What is Sustainable Marketing: Definition and Strategies with Examples

What is Sustainable Marketing: Definition and Strategies with Examples

25 March 25 March ~ 12 min read 1526 views
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Claspo Blog What is Sustainable Marketing: Definition and Strategies with Examples

Sustainable marketing is one of the key trends in the 21st century. Governments and non-profit organizations are paying more attention to environmental protection and preserving the planet’s resources, and businesses cannot stand aside. This is an excellent opportunity for businesses to contribute to solving global problems while improving their reputation and achieving other commercial goals. 

Keep reading to learn what sustainable marketing is, its advantages, and ways to use it.

What is Sustainable Marketing

Sustainable marketing is the promotion of a business that considers its environmental and social responsibility. Its practices can vary in scale, from producing one type of product from safe recycled raw materials to integrated brand positioning. 

Such strategies are usually developed for the long-term perspective. They do not give quick results today but can significantly improve a company’s reputation tomorrow.


To understand what sustainable marketing is, let’s look at some of the main goals businesses using this approach focus on:

  • Reducing toxic emissions, ideally achieving energy and carbon neutrality;
  • addressing social issues such as inequality, chauvinism, rejection, cultural assimilation, etc;
  • financing global projects designed to protect nature and people;
  • development of new technologies to improve living standards;
  • creating equal opportunities for everyone within the company, regardless of their background.

The definition of sustainable marketing implies the forming of an impeccable business image. However, it is important to understand that it should be about more than just words. 

Many companies make promises that are at odds with their actions, leading to the emergence of the term Greenwashing. Greenwashing means using the idea of sustainable development to promote products only for the sake of profit, without any social and environmental responsibility. 

According to Zippia, 88% of young people do not trust empty promises of businesses, paying attention only to specific facts. Therefore, this form of marketing should be used with the utmost care. Its misuse can do more harm than good.

Sustainable Marketing vs Green Marketing

“Green marketing” is often confused with sustainable marketing. But in fact, it is a narrower concept. It focuses on promoting a business only based on environmental safety and protection without addressing social issues. 

Green marketing has a long history. It is believed that it was initiated by Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, published in 1962. In it, she described a future where toxic chemicals were the reason birds and small animals died. This work became resonant and drew the attention of millions of people to environmental protection, and, in the 1970s, businesses began to use the ideas of environmentally friendly products. New standards for voluntary certification emerged, and the pursuit of resource preservation began. 

Later, in the 1990s, sustainable marketing appeared, with more attention paid to social issues, especially among minorities and in low-income countries. It peaked in the mid-2010s thanks to the Internet and social media, which facilitate the dissemination of information and allow everyone to do their own research. 

Let us show you the differences between these two concepts:


Sustainable marketing

Green marketing

Key idea

Sustainable development of humanity, ensuring a happy future without environmental and social problems for future generations

Protecting the environment, preserving resources, reduction of toxic emissions

Main methods

Partnership with environmentally and socially responsible suppliers, supporting non-profit organizations, establishing charitable foundations, disseminating information and supporting cultural, racial and religious diversity

Reduced consumption of energy and non-renewable resources, use of environmentally friendly raw materials

Main idea

Take care of the next few generations and preserve life on the planet

Reduce emissions, energy consumption. and waste here and now

Benefits of Sustainable Marketing

Position yourself as a socially responsible brand, stay consistent in your strategy, and stick to your stated values. Only in this case will all your efforts yield the desired results. Here's why sustainable marketing is so important for business.

1. This is a prerequisite for working with a young audience

According to First Insight's surveys, 62% of Gen Z representatives prefer products from socially and environmentally responsible brands. 73% are willing to overpay for such goods, and 75% may refuse to make an expensive purchase if there is no evidence of the product's ethical origin. Therefore, companies that do not use sustainable marketing in their strategy are losing access to an important part of their target audience.

2. This improves the reputation of the business

People want to be cared for - it's a natural psychological feature. According to Khris Digital, 70% of consumers prefer personalized brands that use positive emotions in their marketing campaigns. At the same time, young people feel 58% more emotionally connected to businesses. This is the importance of sustainable marketing - it increases loyalty and engagement, creating perfect conditions for long-term cooperation.

3. This makes the business more stable

Young people also consider a company's responsibility when looking for a job. Deloitte surveys have shown that 77% of Gen Z representatives look for information about a company's environmental and social activities when looking at job openings. 64% stay in their jobs longer because of the company’s commitment to solving global problems, and 59% may even accept a lower salary. Therefore, a responsible attitude towards society and the environment increases business productivity and makes it more resilient in times of crisis.

Sustainable Marketing Strategies with Examples

Today, most large companies use the principles of sustainable marketing. But not every company uses them successfully. We will talk about the most successful strategies and give some examples of large-scale failures.

1. Partnership with non-profit organizations

One of the most effective solutions is donating part of the income to specialized non-profit organizations that solve global problems. Patagonia, one of the top sportswear manufacturers, provides an excellent example of this strategy. 

In 1985, Patagonia pledged to donate 1% of its total revenue to local and global foundations. Since then, their donations have reached $170 million. In 2002, the company's founders created their own charitable foundation to attract other business representatives. These decisions resulted in a significant increase in the popularity of the brand. According to Statista, in 2022, 58% of US residents had heard of Patagonia, 23% had a positive opinion of the company, 15% owned at least one product, and 11% regularly purchased its goods.


If you want to follow Patagonia's example and donate part of your company’s income to charity, inform your audience about it through various communication channels. This way, you will prove yourself as a socially responsible brand, draw attention to important issues, and motivate people to join good causes.

Claspo will help you attract the attention of website visitors to your sustainable marketing initiative. Yes, our pop-ups can do more than just advertise discounts. The simplest example is to place a widget on the homepage. It can announce your new partnership, briefly describe your mission, and encourage the audience to donate.

Use this template

You can go further and invite visitors to subscribe to your newsletter to stay informed about your contribution to a noble cause - how much funds you managed to raise, what projects you plan in the future, or what you achieved with joint efforts. This will prove that your actions do not deviate from the promises so that no one will accuse you of Greenwashing. And, of course, your relationship with the audience will also strengthen.

2. Achieving energy or carbon neutrality

These complex terms mean minimizing environmental impact. Carbon neutrality means that a company emits as much carbon into the atmosphere as it absorbs from the planet's resources, and energy neutrality means it generates as much energy as it consumes from the public power grid. Of course, this does not mean the total absence of environmental damage, but it is better than total inaction and lack of commitment. 

Today, many corporations and even entire countries have declared their commitment to carbon and energy neutrality. One example of these sustainable marketing strategies is LEGO. As of 2024, it has already reduced its emissions by 37% compared to 2019. By 2030, the manufacturer aims to achieve carbon neutrality, and by 2050 - zero harm to the environment. After the announcement of this goal, the corporation's sales skyrocketed. In 2022, their revenue increased by 67.7% compared to 2019. 

Your path to minimizing environmental harm should also be visible. Therefore, keep your small and large victories on a separate page of the site so that any visitor can see them. As soon as another milestone is reached, a pop-up can announce it with a message like "We've reached 100% renewable energy usage! Click here to learn more" and redirect the audience to the right page.

The secret to a campaign's success is the correct dissemination of information. Encourage your audience to share your achievements on social media and thus popularize the topic of caring for the environment. With Claspo, you can add clickable social media buttons to any widget. Moreover, specify your site link when creating a widget, and it will automatically appear in the post of the person who decided to share your content. Take care of the planet and inspire others by your example!


3. Use of ethical materials

We are used to businesses emphasizing the use of environmentally friendly raw materials in their advertising. But lately, ethical materials have been mentioned more and more often. Such labeling is given to products of companies that:

  • do not violate global environmental standards and local legislation;
  • use all possible means of environmental protection;
  • do not use child or forced labor;
  • do not discriminate against employees and customers on any grounds;
  • invest in resource conservation and gradually reduce their consumption.

Nike is a great example of a sustainable marketing strategy. It cooperates only with responsible suppliers who make every effort to preserve the environment and create fair conditions for everyone. Its innovative products contain 25-100% recycled materials. The company opens factories powered exclusively by wind energy and operating on carbon neutrality.


What Should Not Be Done: examples of failed campaigns

Of course, not every attempt to use the principles of sustainable marketing is successful. There are many examples of companies that achieved opposite results due to various mistakes. Let's take a closer look at a few of them:

  • McDonald's. The company replaced plastic drink straws with paper ones and widely publicized this decision. But, independent journalists found out that, unlike polymer products, these straws are almost impossible to recycle. In addition, later studies revealed the presence of harmful substances in these straws. This marketing campaign resulted in huge losses to the corporation.
  • Valspar. The manufacturer of interior paint reported that it had stopped using aggressive chemicals in its products. But, as a result, the decorative coatings became vulnerable to bacteria and fungi that caused unpleasant odors. The company spent a lot of money to compensate for repair costs.
  • Amazon. Marketplace uses packaging that contains 90% recycled cardboard. However, customers have noticed that the company packs even the smallest purchases in separate boxes, which increases resource consumption severalfold. This led to local protests and boycotts.
  • Phillips. The manufacturer of modern electrical appliances presented economical EarthLight lamps that reduced energy consumption by 3–5 times. However, due to their large size, they were incompatible with many lamp fixtures, forcing buyers to spend a lot of money.
  • Volkswagen. Yes, we are talking about the famous "dieselgate". The corporation, which was considered to be the flagship in building environmentally friendly engines, was forced to admit to a lie. It misled the public by programming the engines for low emissions during tests.

These failed campaigns are a good lesson for businesses. To succeed in sustainable marketing, your plan must be honest and consistent. You need to implement these strategies in every aspect of your business and be honest with your consumers.

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