The Sustainability Marketing Blueprint

by | Feb 8, 2024 | Digital Marketing tips, Sustainable, Website design

The fact is that people are becoming radically conscious consumers, entrepreneurs, industry and community leaders. A sustainable lifestyle, plant-based diets, carbon-neutral transport and work-from-home are now non-negotiables for many demographics.  

But you probably still wonder:  Do people care about the environmental impact of my organisation as much as I do?

The answer is yes

Recently, countless social and consumer behaviour studies have corroborated this zeitgeist trend in ethical consciousness – the preference for socially responsible products and services is undeniable in the 2020s.

person creating sustainability communications on laptop

Before we get started

Nowadays, all brands with a keen sense of longevity are following suit. Many organisations now refuse partnerships with others who don’t actively pursue environmental awareness or run sustainable businesses.

If you’ve built a legitimate, sustainable business, you’ll know the time, dedication and extra work that goes into becoming transparent, verified, and accountable. However, what we routinely see as an agency for ethical organisations is this: 

The primary problem is finding, engaging, and activating an ethically conscious audience segment.

It’s challenging, especially as organisations worldwide rush to ‘go green‘ – the competition is becoming stiffer. And now, recent changes in consumer behaviour, brand values and broader changes in social consciousness are catalysing a rush to capitalise.

This is called the ‘green rush‘ and is currently happening worldwide. 

Our research indicates a shift from sustainable business practices as a moral imperative to an economic imperative. We’ve arrived at a point where businesses should regard green initiatives not as “red” – a cost on the balance sheet – but as “green” – a money-making opportunity.” – 

women holding zero waste packaging and sustainable food parcels

As more organisations develop a sustainable business strategy, standing out from the growing crowd becomes more challenging. This is why crafting effective messages is essential. You need to be able to create customer loyalty by communicating your impact in more ways than just telling your audience: ‘We are sustainable!’

You have to show them consistently.

This is where sustainability marketing strategies come in. As a leading digital marketing agency for sustainable organisations, we’ve worked with green brands in various industries. In this article, we’ll discuss the fundamental techniques of sustainable marketing, which we employ to help our clients attract conscious customers. 

women creating marketing plan with notes on her wall

What is sustainability marketing?

Understanding the distinction between traditional marketing and sustainability marketing is vital. The latter, also known as green marketing or ethical marketing, is a public relations model that goes beyond the conventional methods we are all used to.

More often than not, conventional marketing relies on benefit propositioning; ‘more cost savings with this service!‘. However, sustainable marketing considers how ethically conscious audiences prefer to be communicated with and what they want to see in an organisation before connecting.  

Once you understand their priorities, you can use messaging, ethical initiatives, and promotion to activate this audience.  

desk of someone planning marketing and branding strategy for the new year

Here’s how sustainability marketing campaigns work 

As with everything worthwhile, adopting this marketing approach is easier said than done. You can’t just decide to use these methods to promote your brand. You have to be sure that what you are promoting can be held to account

If you don’t, you run the risk of greenwashing. Greenwashing can have a damaging effect and happens to even the most green organisations. Therefore, the first principle of sustainable marketing is to avoid greenwashing.

Avoid greenwashing 

For ethically conscious brands, reputation is everything. Greenwashing can occur with good intentions; often, organisations that have already embraced sustainability inadvertently greenwash. 

If you implement legitimate measures to limit your organisation’s impact through innovation, dedication, and a critical evaluation of your business practices, you can pair sustainable marketing strategies with transparency without worry. 

Here’s how to eliminate the possibility of greenwashing inadvertently: 

man holding picture frame up to symbolise the act of business transparency

Always be transparent 

Ensure your claims are accurate, specific, and supported by verifiable data. Ethically conscious audiences are used to being misled for profit and are naturally suspicious of general claims. 

Therefore, the best language to use to guarantee credibility is: 

  • Statistics
  • Numbers
  • Metrics
  • Certifications  

Be transparent about the limitations of your organisation’s sustainability by honestly portraying its progress. A perfectly illustrated example of this brand building approach is when, a boutique glasses designer based in the US, launched their ‘Look, we f*cked up‘ press release. 

The press highlighted the brand’s B-corp shortcomings. It caused waves of interest in the designer, as industry leaders praised their transparency. It generated a massive PR opportunity for the company. We recommend giving the press release a proper read to better understand the subtleties of this type of public relations approach. 

laptop with populate sustainability terms in diagram

Avoid outdated branding 

Try to avoid overused branding like “green,” “eco-friendly,” or “sustainable” unless they are backed by concrete evidence or align with recognised standards. Nowadays, these terms are used as blanket statements, which is why conscious audiences loathe them when misused. 

When branding, clearly express the scope of your carbon reduction/socially responsible model. Here are a few examples of how you could describe your organisation without using exhausted language: 

  • Eco-friendly travel → Conscious Travel 
  • Sustainable Finance and Investing → Impact Investing 
  • Eco-friendly clothing → Conscious Fashion
  • Sustainable Agriculture → Regenerative Farming

statistics on marketing outcomes on laptop

Always seek independent verification

When adopting a sustainability marketing approach, independent verification is the most effective way to remove unintentional greenwashing from the equation. Third-party certifications add credibility by assuring your audience that organisation practices align and comply with recognised standards

Here are a few honourable mentions:

Carbon Trust Standard 

The Carbon Trust certification recognises businesses for their efforts in measuring, managing, and reducing their carbon emissions. It demonstrates a commitment to addressing climate change and achieving carbon neutrality.

SA8000 Certification 

SA8000 is an international standard for social accountability in the workplace. It ensures businesses prioritise fair labour practices, worker health and safety, and ethical supply chains.

Certified B Corporation

B Corp certification goes beyond traditional business models by evaluating a company’s overall social and environmental performance. It assesses governance, workers, community impact, and ecological practices.

Fairtrade Certification

Fairtrade certification ensures that businesses adhere to fair trade principles, promoting farmers’ and workers’ social and economic empowerment in developing countries. It guarantees fair prices, decent working conditions, and sustainable practices.

someone working with a supplier using a stock clipboard

Only work with companies and industries committed to environmental and social responsibility 

This is a no-brainer. However, ethical organisations often need to remember how important this is. When the supply chains you use are questionable, promoting and marketing your endeavours is risky.

Here’s how you could be unintentionally working with industries that harm the planet: 

Your supply chain.. 

Supply chains can be complex. So, tracking where every component your organisation uses comes from or how it was produced can be challenging. You may unintentionally end up working with suppliers who aren’t environmentally responsible. 

Even though supply chain complexities are notoriously difficult to have complete visibility and control over, knowing and understanding where your business stands is vital.

 Here are some simple ways you can eliminate negative-impact supply chains:  

Digitise your office 

Even if your organisation predominantly works out of an office, you can avoid and reduce traditional office materials. Consider utilising companies like Google, which is active in sustainability. 

If you are still using paper, pens, and printers, consider digitising your office completely to remove these from use. Once you’ve overhauled your office workflow, promote your journey to others in your network. 

woman working from fully digitised home office

Invest in cleaner digital real estate 

Your organisation uses a website, which means you passively contribute to unnecessary carbon emissions. If you want a general idea of your website’s current carbon footprint, use

 There are two main ways you can lessen the impact of your website: 

Design and develop your website to reduce energy consumptio

You can reduce unnecessary passive energy consumption by building a lean website that uses lighter loads. Focus on design, content, and website development to identify opportunities for leaner user experiences. 

Look at your website analytics, separate frequently used pages from pages that consistently have low usage, and remove/strip down accordingly. Once you have limited your website’s footprint, you can promote your low-carbon digital real estate initiative.

DEEP DIVE THIS TOPIC: How To Build a Sustainable Website

marketing team working on sustainable marketing and branding strategy

Transition to green website hosting 

Hosting websites powered by renewable energy can help reduce reliance on unsustainable resources (fossil fuels) and promote renewables.

Try partnering with content delivery networks like CloudFlare who make legitimate commitments to improved carbon reduction initiatives. The Ethical Agency offers green website hosting solutions

Building a sustainable marketing strategy

Once you’ve put measures into place to remove unintentional greenwashing from happening, you can combine your ongoing positive impacts with a communications strategy.

 Here are a few key of our recommendations:

Position your brand towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The next best place to continue your sustainable marketing journey is by aligning your organisation’s practices with the United Nations’ SDGs

These are internationally recognised impact standards. By aligning your brand to target specific SDGs, you positively impact the perception of your organisation. Identify which SDGs are most relevant to your organisation and develop strategies to contribute positively to these goals. 

Then, it would help if you incorporated this alignment into your messaging and branding. This shows audiences that your brand is actively working towards creating a better world by aligning with a legitimate sustainability body. 

UN Sustainable Development Goals

Showcase carbon reduction efforts

If you successfully implement measures to reduce your impact, ensure your customers know about it. Use as many communication channels as possible to promote your efforts. 

This could include initiatives such as: 

  • Energy-efficient practices
  • Waste reduction initiatives
  • Responsible sourcing
  • Employee engagement programs

Engage and educate your audience

Don’t just focus on promoting your efforts; engage and educate your audience. Conscious audiences appreciate helpful resources that align with their values.  

That’s why sharing educational content about environmental and social issues related to your industry is essential. Consistently empowering your audience to become more conscious is necessary for a successful, sustainability marketing strategy. 

two marketing strategists partnering for success marketing strategy planning

Partner up 

The power of collaboration should never be underestimated. You can significantly amplify your reach by aligning your brand with other sustainability-focused brands, organisations, and individuals. 

Always aim to work together in a mutually beneficial way. This guarantees the longevity of your strategic partnerships. In addition, forming strategic alliances allows your organisation to reach and activate conscious audiences outside of your immediate network. 

Here’s why partnering up is a valuable strategy:

Enhanced brand credibility

Associating your brand with well-established sustainable leaders adds credibility and authenticity to your initiatives. It reinforces the perception that your efforts are genuine and meaningful. 

Expanded reach

As we’ve said, creating valuable partnerships extends the reach of your communications. By partnering with other sustainable brands or influential individuals, you access their networks, significantly elevating audience engagement and activation potential. 

Try assessing your existing network for partnership opportunities. Remember, cross-promotion is always mutually beneficial. 

Collective impact

Another benefit of solid partnerships is strength in numbers; you can make a more significant collective impact together. Collaboration allows you to pool resources, knowledge, and expertise. 

Take a quick look at some of our partners, membership organisations and affiliations: 

woman donating a box of items handing it to man

Harness Cause Marketing 

Cause marketing is all about donating a portion of your sales or profits to support sustainable causes or nonprofit organisations. It’s a powerful approach that allows your organisation to contribute while promoting brand awareness. 

Remember, a partnership between your brand and a targeted cause is mutually beneficial. 

Consider sponsorship programs

Sponsorship programs are a cornerstone when it comes to sustainability marketing. When executed effectively, sponsorship programs benefit both the sponsoring brand and the sponsored initiative. 

This exposure raises awareness of your brand, enhances its reputation, and attracts new customers who share your values. A great example of this type of marketing is the polar bear plunge, Dotsure’s annual 1,000 blanket donation initiative: 

Participants ‒ or “plungers” ‒ donate blankets by plunging into the icy winter waters of Victoria Bay to experience a taste of what those less fortunate in our community face daily during the cold winter months. It’s the coolest event in Eden ‒ literally ‒ and it’s all for an amazing cause!” 

Start by leveraging your business’s resources, customer base, and marketing channels to raise awareness and drive support for the cause you champion.

For example, you can: 

  • Implement a buy-one-give-one model where a purchase triggers a donation 
  • Allocate a percentage of your sales revenue to the cause
  • Create unique products or services tied to the cause

By aligning your brand with a cause your audience cares about, you can attract and retain an audience who want to create positive impacts.

Here is a great resource to help you find charities that promote sustainability

Dotsure's annual polar bear plunge sponsorship programme

Marketing with honesty and clarity

Sustainable marketing is built on honesty, clarity, and a genuine commitment to serving the best interests of organisations, consumers, and the environment. Thus, transparency and authenticity are critical factors in building this trust.

At The Ethical Agency, we refrain from attempting to convince consumers of items they don’t need, as our goal is to foster meaningful connections and provide value. Greenwashing is a deceptive practice we actively avoid. We believe in promoting products and services that genuinely align with sustainability principles. By avoiding greenwashing, we aim to maintain transparency and uphold the trust of our clients and audiences.

Connect with us 

We are committed to ethical marketing practices that foster trust, sustainability, and positive change. By operating transparently, refusing to work with industries that harm the planet, marketing with honesty and clarity, and implementing conscious initiatives, we aim to lead by example and inspire others to embrace sustainability.