Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Should a company's carbon footprint influence its marketing?
Media coverage of the issue of environmental sustainability has been on the rise recently. But are companies right to play the 'green' card in their marketing activity?
CHRIS SATTERTHWAITE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, CHIME COMMUNICATIONS
A company's marketing plan should always connect to the attitudes of its customers, and customers are growing more concerned about climate change. So it's a good thing to reduce and offset your carbon footprint, as Sky has done recently. It will save money and contribute to reversing climate change, but it will also connect your brand positively to the mood of the day.
Carbon footprints are becoming common currency. Brands that reduce emissions should communicate this. Seeing Sky going carbon neutral made us think that we could too. Like The Marketing Society, Chime Group is committed to doing so, and we will be carbon neutral by the end of the year.
ASHLEY GOODALL, MANAGING DIRECTOR, SAATCHI & SAATCHI DESIGN
Consumers have rapidly changed their attitudes to smoking, obesity, fair trade and the environment, and they are now responding to current press attention on carbon footprints. Sentiment is shifting in favour of lower emissions and the implications of this for brands are considerable.
If carbon labelling becomes standard, firms unprepared for the 'low-emission consumer' will appear vulnerable, which no amount of marketing will fix in the short term. Conversely, brands making efforts to reduce their footprint can use this to their competitive advantage.
Whether viewed as a threat or an opportunity, carbon emissions are set to be the next big issue in marketing.
MARTINE AINSWORTH-WELLS, MARKETING DIRECTOR, VISIT LONDON
Today's consumer treats environmental sustainability seriously. We are all polluters to some degree and companies need to address the issue throughout their business and their brand.
Some areas may be inherently contradictory - sustainable tourism, for example, can appear to be a paradox due to the level of aviation the industry encourages - but it would be worse not to be engaged in the issue at all. Consumers realise there are no easy answers, but they are less sympathetic to those ignoring the issue.
We should also be careful about how we display our green credentials. Few companies can claim to be perfect, and sustainability is now an expected part of consumerism.
NICK SMITH, GLOBAL MANAGING DIRECTOR, ACCENTURE, AND CHAIRMAN, THE MARKETING SOCIETY
Consumer concern over green issues is rising, but it is still a minority interest. Nonetheless, brands that can credibly boast about lower emissions because of the nature of their product and their targeted consumer should absolutely do so.
But carbon neutrality should not just be used as a marketing tool. If it is not going to have a significant impact on consumer choice, then it is a matter of corporate conscience. If a firm has genuine green credentials and wants to use them as a point of differentiation, it shouldn't just do so through its ads and communication. It is as much an internal issue as external, and should be reinforced by the way the company behaves.
This article was first published on Marketing
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