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Develop and market sustainable
Sustainability marketing is a holistic, structured and innovative marketing approach - it revolutionizes the way we think, the way we design businesses, products, brand experiences, and communication. It impacts our everyday life and future learning profoundly.
Sustainability marketing focuses both on the customer, his needs and your relationship to him as well as ecological and social values .
Therefore, sustainability marketing is a strategic and evolutionary way to develop, implement and successfully market future-oriented solutions.
... reimagine economy
Responses to climate change
Challenges of unprecedented complexity require profound changes in all areas of life. It is necessary to transform the linear production of disposable products with high resource consumption and enormous waste generation.
These videos succinctly illustrate the consequences of our current linear economic system:
The Story of Stuff
The “Story of Stuff” project, founded by Annie Leonard, who is now Executive Director of Greenpeace USA.
by Steve Cutts
Resource-saving product design, re-use, regeneration and recycling are the central elements of a new economic concept that is modelled on nature's life cycle.
An economy that functions as a cycle offers a wide range of opportunities: for innovative business models, companies' future prospects, social improvements in society and the protection our environment - and thereby our livelihood.
New technologies and digitalisation are drivers and instruments for the development of innovative products and solutions. New business models and sources of income are emerging, i.e. in tracking materials, easy procurement or value-added services.
Sustainability marketing drives change in the company, which is seen as part of a broader social, economic and ecological system.
It translates the strategic and operational business goals into sustainable solutions, communication and commercialization strategies.
Four core principles generate sustainable growth:
Focus on customer and stakeholder needs
Balance in the distribution of costs and benefits of growth
Taking into account the needs of future generations
Global environmental protection
Sustainability marketing is...
The goal is to satisfy our needs while protecting the health and viability of ecosystems.
Innovative solutions are developed with the client and successfully marketed using new technologies, digitization and agile methods.
Social conditions are improved; equality and diversity are promoted.
The focus is on sustainable and dialog-driven relationships between the company, its customers and stakeholders.
Focus on relationships –
The Sustainability Marketing Mix
The difference to the classic marketing mix is based in the "customer centricity", which means the consistent orientation towards the customer, his needs as well as his communication, purchasing and usage behavior.
Customer Solutions and Customer Cost
Sustainability throughout the entire life cycle is taken into account in the design of products, services and solutions: from the reduced use of resources, the environmentally and socially compatible production to reprocessing, reuse and disposal of products and components. New pricing and service models are necessary and emerging, such as sharing or licensing concepts.
Convenience and communication
The easiest possible handling, procurement and disposal of products generate a high level of acceptance and loyalty among customers. This customer relationship and sustainable brand loyalty will be supported and expanded in the long term through dialog-oriented information and communication.
Sustainability Marketing Mix
(Customer & relationship oriented)
Sustainability “4 Cs”:
• Customer solutions
• Customer cost
Classical Marketing Mix
(Product & production oriented)
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Why sustainability marketing?
The change to digitization and sustainability poses opportunities and challenges. It is essential to secure and positively shape the future - for your company, the society and the environment.
Changing entrepreneurial behaviour, the organisation and the products in a sustainable way, while simultaneously marketing the innovations successfully and developing new markets effectively, is an agile and complex process.
The earlier we start, the more successful we can be.
Sustainability as a business strategy
Sustainability in the business context is not a project or task that is limited in time or effort.
Sustainability strategies and sustainability marketing can only be successful if they are part of the company's DNA and business strategy.
Everyone in the organization makes an important contribution, acts as a multiplier and ensures effective implementation.
A sustainable marketing strategy must work on several levels:
stakeholders and the
Sustainability marketing benefits your company and everyone else
Positioning as leader & innovator
Agile change management
Protecting the environment
Developing new markets
Securing & increase sales
Creating added value for partners and customers
Improving living and working conditions
Strengthening image & brand loyalty
Open, transparent and credible communication
Promoting cultural pluralism and diversity
Digitization as a game changer
Digitization plays a central role both in the development of sustainable, innovative solutions and in marketing them.
Companies that have already started with the digital transformation have a clear advantage and can also build on these experiences and utilize them in the change towards greater sustainability.
Frameworks like circular economy use similar agile methods and instruments. The best practices gained from the digital transformation also help to drive the necessary change in corporate culture and in the mindset of employees.
Digitization as a driver for...
Digital 'tracking and tracing' of components and raw materials for later recovery, reuse and regeneration
Sharing platforms for new business and service models
Use of smart technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) or blockchain
...strong customer loyalty.
E-commerce for quick and easy procurement
Improved purchase & service processes
Customer relationship management
...interactive marketing communication.
Digital information & communication, online marketing, social media, interactive web design, augmented & virtual reality
Marketing & sales automation
Optimized digital customer experience
...and much more.
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in B2B business
Sustainability criteria determines purchasing decisions
Growing market potential
Experts estimate that around 10 - 20% of consumers worldwide now make purchasing decisions based on whether and to what extent products promote health and sustainability.
This trend in private consumption towards a lifestyle geared to health and environmental protection (LOHAS = Lifestyle of Health & Sustainability) now corresponds to a market volume of approximately USD 290 trillion in the USA alone.
Sustainability trend creates pull effect for B2B
Not only CO2 emissions, but the entire ecological and social footprint of the end products counts. All companies involved in raw material extraction, transport chains, production and supply processes, in trade and distribution, in digitization, energy production and real estate management as well as in recycling and disposal contribute to this.
Sourcing decisions define your own footprint
Sustainability criteria for purchasing decisions are therefore becoming increasingly important in B2B as well. When choosing partners and suppliers, it will become even more important to determine how they can influence the social and ecological footprint of your company as positively as possible and how they open up new options for sourcing and reprocessing products, components and materials. This applies to the entire value chain.
Sustainable change only works in the entire system
Many companies have already started pilot projects, research and development of sustainable products and alternative solutions. Examples such as the handling of single-use plastics clearly demonstrate that stand-alone changes have no effect neither from the end of the value chain through changes in consumer behaviour, nor through initiatives by individual companies to convert production and processing alone. An alliance of many companies across the entire supply, production and retail chain is required to change the entire system. For example, this includes standards for the most uniform and pure use of materials that enable reprocessing. The will require legislators to come up with regulations and specifications of universal standards.
Public sourcing is driving change
In addition to formulating regulatory requirements, the public sector also has started using its purchasing power to steer markets in this direction, for example, in infrastructure, transport and digitization projects. This way public bodies can influence which products, materials and solutions are put out to tender and later utilized. Many municipalities, cities and administrations worldwide have recently launched comprehensive sustainability programs and are thereby promoting companies and industries that invest in appropriate solutions.
How is customer behaviour changing?
Decision-makers and buyers are personally engaged and actively inform themselves about companies, products, their production processes and product components.
They include sustainability aspects in their business & product cases.
Opportunities for regeneration and reuse of materials become an additional decision criterion.
Solutions that enable sustainable, innovative product design are in demand.
Cost-cutting potential through new sourcing and service models convince decision makers.
They communicate digitally, are highly connected in professional communities and use social media.
They are increasingly buying and procuring digitally.
These customers often pay a higher price for the added value of sustainable products.
Sustainability Success Stories
Visionary entrepreneurs are driving change
Success stories such as Tesla in electric mobility or Airbnb as a shared accommodation concept show that it is usually the visionary, innovative entrepreneurs who pave the way for changes in the economy and customer behaviour with sustainable business models and product ideas. Through the enormous commercial success of their start-ups, they are the ones who challenge established brands and markets.
Sustainable marketing in B2B
Marketing trends and innovations often arise first in consumer markets (B2C). Instruments, strategies and tools that have proven successful there are subsequently adapted to B2B marketing. This is also the case in sustainability marketing. Companies as well as the public sector increasingly rely on the development, communication and commercialisation of sustainable solutions and concepts.
Successful B2B best practice examples:
The Circular Economy Procurement of the City of Toronto
Reprocessing and reconditioning of production machines in the Chinese automotive industry by Huadu Worldwide Transmission in Guangzhou
Light-as-a-Service: Lighting as a service from Deutsche Lichtmiete
Sustainability marketing in the recycling industry at TOMRA Collection Solutions
10 steps to get started:
Inspire and involve your employees.
Define your sustainability goals and values.
Anchor sustainability in your business strategy.
Analyse the life cycle of your products - what are the specific social and ecological challenges?
Form agile, interdisciplinary teams for solution design and innovation development.
Use proven tools & frameworks.
Test and optimize prototypes with your customers.
Develop your individual customer value proposition and sustainability product story.
Focus on the relationship: turn customers into fans - with a strong and sustainable brand, emotional content and interactive campaigns.
Communicate openly and actively - digitally and personally.
Core elements in
B2B sustainability marketing
Strong brands and a clear positioning increase your customers' awareness and knowledge of your company and solutions - so you will be shortlisted.
Do you know your customers and their needs precisely? You need a deep understanding of their processes, drivers and motivations for sustainable purchasing decisions - especially of buying centers.
Information, product handling, procurement, service and disposal or returns must be easy and convenient.
Digital customer experience
A consistent brand and product experience in the digital world at all customer touch points strengthens brand and customer loyalty.
Credibility and authenticity in communication arise through transparency, dialogue and the relevance of topics. This is how you build long-term, positive relationships with customers and stakeholders.
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Building a sustainable marketing strategy
Successful sustainability marketing is always part of a holistic, sustainable business strategy.
Many companies describe their sustainability goals and values in a corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy as a core element of the business strategy.
The business sustainability strategy is the starting point for the development of a sustainability marketing strategy.
The Sustainability Marketing Framework
Source: Sustainability Marketing: A Global Perspective;
Frank-Martin Belz, Ken Peattie
Values & Goals
Sustainability Marketing Measures & Execution
Sustainability Marketing Management is long-term oriented. It includes the planning, organization, implementation and controlling of marketing resources and programs with the aim of satisfying customer needs while simultaneously taking social and ecological criteria into account.
Conflict of interests: environment, customers and business
The analysis of the external company environment reveals which challenges arise from the specific customer needs and their purchasing and usage behaviour on the one hand, and from the ecological and social influence of the company through the business activities and its products on the other hand.
Business and product analytics
Different methods help to identify and better understand the challenges in the different phases of the sales and sourcing processes as well as the environmental impacts along the product life cycle.
Goal: a balance of economy, ecology and society
On this basis, the sustainability marketing goals, the strategy and measures, are devised. The challenge lies in the balance of economic, ecological and social values and goals.
Core elements of strategy development
Segmentation & targeting of markets,
customer focus groups and decision-makers
Timing of the market launch of innovations
Positioning of the product and the corporate / product brands
Interactive communication and relationship building
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Nature as a role model
Sustainability requires taking a completely new perspective when thinking about value creation processes. The model to follow here is nature, in which the concept of “waste” does not exist. The elementary components of products and production, such as raw materials, materials, labour and energy, are kept in the overall system for as long as possible through processing, reuse or renaturation.
The product design is decisive
The analysis of the entire product life cycle and the product journey show the critical phases in which new solutions make the biggest difference. The economic, ecological and social impact of each product phase is already defined in the product design. Here , applying the core principles of the circular economy model can have a particularly great effect.
Keep products & materials in use
Core principles of the circular economy
Source: EllenMacArthur Foundation
The circular design process
- Evolution in product design
The circular design process of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) consists of four phases and incorporates approaches such as design thinking and human-centered design.
Know the product user and the system.
Identify the core challenge and design goals.
Develop solutions and draft prototypes.
Integrate feedback from customer testing and develop a compelling product story that engages customers and stakeholders and deepens their loyalty.
Continuous learning loops
The circular design process is an iterative process that is never completed. Ongoing testing and adjustments allow for an ever better understanding of how customers interact with the design and how it fits into the overall system.
Strategies for circular design
The three core principles of the circular economy open up countless possibilities and methods for strategies and innovations.
No singular, ultimate way to develop sustainable and environmentally friendly products or services exists – neither does a unique business model that keeps products in use for many years.
Yet, the EMF analysis of best practices and success stories in circular design shows that some strategies more frequently lead to success than others.
Successful circular design strategies:
The right choice of materials
Avoiding toxic or harmful product components
Focus on dematerialization
Reducing of the quantity and volume of materials used
Life cycle extension
Extending the overall product life
Modularity of the product components
Modular product design for easy repair, reprocessing of components and product enhancements
From product to service
Shift from product ownership to product access, as in rental, subscription, licensing, sharing or leasing concepts
New ways of creating value
Changes in product design also require changes in product pricing and pricing models.
Disposable products are unprofitable
Currently, it is standard business practice to only include manufacturing and sales and marketing costs in the cost calculation of products. Expenses for disposal or other social costs, such as environmental damage, are mostly neglected. If these were included in product costs, the limitations of the existing system would become very clear: products developed for single use are highly unprofitable.
New pricing models
New approaches are needed for product pricing. Costs can be saved by reusing and reprocessing products or their components. Keeping the balance sheet's assets and liabilities in the system for as long as possible increases their value. Moreover, new opportunities for value creation arise, for example through multiple use, shared services or the extension of the product life.
New business models: product ownership reinvented
New business models also arise from new forms of product ownership. Sharing concepts such as shared access, licensing or managed service models offer larger scaling options and additional profit streams.
Transformed understanding of values
The scarcity and finiteness of available natural resources make it necessary to develop new and sustainable business models. The understanding of our societal values as a whole is rapidly changing: ecological and social sustainability are becoming more important as independent values.
This has become even more evident through the financial industry's increasing investments in sustainable business models.
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Effective sustainability communication
The goal: strong relationships
Communication is an expression of personality and creates the relationships between people, brands and companies. Credibility arises from open, transparent, interactive and personal communication.
To change systems and processes effectively, impulses, ideas, new perspectives and convincing arguments are needed.
Customer loyalty boosts sales
Long-term relationships with business customers and partners are crucial for the market success of innovations and sustainable solutions.
They enable companies to reap additional business opportunities in cross- and up-selling that are generated from recovery, reuse, recycling, upgrades and regeneration.
In a connected, global multi-media environment, this requires:
Interactive communication and personal dialogue
Clear and precise information about benefits, advantages, profitability and technology of products and solutions
Building professional communities and networks
Emotional engagement and identification
Breaking new ground
Experience shows: Successful B2B pioneers break new ground - also through innovative marketing. Many approaches exist, but the right one must fit the individual product story and corporate vision. Focus, personality and authenticity make the difference. Unconventional tools and methods can change thought patterns and perceptions and attract attention.
Greenwashing doesn't work
Credibility is a valuable asset in communication and marketing, and even more so for sustainable products and solutions. Business customers are often critical and well-informed. "Greenwashing", which means trying to give products an eco-social image without a factual basis, not only does not work, but generally has a damaging effect.
The brand: authentic and bold
Experiencing brands and products that make the vision of a better and sustainable world a reality creates emotional engagement, generates commitment and individual identification.
The personality and authenticity of a brand is created by its unique positioning, the ecological, social and economic values attached to it and the perceived customer benefits relayed through powerful communication.
Every brand is unique - just like the product, the company and the people it stands for. Its presentation has to be just as self-confident and courageous.
The customer in the spotlight
Value creates conviction
Nothing is more convincing than tangible value and distinctive benefits, through ...
Clear information in the right place at the right time
Best practices and use cases that solve business challenges
High quality and usability of products, digital platforms and tools
Simple processes and individualized service
Independent reviews in the media
Communication for the customer journey
The basis is an inspiring product story that is created in the design phase. At its core is the individual customer value proposition containing the most important purchase arguments.
The communication strategy and its professional execution creates a consistent, strong image and positive customer experience at all touch points and throughout the entire customer life cycle.
Content is key
Successful lead generation
Potential new customers are only willing to leave their data for lead generation in exchange for relevant content and useful information.
The success of lead generation is therefore strongly driven by the right topics, useful content and meaningful tools with which you design your marketing campaigns and targeted inbound marketing measures (i.e. PR, social media, newsletters, e-mail marketing or classic advertising).
Strong marketing campaigns
Strong and creative campaign ideas make the value proposition tangible. Customers want to be addressed and engaged with relevant content and information catered to their individual knowledge, challenges, needs and using their preferred information channels.
Best practices, success stories, individual use cases, tutorials, and white papers are only some examples for suitable content formats to present and highlight specific customer benefits.
Digitization opens up an almost unlimited spectrum of possibilities for interactive dialogue ranging from your own online presence to social networks, e-commerce, e-training, service apps and much more.
Social media offers great potential for building awareness and successful commercialization in B2B markets. Campaigns for lead generation can be easily implemented with moderate budgets and resources.
Analyses and statistics provide additional customer data and visitor insights. Digital systems for marketing automation and for customer relationship management (CRM) help to optimize campaign and lead management.
“We are only limited by our imagination possibilities!”
James George, Ellen MacArthur Foundation
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Sustainability marketing consulting
Shaping change strategically
Like digitalization, the transformation to sustainability is already in full swing at many companies. For this change to be successful, it is important to strategically align marketing at an early stage.
Sustainable solutions for your marketing
The development of sustainable solutions, the building of strong brands, targeted communication and effective marketing are decisive for economic success and the future of your company.
The evolution of your marketing
The successful development of marketing towards digitization and sustainability can be effectively supported and accelerated by external consulting and the coaching of your in-house team.
Areas of expertise
Positioning & Brand Management
Communication & PR
Content Production & Marketing Campaigns
Digital Marketing & Lead Management
Events & Conferences
Innovation and strategy workshops
Coaching and onboarding of the in-house teams
Professional project and interim management
Sabine Rieth has proven track record and strong expertise in all areas of marketing management including many years of international experience in the conception and implementation of effective marketing and communication strategies.
She specializes in the development of sustainability marketing and digital marketing to increase sales growth, brand awareness, effective lead generation and sustainable communication.
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B2B = Business-to-Business
Describes business and sales relationships between companies.
B2C = Business-to-Consumer
Refers to business and sales relationships between companies and private customers or end consumers.
A regenerative economic system that strives to minimize resource consumption and waste production for the entire value chain by slowing, reducing and closing energy and material cycles.
Concept and methodology for circular economy.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
The European Commission defines CSR as a concept whereby companies voluntarily integrate social and environmental concerns into their business activities and into the interactions with stakeholders. CSR is a holistic, sustainable corporate concept that includes social, ecological and economic values, goals and voluntary contributions of a company to assume social responsibility.
The "journey" or "path" of the (potential) customer via the various contact points (customer touch points) with a product, a brand, an employee or a company to a desired target action (e.g. service or information request, order, purchase of a product).
Customer Touch Points
Interaction or contact points of a prospect, customer, partner or stakeholder (e.g. investor, media journalist, applicant) with a product, a brand, an employee or a company.
Customer Value Proposition (CVP)
CVP is the description of the customer experience and benefit that he experiences while buying and using the product, service or solution. A customer value proposition is not just a promise that a product or service should deliver, it is also the main purchase argument that explains how customer problems are solved or the situation is improved, what advantages the solution delivers and how they differ from other solutions or products.
Digital Customer Experience
The digital relationship between a company, brand or product and a customer, prospect, partner or stakeholder. It is regarded as an important element of digital transformation in the company and stands for a holistic customer experience of the company or the product brand in the digital world, which aims at long-term customer loyalty.
Environmental Protection Marketing
or Green Marketing
are forerunners of sustainability marketing and indicate marketing approaches that have increasingly focused on ecological and social values in companies and products since the 1980s and 1990s.
A critical term for marketing and PR methods that aim to give products and companies an ecological or environmentally friendly image without a factual basis.
= Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability.
Current lifestyle concept that focuses on health, environmental protection and social compatibility. Consumers are increasingly buying products that promote health as well as ecological and social sustainability.
= Lifestyle of voluntary simplicity.
Lifestyle concept that propagates simplicity and "downsizing". Aspects include higher quality of life through less working hours, more health and leisure time.
Strategic marketing approach for marketing and communication of non-profit organizations.
Marketing approach that strategically aims to bring about a change in social awareness and voluntary changes in behaviour.
Marketing concept that takes into account customer satisfaction in the target market as well as social values and aims at the well-being of society as a whole. It is closely related to the principles of corporate social responsibility and the CSR strategy.
Sustainability Marketing /
Sustainable marketing is the development, marketing, positioning and communication of environmentally and socially compatible products, solutions, services and brand values.
Sustainability Marketing Management
Long-term marketing management, which includes the planning, organization, implementation and controlling of marketing resources and programs with the aim of satisfying customer needs while taking social and ecological criteria into account.
Sustainability Marketing Strategy
The sustainability marketing strategy is always part of a sustainable business strategy. It includes economic, ecological and social values and goals. It is developed on the basis of the respective socio-ecological challenges, customer needs and behaviour as well as the company's business and CSR strategy.
Sustainability Marketing Mix / 4 C's
The Sustainability Marketing Mix is customer and relationship-oriented and includes the Sustainability 4 C's: Customer Solutions, Customer Cost, Convenience and Communications in contrast to the classic, product-oriented marketing mix with the 4 P's: Product, Price, Placement and Promotion.
Describes the anchoring of ecological, social and economic values in a brand as well as the establishment of sustainable brand substance, long-term brand engagement and sustainable brand communication.