. What would that look like? How different would it be? And importantly: How can it be achieved?

It may be a case of having to prioritise, however this is the perfect opportunity to be innovative. This could include considering new working practices such as remote working and/or adopting a four day working week to help reduce personal environmental impact. This type of measure is a significant change in the workplace and the marketing team may not be able to adopt their own practices. Yet this creates the perfect opportunity to work closely with HR and to even propose a trial to allow the benefits of new more environmentally friendly working practices to be assessed. The hope being they can then be permanently adopted where appropriate across the whole business.

Marketing consumes materials, and in particular promotional materials that are often made of plastic and travel from China. Again, encourage innovative thinking and challenge the norm. You could, for example, replace the giveaway pen with a cupcake made by a local business. Not only would this reduce the environmental impact of your promotional items, it would also support a local business, and even become a positive story to illustrate your commitment to the environment.

If a team member shows a particular interest in the environment, they could become your green champion to ensure the intentions shown in your workshop are turned into actions.

Communicating your commitment and actions internally can encourage similar workshops for all departments, and you can proactively offer to host them. Ideally, and before too long your business could have a green champion for each function. This would be hugely beneficial in tackling wider issues including packaging, production and energy use.

Essentially there’s no reason to prevent marketing from becoming the agent for environmental change.

Marketing loves to tell stories, and adverts based on environmental concern are becoming increasingly evident. You can imagine this type of marketing activity will become subject to increasing scrutiny around the environmental claims being made. This does mean it will be imperative to ensure that the commitment your business has to combating climate change is authentic, transparent and any marketing activity based on it will need to be carefully considered.

How green is your marketing? Now is the time to ask the question, and to be prepared to take the actions needed to ensure that your marketing is as green as it can possibly be. I hope you get the opportunity to be truly innovative and creative in finding ways to significantly reduce the impact your marketing is having on the environment, and do please feel free to let me know what measures you and your team are taking.