Sustainability – Why marketing needs to be firmly rooted in the movement

Imagine a future time: Sustainability Managers are embedded inside all product categories, brand managers regularly follow sustainability trends inside and outside the company, young marketing graduates emerge from top business schools where green and sustainable branding is infused within every aspect of the program.

Now, give yourself a shake – because all of this is already happening. If you haven’t noticed, don’t feel bad. While sustainable business practices have moved into the mainstream, many marketers have viewed sustainable branding as a niche that targets only consumers who care about the environment.

In a new research paper by the Canadian Marketing Association’s Leadership Series: Sustainability – Why Marketing Needs to be Firmly Rooted in the Movement , we talk about the “green core competencies” that marketing and communication professions need in this new “sustainability” paradigm.

The “core competency” of a company is a significant source of its competitive advantage; think about Google and innovation or Apple and design. Like the roots of a tree, core competency provides nourishment, sustenance and stability. This competitive “know how” is embedded in employees through the translation of their knowledge, skills, and attitudes into the culture, processes, products, and services of a company. So what happens if the business environment drastically changes, as it has under the current shift to sustainability? Employees need new “know-how” to maintain and improve competitive advantage. Marketing professions need a shift to new “green” core competencies.

For marketers this means understanding the nuances of carbon and water footprinting, product life cycle assessment, design for environment, environmental label declarations, and stakeholder engagement processes. Increasingly this applies to all products.

Jacquie Ottman, Author of “The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding” (Berret-Koehler, 2011) and Sustainable Branding expert says that marketers have a professional responsibility to understand sustainability.   “In order to help consumers see the human benefits of sustainability we need to improve our knowledge base as professionals. We are facing a new green marketing paradigm, one that has gone mainstream. If we don’t understand the new ways of looking at our products through the lens of tools and innovations like life cycle assessment, design for the environment, and eco-innovations, our customers will turn away and our business will become marginalized.”

The CMA Sustainability Paper features case studies by Tim Hortons and Coca Cola and discusses the Marketing – Supply Chain Connection and Sustainability: A Marketing Construct.  Download the paper and sign up for a webinar on its content.



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About Kathryn Cooper

Kathryn Cooper is a committed sustainability practitioner and educator moving companies toward “green” profitability and sustainable competitive advantage by unlocking human creativity and technical innovation. Over the last two years she has had the privilege to work with companies like Dupont, Zerofootprint, WWF Canada, and Partners in Project Green on sustainability issues, best practices and renewable energy. Kathryn is a graduate of York University with a Master of Education specializing on Sustainability and the Environment. She holds an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Guelph.
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