The Future of Green Brands: How to market sustainable innovations

Any brand today should have the capacity and the drive to create innovative sustainable products. If the existing category leaders don’t embrace the opportunity for green R&D, they risk being disrupted by start-ups who can concept and manufacture trending, eco-friendly products in an agile way. However, for brands that are open to innovation and change, sustainability represents an opportunity for growth. Sustainable innovations and socially responsible marketing practices are critical for the planet, and also for the businesses.

Consumers are keen on adopting eco-friendly practices. According to the recent data, 26% of European citizens buy only “eco-friendly goods” and for over 50% of this figure, these choices are made frequently. Also in Asia, GlobeScan found out that 75% of Asian consumers reported motivations to significantly lessen their environmental footprint.

There is a wave of new innovations tackling the environmental challenges the world is currently facing. Companies are finding creative solutions to minimise environmental impact. Sustainable innovation applies to products, services, and technologies as well as new business and organization models. One such example is, a carbon removal marketplace. Their brand promise is to mobilize the world’s economy to reward carbon net-negative emissions. The suppliers that remove carbon as part of their production process get paid by the ones who neutralize their residual emissions with verified carbon removals.

What’s your green brand strategy?

Social and environmental issues are extremely complex and need to be tackled on a longer time frame than seasonal campaigns. Take the LEGO example: its mission is to have the production of its LEGO bricks be sustainable by 2030. This was announced at the end of 2018, making it a 12-year plan.

Consider building a long term sustainable marketing strategy that positions your brand and innovations in a right way and eliminates the need for greenwashing, leading to greater profits and customer preference. A company that is honest and genuinely committed to sustainability can earn the respect and loyalty of their customers. For example Sustenir, a vertical indoor farm in Singapore using smart technology, aims to displace imports to avoid unnecessary food waste and reduce CO2 emissions. With their strong commitment to do good for the people, good for the environment and good for their city, Sustenir has become a household name in Singapore with their fresh, locally produced kale and greens.

No quick fixes

Sustainable marketing combines your company’s economic success with environmental and social added value for employees, customers and all of society. Green isn’t simply a quick-fix marketing tactic, but needs to be sowed into your brand, products, culture, processes and employees if you’re looking to use it as a platform and avoid potential greenwashing claims. Each step of the process should be analysed and measured from an environmental impact perspective, to be able to provide transparency on the required evidence for sustainable marketing.

The most important sustainable marketing strategy is to design products and services that are green to begin with. You can use this list to determine if your brand is on the right track:

Your products and services …

  • Do not have toxic or ozone-depleting materials.
  • Are developed by using renewable energy and with minimal water consumption.
  • Are designed for reuse and long term.
  • Are packaged with biodegradable and eco-friendly materials that are easy to recycle.
  • Follow environmentally sound manufacturing guidelines and supply chain practices.
  • Are produced from recycled materials.

UPM Biofuel is a good example of a brand that is committed to helping their customers fight climate change with advanced biofuels. Produced using renewable raw materials, UPM’s products help reduce transport emissions and find alternatives for polymer production. Their operations are based on a circular economy producing renewable wood-based biofuels that comply with the widest sustainability criteria and certification.

5 tips for sustainable marketing

When becoming eco-friendly there are no half measures, it is important to really fully dive in.  The following are a few guidelines on how to market your sustainable innovations effectively:

1 – Make sure your product is what you say it is

Remain honest when stating how your products are created and what’s their environmental impact. Fulfill the sustainability message throughout the entire product’s lifecycle—from sourcing of ingredients to the recycling process, and share it transparently. Don’t trend-hunt, as you do not want to risk a PR nightmare with false claims.

2 – Get certified

Many companies now opt to include certifications on their products, both to verify claims and gain an edge in marketing. Choose the certification that makes sense from your business’ perspective. Third parties like Green Seal, the Chlorine Free Products Association, Science-Based Targets and Carbon Disclosure Project run rigorous independent tests on products to provide scientific backing for your sustainability claims.

3 – Manage sustainable pricing gap

The higher price of sustainable products discourages customers from purchasing and actually can be perceived as a sustainability tax. Eliminating or reducing the price barrier helps to encourage more people to consume products that are better for the planet. Don’t force the customer to make big trade offs—whether it is price, performance, convenience, or the package. Most consumers are not willing to make significant sacrifices, even if they would appreciate sustainability gain.

4 – Prove it on the packaging in plain English

Follow the expectation a rational consumer would make when hearing words like “biodegradable” or “recyclable.” For “recyclable” to be technically accurate, there needs to be a wide range of facilities that can recycle the waste. For “degradable” to be accurate, the product needs to completely decompose in a landfill within one year.

5 – Be patient

Remember: you are asking customers to change their behaviour to choose eco-friendly products. Behavioral change takes time. Gen Z and Y are fast to change, but older generations require more convincing. As more and more sustainable choices become mainstream, the change will evolve quicker.

Is it worth the effort? Frankly, we don’t have a choice.

Sustainability should be the only choice for any business moving forward. We have tested the limits of the planet for too long and the time is running out. From that perspective, yes it’s worth the effort. Is it easy? That is another question. But with some of these tips, it should be easier for you to help your company to embark on the sustainable marketing path. The future of green brands isn’t really about “marketing” at all — it’s about the purpose, positioning and innovation.

Anne Karumo, Client Partner for Sustainability and Technology, Superson