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Growth versus the planet: how marketing can ensure their brands deliver on both

As governments across the world wrestle with how to meet their commitments to climate goals, we have been focusing on brands and the choices open to marketers when faced with the often-conflicting needs of business growth and promoting sustainability initiatives to invest in the long-term health of the planet.

Many marketers are being asked to act on a leap of faith; to believe that being more environmentally friendly will be a key lever of brand choice when often there is no evidence yet of this. They are being asked to prioritise an uncertain future whilst also addressing the needs of the business at a time of economic stress.


This act of faith is even harder when most marketers feel under equipped and a bit overwhelmed by the complexity of the sustainability world leaving them worried that they might, in acting out of good intentions, “get it wrong” and be criticised publicly.

“Getting it wrong” seems a real possibility as up to now corporate sustainability goals have all focused on technical production changes not on marketers’ area of expertise – brands & consumer consumption. For instance, translating what a reduced carbon footprint means to the actual experience of consuming a product is a big challenge. So often brands just end up putting sustainability claims on pack, tacking them on leaving consumers to work out what it means.

Sustainability claims thus often don’t fit the needs of the brand and marketers are left with no choice but to focus on what they know can deliver growth in the current business environment – innovation and driving existing brand equities & benefits. The tensions around acting on sustainability strategies persist and opportunities are missed for both the planet and brands.

There is an urgent need to use all the tools available to address the climate crisis. We cannot have brands sitting on the side lines as they are trusted and capable of leadership that could make a big contribution to helping change consumers’ behaviour. Marketing needs to begin its own interrogation of how their brands can help and design their own sustainability path that connects the brand’s needs now and the planets needs for the future. This starts with putting the brand first and interrogating its own expertise for areas of common interest with that of the planet.


Look for the sweet spot, what we call a bridge, where an environmental advantage is also an advantage for consumers in how they use the brand now. The big win is identifying an area of mutual advantage that connects the brand’s equities to a specific sustainability agenda it can own and credibly champion, enhancing its authority & saliency in its own category.

To take the above approach means starting off where marketing feels comfortable, brand thinking, but asking new questions, digging deeper and exploring beyond the usual areas, building bridges from the brand into the business’s current and future sustainability goals. To do this marketing needs a new kind of partner – a partner who has brand skills, imagination, and a relentless curiosity about how to unlock an ownable sustainability agenda. A partner who puts marketing back into the driving seat.

All of this adds up to 4 big guiding principles that can get marketing up and running in delivering for both their business and the planet. There is no need for difficult choices when you can deliver for both.

  1. BRING IN THE RIGHT EXPERT – ensure you have a strategist who understands the complexities of the sustainability world but who is fundamentally a brand positioning champion.
  2. START WITH INTERROGATING YOUR BRAND – go back to its DNA and identify where & how its benefits are impacted by the environment.
  3. LOOK AROUND YOUR BRAND – where and how does it interact with different categories and what can you learn from how the environment is impacting on delivering in adjacent categories.
  4. CHALLENGE YOURSELF TO MAKE CONNECTIONS – what bridges can you construct between the planet and your category/brand benefits and what can you own?


For more information on how our brand strategists can help you devise the route to delivering for both your brands and the planet contact !mpatience at [email protected]

!mpatience Agency