Sustainability is such a huge topic in every sector at the moment - hopefully for a long time!
Being more environmentally aware is important to a lot of us now, and I think it's something that we should all focus on improving as much as we can.
Even little changes can make a difference.
I've come across lots of blogs and lists about changes you can make to make-up, clothes, food, and household products, but not much about being more sustainable in my job.
But marketing can be such a wasteful job, with promotional items, posters, and direct mail.
So I've taken it on myself to look into it, and find some top tips to becoming more sustainable and environmentally aware as a marketer.
Read on to see my hints!
Turn off the printer
Let's start simple. When you're heading into a meeting, why not bring your laptop, if you have one, and make the notes on that?
Send around the meeting agenda to people in advance, and let them make edits to it - Google Docs is particularly useful, as several users can make edits, and you can see who made those changes.
This goes for when you're at events as well - conferences, training courses, meetings with customers…
It’s also worth considering for business cards.
Why not digitise your business cards, to save on printing costs and waste?
There may have been a time where business cards were necessary for businesses to survive, but now, technology is so advanced that we don’t actually need them in printed form.
Re-think your promo items
How many times have you been given some freebie from a brand that's literally just made of throwaway plastic?
Or just something bizarre, that you'll never use, like those weird novelty-shaped stress balls.
Or even 'business' items that don't actually serve a useful purpose to you, like USB sticks with about 1 MB of data.
Honestly, I could just make a long list of promotional items that should never be made.
But I won't.
Instead, here are some suggestions of alternative promotional items, if you really feel like you need them:
Reusable coffee cup - it's being done quite often by a lot of brands, but it's always useful to have.
Hemp tote bags - again, done quite a lot, but always handy.
Plants - why not go full-on eco? See if you can get a plant in your brand colours, or get a tastefully-branded plant pot made.
Water bottle - definitely a staple for everyone nowaways, but you can go one step further and get one that holds both hot and cold water.
Handkerchief - they're having a come-back! No need for disposable tissues anymore!
Bar of soap - it's hand luggage-friendly, and good for the environment, as long as you provide decent reusable (not plastic) packaging for it.
Recycled notebook and pen/pencil - another no-brainer, but again, useful to have.
Soy wax candle - make sure it has a nice scent!
Locally-sourced food - why not support a local business as well? If you're hosting an event near you, or near a big hub of your customers, celebrate the local cuisine! Local honey is always a good idea - save the bees!
When deciding what promotional items to get, think about your brand and your customer.
What item represent your brand?
What item will be useful or meaningful to your customer?
Once you've got those two things covered, that's the promotional item for you!
Leafleting = evil
Leafleting, or as Ilike to call it, l-evil-eting (that actually pained me to type).
I'm not talking about all forms of direct mail - sometimes, it can be effective, particularly when part of your service is a printed directory or magazine, for example.
Where possible, adopt digital.
Have digital versions of your printed offerings, and send the printed versions to specific customers - those that requested it to be posted, and perhaps those that need some extra TLC.
However, leafleting should, in my opinion, be avoided at all costs.
How often do you get mass-marketing leaflets unceremoniously shoved through your letterbox?
Do you read them?
Like hell you do.
Even for companies that used to thrive on leafleting, like takeaways, don't seem to be having as much success from it anymore.
Takeaway leaflets have been replaced with JustEat, Deliveroo, HungryHouse and UberEats.
Almost everything is online, so that should be where your focus, and your budget, is going.
Direct mail is expensive, and ineffective, so put that money into your digital efforts.
Get paid ads on social media, PPC, or become a sponsored company on hosting platforms relevant to your business or industry.
Takeaway owners, put that leafleting budget into getting sponsored on JustEat!
Invest in getting some content written for your blog, and enhancing your SEO.
There are so many more effective marketing methods you can adopt, just don't throw your money away with leafleting.
And it's bad for the environment.
Even if those leaflets are recycled and recyclable.
Ram up your e-commerce
Following on from banning l-evil-eting, try to get as many of your marketing efforts online as possible.
If you have a physical shop, get online. If you host conferences, make them virtual.
If you're a consultancy, go digital.
Of course, it's a big transition, and it may not work for everyone (virtual hairdresser, anyone?), but if you have the capacity and the right product/service, get online.
Not only will you help the environment, helping to cut down on transportation emissions (and costs), but you'll also be open to a whole host of new customers.
The internet is global.
Think about it - have a virtual option for your conference, and you'll have new customers from around the world.
If you're worried that your attendee figures might drop, make sure that you're ramping up the marketing efforts to those based in the vicinity of your event, and put more emphasis on the other benefits of attending in person, like the networking opportunities.
Embrace your CSR
Corporate social responsibility.
Absolutely awful phrase, but such a great idea.
If you’re not familiar with CSR, it’s essentially your business’ way of ‘giving back’ to the world.
Sort of like offsetting any damage you might be doing, by way of factory processes, etc.
It’s also about being more socially aware, and helping to combat any social issues that you feel need to be addressed, even if you’re not ‘part of the problem’.
Here are some examples of how you can incorporate corporate social responsibility in your business (no matter how small):
If you’re hiring, make sure your workforce is diverse. It’s all about representation. Of course, hire someone on account of their skills, but don’t discount them on account of their race, disability, gender, or age. This isn’t technically about sustainable marketing, but it’s just good sense to include it when talking about CSR.
Try to source as many of your resources as sustainably as possible. Get coffee for your office? Go fairtrade. Need paper for the printer? Get recycled paper. Have a water cooler? Invest in reusable water bottles for your staff. There are so many things you can do to switch up your resources to something greener, just use your imagination!
Raise money for charity. Get all your staff involved and get fundraising. It’s such a great exercise for team-building and improving morale, as well as helping out charities.
Volunteer for charities. This is also great as a team-building exercise, particularly for new teams. Work together to improve the lives of others. Why not get in touch with a local allotment or community garden, and work those green-fingers?
Be aware of who you're working with
I don’t mean Susan with her countless plastic bottles of Coke each day.
I’m talking about your suppliers.
Who you work with reflects on you and your business.
If you’re working with a company who supplies your printers, but they throw old toner cartridges into the sea, you don’t want to work with them.
Do your research on everyone you work with.
It’s a lot of work, but it’s so important to your brand.
Their actions become part of your actions.
If you’re not sure about a company’s policies on something, ask them!
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Yes, it’s cliché, but that’s only because it’s catchy.
Reduce the amount of waste your office produces.
Reuse whatever you can, and get reusable alternatives to single-use products.
Recycle as much as you can.
It’s literally as simple as that.
Switch up your loyalty scheme
Loyalty schemes are fantastic ways of ensuring return customers – that’s a marketing fact.
But why not use your loyalty scheme to showcase your love for the environment?
Instead of ‘Free muffin when you buy 10 cups of coffee’, how about ‘We’ll plant a tree for every 15 cups of coffee you buy’?
Sure, it’s more effort on your part, but it can become such a brilliant marketing campaign in itself.
You could even host regular tree-planting days, and open them up to your customers to attend, and fall in love with your brand even more.
Plus, you’ll be planting some trees – it doesn’t get much more eco-friendly than that!
If you’re offering physical products or intangible services that have eco-friendly or sustainable elements to them, get certified.
There are lots of organisations that grant businesses and products with sustainability certifications, here’s a few for you to consider:
Investors in the Environment
Some certifications, like the Leaping Bunny, Fairtrade, or Vegan logos, are things that customers may actively seek out, so it’s worth having them if you can, to open up a whole new audience for you.
Sometimes, it’s not possible or financially feasible to shop local.
It’s often more expensive, and sometimes less convenient.
However, local businesses are fundamental to economic growth, and to reducing our impact on the environment.
This goes for business owners, employees, and everyone outside of work.
If you can pop to the local shop (avoid national chains where possible), and pick up the supplies you need, then do it.
You’ll be reducing your carbon footprint, reducing air pollution, and supporting your local businesses.
What more could you want?
Work from home
It’s not always possible, and not every business offers it, but working from home is becoming more common in business these days.
Not only would you save money on travel, and reduce your carbon footprint, but, according to a few (probably) legitimate studies, productivity could be increased by about 10-30%.
Even if you work from home a few days a month, that can still help to make a positive impact on the environment.
Have a chat with your boss, see if you can persuade them.
Or if you are the boss, just do it.
In your marketing messaging, you should feel proud about the way your company is run.
If you’re not comfortable with being totally transparent, then something’s wrong.
Communicate with your customers about how your business operates – it’ll increase their trust in you, and improve your relationship with them in a meaningful way.
Unless there’s some legal reason why you shouldn’t, then why not incorporate it into your branding and marketing campaigns?
Bonus tip: Use Ecosia
Just to confirm, NSC are in no way affiliated with Ecosia.
I just really like what they do.
In some cases, as a marketer, it’s necessary to use Google, like when you're scoping out the competition of checking out keywords.
But if you're just searching in general, use Ecosia - they plant a tree for every search you do, and you can keep track of how many trees you're responsible for.
Just for extra-bonus green points.
Those were my top tips for sustainable, eco-friendly, environmentally-aware marketing.
Even if you only do a few of these things, you're still making a difference.
If you've got any other top green marketing tips, pop them in the comments below, we'd love to hear from you.