Objectives of this chapter is to help students to get a wider scope of the complexity of sustainability marketing. Main aims are how sustainability marketing differs from conventional business thinking and how it can be used to support more ethical and environmentally friendly solutions on both sides: in consumption and in business.
Contents: ethical consumption and consumer behaviour, sustainability marketing values and objectives, sustainability marketing strategies, instrumental sustainability markeitng and sustainability marketing transformation. Included also topics like challenges in segmentation, different environmental/responsibility standards, certificates and labels as well the possibilities to use them in marketing communication etc.
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Pesonen H-L. Course material for Sustainability Strategy and Marketing at university of Jyväskylä, faculty of economics and administration, master programme Corporate Environmental Management in spring 2008.
The primary challenge of companies and marketers has probably always been to meet the needs and requirements of the consumer. If a company fails to do so, failure is unavoidable. From sustainability point of view marketing plays an ambivalent role: On the one hand marketing can also promote a consumer society and materialism which causes problems on the social and natural environments. On the other hand, however, marketing can also help develop and diffuse sustainability innovations such as solar houses, renewable energies, organic food, fair trade products etc. Sustainability marketing is based on the idea of sustainable development, a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (definition by World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). As we know, sustainable development should cover both, intra-generational equity which means equity between the same generation living in different parts of the world, and inter-generational equity, i.e. equality between the present and future generations. Sustainable development should be seen as a continuous process covering all three components: economic, environmental and social development. The ideal situation would be, naturally, a so called win-win-win situation where all the three components would be supported by the same means and at the same time in harmony. This is, however, not always possible. Instead, sustainable development often deals with trade-offs, continuously balancing between economic, environmental and social goals in a responsible way. In marketing, these kinds of conflicts and trade-offs may become more obvious and visible than in any other business function.
Creating a concept of sustainability marketing, or implementing it in practice, is not a simple or straightforward business. The first challenge emerges from the fact that terms like green, sustainable, responsible, ethical etc. are relative concepts. Different people and different countries and cultures may have very different perceptions of what these terms mean. They also may have very different perceptions of environmental and ethical problems in general as well as of their urgency, causes and potential solutions. Differences may be significant even within the same country, same area, same demographic group. For ones implementing an environmental management systems in a company, reducing emissions by a few percent, forbidding child labour etc. mean big steps of development while for others this is far from enough.
According to Belz (2005), sustainability marketing goes beyond conventional marketing thinking. If conventional marketing is, generally speaking, about satisfying customer needs and building profitable relationships with customers, sustainability marketing may be defined as building and maintaining sustainable relationships not only with customers bu also to the social environment and the natural environment. This means that by creating social and environmental value, sustainability marketing tries to deliver and increase customer value. In other words sustainability marketing aims at creating all three: customer value, social value and environmental value. The goal of sustainability marketing is to respond to the growing interests of consumers and other stakeholders related to the environmental impacts of companies and their products. By means of marketing communication companies can provide customers with environmental information of its actions and products. In addition to creating and supporting the image of the company and its products, one important task of sustainability marketing is to improve environmental awareness of consumers and influence people´s attitudes and the public opinion. It may even support the expansion of environmentally friendlier life styles. (Hopfenbeck 1992, 180, Uusitalo 1994, 61). Similar to the conventional marketing concept, sustainability marketing analysis customer needs and wants, develops sustainable products that provide superior value, and prices, distributes and promotes them effectively to selected target groups. The biggest difference is that ecological and social aspects are integrated not only in products and production but in all actions throughout the whole process. (Belz 2005, 1-2).
As the environmental crisis deepens and the public concern as well as the environmental awareness of people grows, it could be expected that the demand for environmentally friendlier products and services would also grow in importance. In other words, in most markets the final consumer and the buyers within any marketing intermediaries have an important role in the greening process. According to Peattie (2002,75), the green challenge was being acknowledged as a permanent fact of life for marketers and marketing already at the end of 80s. He claims that the key questions about the future of the green challenge relate to the rate at which it will grow, the issues that will become of greatest importance to the different parties in the marketing environment, and which industries will be the next focus of environmental concern. At the moment, however, the relative importance of pulling effect of demand from green consumers and legislative push-effect from socio-environmental legislation varies a lot between different forms of market.
The terminology concerning sustainability marketing varies at the moment quite widely. For example Belz (2005) gives some examples: Green marketing (Charter/Polonsky 1999; Ottman 1998; Peattie 1992), eco-marketing (Belz 2001; Meffert/Kirchgeorg 1998) and environmental marketing (Coddington 1993; Peattie 1995; Polonsky/Mintu-Wimsatt 1995) are concepts closely related to sustainability marketing. Developed during the 1990s, these concepts mainly focus on the natural environment. They are concerned with the integration of ecological aspects into conventional marketing thinking. Societal marketing, in turn, is a term coined by Kotler and Lee (2005, p. 14-15). Societal marketing questions whether the pure marketing concept overlooks possible conflicts between consumer short-term wants and consumer long-run welfare. Sustainable marketing is not synonymous to sustainability marketing either. The adjective "sustainable" usually means durable, long-lasting, or ever-lasting. Therefore sustainable marketing is often interpreted as a kind of marketing, which builds long-lasting customer relationships effectively – without any particular reference to sustainable development or consideration of sustainability issues. For these reasons the term sustainability marketing has been chosen to be used here.
In this chapter,the contents of sustainability marketing issues are divided into 7? sub-chapters based on the managerial point of view introduced by Belz (2005, 3 and Belz & Peattie 2009, 32). The conseption and its contents are introduced in the first sub-chapter Conseption of Sustainability Marketing. In the same chapter the first step of the conseption, Analysis of of socio-ecological problems, is described shortly. The next sub-chapter, Ethical Consumption, takes first a quick look at the role of consumption in general to give some background and more understanding of the topic, after which the focus is shifted on so called ethical consumption. Results of a few researches concerning ethical consumption and ethical consumption habits are introduced in order to learn to understand specific charasteristics of the field. The next sub-chapter goes on from this by discussing various topics concerning consumer behaviour, the first issue being various inconsistencies between intentions and actual purchasing behaviour. Explanations and answers are sought e.g. by exploring the classical purchasing process from the ethical consumer point of view as well as evaluating different individually perceived benefits vs. costs received by ethical choices. The following next four sub-chapters consist of the remaining steps in Belz´s model mentioned above: Sustainability Marketing Values and Objectives (in Belz´s earlier publications (e.g. 2005) called Normative Sustainability Marketing) tackles various issues concerning corporate commitments to sustainable development e.g. in their mission statement, sustainability visions and strategies, formulation of sustainability principles and guidelines etc.; Sustainability marketing Strategies cover, like its name reveils, strategic marketing issues like segmentation, targeting and positioning as well as timing of market entry etc. The next step, Sustainability Marketing Mix aims at translating the strategic decisions on to the operative level and integrate social and ecological criteria into the marketing-mix, i.e. products, services and brands, pricing, distribution and communication. The last step of the conseption, Sustainability Markeitng Transformation discusses the participation in public and political change processes which aim at transforming existing institutions towards sustainability.