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- 9 min read
Since the 1980s, ‘sustainability’ has been a buzzword in business. Disruption, innovation, streamline: buzzwords have come and gone, but none have remained as relevant, as important and as omnipresent as sustainability. With the passing of years, its importance has only risen, not withered away with the ‘watersheds’ and ‘synergies’ of the corporate world.
In 2022, some 40 years since it first came onto the scene, the appearance of sustainability in modern parlance is more pervasive than ever before and for good reason – with the world having recently been brought to its knees post COP26, the climate crisis and issues of sustainability are front of mind for us all. Concern for the environment is at a record high¹, with environmental concern showing strong year-on-year increase since 1999 across all sectors, placing it at the top of consumer priorities according to the UK Ethical Economy. It is no longer an issue for the activists or the problem of governments or environmentally-faced charities. Everyone is accountable – business, governments, and citizens.
April 22 marks World Earth Day and this year the organisation is calling for the world to move quickly at this very moment – to act boldly, innovate broadly and implement equitably. The divide between the office and home is increasingly blurred and consumers and employees are looking to organisations to act and act quickly; if sustainable business practices and environmental commitments are not front of mind for your organisation already, then they will need to quickly become so. It’s not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do in terms of future-proofing your business, as well as future-proofing the world over, or as the team behind World Earth Day say: “a green future is a prosperous future.”
Why businesses should care
Three years ago, the Bank of America Merrill Lynch revealed that companies with a better Environmental, Social and Governance score (ESG) than their competitors, produced higher three-year returns, had a greater share value and were less likely to go bankrupt. What’s more, they are far more likely to drum up investment in the first place with the US, the leading global economic market, recently demonstrating a 42% growth in sustainably invested assets between 2018 and 2020². The correlation is clear – businesses with sustainability commitments are healthier and more profitable.
On the consumer front, a 2019 Neilsen survey, found that 73% of consumers were willing to change their consumption habits to lessen their negative impact on the environment, further strengthened last year by Deloitte who found that one in three consumers had switched brands to a more sustainable one off the back of environmental concerns about a business. Consumer attention on a company’s ESG practices has never been higher – most recently Aflac found that 77% of customers would purchase directly as a result of a company having implemented strong CSR policies focused on sustainability practices3 and IBM’s 2020 study of over 18000 people in 28 countries, showed that 70% of consumers are willing to pay up to 35% more for greener products4.
But it’s not just consumers that impact the bottom line. By 2025, 75% of the world’s professional workforce will be millennials – this is also a group that, in a recent study conducted by Totaljobs, revealed they would largely take a pay cut to work for an organisation that is environmentally and socially sustainable. The study revealed that this group would offer their services for a considerably lower salary — £8K per annum, or US$11K — to an organisation who demonstrated environmental care and sustainable business practices. The same study revealed that 28% of people would move from their current employer to a more environmentally friendly one, and this number increases to 50% when just millennials were questioned. With ‘The Great Resignation’ upon us – a phrase coined by the World Economic Forum off the back of a study which revealed that 47% of people will leave their jobs in 2022 – and employers globally competing for talent, it comes to stand that attracting and retaining top talent is all the easier for organisations that operate ethically in this space. And if attracting and retaining talent weren’t enough of a reason, a significant number of those surveyed – 30% – revealed that they put in substantially more effort for businesses that employ environmentally responsible strategies. Therefore, a contented workforce results in both higher retention and productivity, which saves money, and, ultimately, translates into a more satisfied customer. We repeat: sustainability is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.
The narrative has changed, and sustainability is now the single most important consideration for businesses overall. Statistics like these reflect the growing concerns the world over around climate change and with scientists predicting worsening consequences, as well as the fact millennials are arguably the most environmentally conscious generation, this trend isn’t going anywhere. Sustainable consumerism is the future and brands and businesses that fail to pivot accordingly will undoubtedly be left behind.
At 90 Seconds, the climate crisis is at the forefront of our minds every day, not just on the 22nd of April, and last year we completely rebuilt our website which cut our carbon emissions entirely. Driven by the knowledge of the fact that in the next five years alone, it is estimated that the internet alone will consume 20% of the world’s resources, we decided to act quickly and get ahead of this to ensure our digital footprint is nominal.
But our sustainability commitment is so much more than just a website – it’s the premise of our entire work and the carbon saving and sustainable business practices that we in turn pass on to our customers. Our very business model was built with sustainability at its very heart through operating at a local level through our ‘Shoot Anywhere’ commitment enabling global brands to create content, locally, in over 900 cities, across 160 countries, with access to a database of 5,000 talented creatives and creators. We’ve eliminated the need for global travel, ensuring both carbon and budget efficiency.
The importance of green marketing
By advertising not only why your product or service fills a need, but why it’s an environmentally friendlier alternative, your business can stand out from the crowd. Organisations that don’t risk losing talent, profits and customers as a result. B2B B2C, it doesn’t matter – consumers are people and today’s consumer is increasingly environmentally conscious and wants to buy from businesses who think like them.
But it’s not enough to simply donate to charity or roll out recyclable packaging, consumers are incredibly savvy, and with increasingly competitive marketplaces, businesses need to embrace sustainable marketing practices to highlight their commitments to an increasingly curious consumer and gain the competitive edge. This is called green marketing – not to be confused with greenwashing which is to be avoided at all costs (more on that later!). The mighty can fall and if you’re not practicing what you preach, a business runs the risk of falling from a greater height. The takeaway is clear – marketing sustainability is increasingly essential for those that want to not only retain but grow market share and gain traction with today’s increasingly environmentally and socially focused consumer mindset. Sustainable marketing doesn’t just engage the general audience, it engages an audience that’s willing to pay more, and is also growing in numbers at an exponential rate.
So, what does this mean for video marketing? A lot. Businesses need to overtly market their environmental efforts and practices – in an engaging and eco-friendly way – if they’re going to gain traction with their audiences, and video is the perfect medium for this, for all audiences. It’s not only consumers that want to know about a brand or business’s social impact efforts, but its potential employees also – from People Stories used in employer brand efforts or recruitment, to CSR reports, video is the most effective form of consumer engagement in a contemporary marketplace, a powerful tool for green marketing and what’s more, working with 90 Seconds is a more sustainable choice.
Successful green marketing practices
If you’re new to the entire concept of green marketing, don’t fret – creating sustainable marketing strategies is no different from traditional marketing efforts, just be sure you’re practicing what you preach and what you practice, ladders back to the end message. For example, at 90 Seconds as we mentioned we overhauled our website provider to WordPress last year as their hosting services are more environmentally friendly than their competitors. We conducted an audit with WebsiteCarbon, to measure the results of our work. Prior to the move to WordPress, for every 10,000 visitors to the 90 Seconds website, our platform emitted the amount of carbon that 143 trees absorb in a year – something which concerned us greatly given we receive far more visitors than that every month. Post our overhaul and redesign, we’re thrilled to have reduced our carbon emission level to the equivalent of just nine trees. A considerable saving but one we are trying to improve upon further through optimisation work.
A successful green marketing campaign should:
- Avoid greenwashing
- Focus on actions taken
- Be transparent
Consumers don’t just want greener products, they also want ethical processes – not embellishments or mistruths, or a company that says one thing, but does another entirely, commonly referred to as greenwashing. This can be extremely detrimental to a brand.
It’s paramount that businesses walk the walk and by making use of 90 Seconds Shoot Anywhere you can do just that. With Shoot Anywhere we’ve placed sustainability at the very heart of the process, eliminating the need for global travel, slashing carbon emissions that could have been racked up by sending crews to far-flung locations. What’s more, by cutting travel and sourcing local talent, we’ve made video marketing extremely efficient, as well as invested back into the local communities in which we operate through the generation of employment opportunities and supporting local infrastructure. By using our global network of almost 5000 contributors, there’s no need for carbon-costly travel or draining environmental resources. The beauty of our offering is that we’re not only giving back to the communities in which we operate through employment and investment in on-the-ground resources, we’re also passing these environmental savings onto our customers who are adopting greener and more sustainable marketing practices as a result.
Focus on actions taken
Green marketing should focus on what can be proved, not on lofty, buzzword-filled pie-in-the-sky dreams. Take this example from PHI in partnership with 90 Seconds which discusses their sustainability commitment. What do they do well? They showcase tangible commitments, as well as plans for improvement – its genuine, authentic and they’re transparent in their goals and the actions already taken, such as investing in the offshore wind market and other forms of renewable energy. Consumers want to see brands taking the climate crisis seriously, which is always best proven through actions which PHI have illustrated here. What’s more, its produced through 90 Seconds, meaning it was all done locally and efficiently – from both a cost and carbon perspective!
If the nature of your business doesn’t immediately associate itself with sustainability, be transparent about that and focus on the practices, systems and efforts being put in to reduce the impact on the ecosystems in which it operates. This might be the sustainable technologies that power the brand, like WordPress in our case, or the employment of green shipping methods, or perhaps the product is made from non-toxic, disposable materials or can be reused multiple times.
That said, if the very nature of the business or industry in which you operate isn’t sustainable, fear not – you’re not excluded from the conversation. Companies that don’t sell eco-friendly products can still engage in green marketing through strategies like cause-related marketing, offsetting emissions monetarily or investing in charities that do this on your behalf. Take the airline industry for example, which in 2019 produced 915 million tonnes of carbon dioxide worldwide. Despite being a key contributor to the climate crisis, many airlines5 have recently announced commitments to reducing their footprint – including Delta Airlines who in 2020, after committing $1 billion to becoming the world’s first carbon-neural airline, was the number one airline on a list of America’s Most Sustainable Companies by financial publication Barron’s6.
In 2020 the Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by World Wildlife Fund, conducted research which found that there has been a 71% rise in searches for sustainable goods over the past five years, with the pandemic having accelerated this demand. The climate crisis is the single most pressing issue currently facing our global society and consumer concern is only going to grow further. Businesses and brands need to act now and act quickly to remain relevant; but it’s not enough to just act. With consumers actively searching for a company’s environmental commitment and basing purchasing decisions on it, marketers must ensure their practices are marketed and done so in a way that is environmentally sound. Video marketing is arguably the most effective tool to help you do so and 90 Seconds, the most sustainable partner.