Sustainability Marketing

As consumers become increasingly environmentally aware and companies work to thrive as interests shift, sustainability has become a major marketing point for companies across the board. From baby boomers to Generation Z, consumers are all more likely to buy from a company that has an established commitment to environmental impact and stability, making green initiatives not only a socially and environmentally friendly conscious choice but an excellent position for marketers.

There are many ways to go green as a business. From offering remote work to refining production, packaging, and distribution processes, both small and large changes in business practices can improve the functioning and image of a company. This is especially important as the competition in sustainability-focused companies has grown as more organizations have devoted themselves to green practices.

With consumers able to easily research the sustainability practices of a company and choose from several within a given industry, green initiatives have become a major focus for all companies. Not all of them go about it ethically. Greenwashing is the practice of changing marketing and consumer-facing appearance to seem devoted to sustainability without actually changing business practices to support your claims. While sustainability can be a major selling point, there have to be actions present to back it up. 

Green Washing

The competition among companies to put their best foot forward with the public is intense, especially in older industries like commercial production and automotive. With consumer vehicles majorly contributing to pollution, and cars and trucks total almost a fifth of emissions in the United States, companies are scrambling to prove that they have the most environmentally friendly vehicles around. While this sounds like something that would improve the state of emissions, not all companies have been as committed as they claim.

Greenwashing is when a company claims to have a focus on sustainability and markets itself as a sustainability-focused business, without changing its practices in a way that backs up those claims. This is a clear attempt to capitalize on the popularity of green initiatives through marketing, and eventually, these false claims are usually found out. This can be seen everywhere, from cars to clothing.

A staple of automotive production, Volkswagen, has had its share of scandals when it comes to greenwashing their cars. As recently as 2015, Volkswagen was involved in an emissions scandal after it was found that they had fitted their vehicles with “defeat” devices. These components registered when a car was being tested for emissions ratings and would provide false information, giving the company an unearned high score to tout. Attempts at greenwashing are not always so visibly nefarious, and the legality around the lack of definition of the term “sustainable” has been a point of contention in the fashion industry for years.

The proliferation of fast fashion, where inexpensive clothing is mass-produced in response to current fashion trends, has brought the sustainability of fashion into question. In 2019, H&M released a supposedly sustainable clothing line called “Conscious,” a line that supposedly used organic cotton and recycled polyester. However, a men’s long sleeve shirt still used 20,000 liters of water to create, making it far from sustainably sourced. There is only a vague definition of “sustainable” in the fashion industry, which has made marketers and brands able to skirt the legality of claiming that their lines are environmentally friendly, without fully committing to those values. Ironically, the beauty industry has been extremely successful where fashion has failed.

Sustainable Beauty

While no industry has managed to make itself entirely sustainable, some have taken great strides towards safer, more sustainable products and production methods, and the beauty industry is one of them. Beauty products have a long history of containing harmful chemicals and questionably sourced ingredients and a reputation for being the source of large amounts of plastic waste. As zero waste and sustainability-focused consumers began to demand higher quality, safer alternatives, companies have begun to rise to the challenge.

Companies have begun production of products like shampoo and conditioner bars, packaging their cosmetics in metal and glass containers, and even sourcing their ingredients from plant byproducts to promote sustainability in the beauty industry. By making their items recyclable or reusable, companies can reduce their contribution to plastic manufacturing, and devote themselves publicly to sustainability. By pursuing these same values in their sourcing of ingredients, beauty industries can market themselves as good for the planet, and the consumer.

Beauty products have always contained less than desirable ingredients, from radium in the 1930s to carcinogens and even formaldehyde today. But as companies become increasingly aware of higher quality, environmentally conscious ingredients, these companies can devote themselves fully to health and sustainability. This may include finding alternatives to palm oil, instituting a recycling program with their customers, or changing any number of business practices.

These very real changes have provided marketers with not only a niche to work with but a dedicated, engaged consumer base that is looking for the most sustainable option they can find. This is an opportunity both for boutique businesses and larger, more established companies that are pivoting their production and marketing materials to focus on sustainability. Companies such as L’Oreal are changing the materials they use for packaging, and Garnier has provided consumers with an easy, accessible recycling program, claiming to have diverted 11.9 million empty bottles from landfills. In an extremely green-conscious time, these business changes are vital to marketing and business success.  

Sustainable Marketing

Sustainable marketing has to keep several things in mind to be successful. Be aware of your customer base, both in terms of what they expect from a company and who they are comparing you to. The landscape of sustainable production and marketing is increasingly competitive, so make sure that you are addressing consumer concerns as quickly as possible. You must also stay knowledgeable about public policy and regulation. This will not only keep your campaigns on topic, but it will also show that your company is actively staying apprised of the details of sustainability. This is a way to draw in consumers who may have previously been skeptical, by referencing and showing the changes you are making in response to new legal requirements.

While businesses have many ways to improve their sustainability and focus on the environment, marketers need to know how to present these actions to the world in an honest, ethical way. Though many have tried to promote brands as being ethical and sustainable, these assertions fall apart if they aren’t backed up by the verifiable actions of the company. When looking to focus your marketing on a company’s sustainability initiatives, consider the demand that is driving these changes, and where these changes will take the company.

By Anurag Rathod

Anurag Rathod is an Editor of, who is passionate for app-based startup solutions and on-demand business ideas. He believes in spreading tech trends. He is an avid reader and loves thinking out of the box to promote new technologies.