Industries across the board face heightened scrutiny over their environmental and social practices as more and more people advocate for a more sustainable future. Fortunately, there’s an emerging way for companies to showcase their commitment to sustainability that goes beyond the “going green” marketing gimmick. That’s through sustainable advertising campaigns.
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Sustainable Advertising: What is it and How it Started?
Sustainable advertising is referred to a marketing and communication activity that promotes a company’s products, services, or brands in a socially responsible, cost-effective, and ecologically conscientious manner. It’s a forward-thinking approach that puts significance on the long-term impact of advertising campaigns on both the planet and people rather than on a business’s short-term gains.
The concept has been around for decades, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that it gained traction. This is due to the greater awareness of environmental issues and the demand for corporate social responsibility.
In the early years of these campaigns, they mainly focused on the call for reduction of carbon footprints and promoting energy efficiency. But as the concept became mainstream, its scope evolved into a much more comprehensive range. Now, sustainable advertising campaigns also encompass social, economic, and environmental topics, including human rights, diversity and inclusion, fair labor practices, animal welfare, waste reduction, and more.
How is Sustainable Advertising Driving Industry Innovation?: 5 Key Ways
Since its inception, sustainable advertising has become integral to modern marketing. Many companies have already recognized that sustainability can no longer be viewed simply as a box to tick. Instead, it must be embedded into business core values and operations to remain competitive and stay ahead of the consumer’s expectations.
If you’re wondering how sustainable advertising campaigns are driving industry innovation, here are five key ways:
1. Creating Awareness of Sustainability Issues
As we all know, businesses mainly use advertising to create awareness and shape perceptions. But unlike traditional product-driven campaigns, sustainable advertising uses the power of visuals, storytelling, and solid creative brief to raise awareness about urgent environmental and social issues that companies may have a fair share of responsibility to address.
This was seen In 2011 when Patagonia, an apparel retailer, ran an ad campaign called “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” The sustainable advertising campaign advised customers to think twice before they buy a new product and encouraged them to repair or reuse their existing clothing. This campaign sparked an ongoing conversation about fast fashion and sustainable consumption habits, which eventually helped to set a new standard for sustainability in the fashion industry.
2. Promoting Sustainable Products and Services
Another way in which sustainable advertising campaigns are driving innovation is by promoting products and services designed to reduce environmental impact and improve living conditions.
The launching of Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly label in 2019 is an excellent example. This sustainable advertising campaign created an easy way for Amazon shoppers to find sustainable products and services by labeling and highlighting sustainable and carbon-neutral certified products. Likewise, it incentivized businesses to develop more responsible offerings as products with said campaign label have generated greater market demand.
3. Encouraging Sustainable Business Practices
If you think sustainable advertising campaigns merely promote eco-friendly products and spread awareness about an environmental issue, it’s not—it goes beyond that.
In fact, sustainable campaigns primarily direct companies to implement socially and environmentally responsible practices and processes. This involves using renewable energy sources, minimizing waste and emissions, investing in eco-friendly management systems, and being transparent about their environmental track record.
Additionally, businesses can go beyond the expected environmental responsibility, just like the giant retailer Walmart implemented in 2011. Walmart’s Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) campaign is an initiative to actively find ways to connect and empower women and promote workplace inclusivity. This major cause-related campaign provides an example of how companies are not just looking out for the environment but also the people in their local communities.
4. Fostering Collaboration Between Companies
In addition to promoting sustainable practices within the organization itself, sustainable advertising campaigns also spur collaboration between companies and other stakeholders in the industry. This includes forging partnerships with NGOs and other organizations to create sustainability initiatives, not only to comply with climate risk regulation and other frameworks but also to devise market-based solutions that can help advance the industry as a whole.
A case in point is The Global Fashion Agenda’s 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment, which brought together several global fashion companies to pursue a more circular business model that advocates reusing, repairing, and recycling clothing instead of discarding it.
5. Leveraging Technology for Better Results
While initially seen as a major contributor to environmental degradation, technology is now being recognized as an ally to sustainability efforts. Many organizations are now automating their operations to minimize resource consumption through web applications and analytics. They also invest in AI-driven technology to create more sustainable yet immersive advertising campaigns.
Adidas’s partnership with Carbon, a company that uses 3D printing to create shoes with a smaller environmental footprint, perfectly illustrates this sustainability-meets-technology approach. Together, they created the first mass-produced 3D-printed shoe made from recycled materials and proved that sustainability and technology can work together to develop innovative products that have the power to transform entire industries.
The Bottom Line
The innovation that sustainable advertising has brought about in terms of product development, business practices, customer behavior, and technology serves as proof that sustainability is no longer just a trend but rather the new norm in today’s business landscape.
Whether you choose to call it a sustainable campaign, green advertising, or eco-friendly marketing, one thing is for sure: companies that move towards sustainability will be rewarded with increased trust and loyalty from consumers, paving the way for a more sustainable future for everyone, and a thriving industry for generations to come.