Europa Bendig
Managing Partner STURMundDRANG
30.08.2022 | reading time: 3 minutes

CHANGING CULTURES MAGAZINE > CODES & NARRATIVES > Sustainable marketing – is that ‘a thing’?

Sustainable marketing – is that ‘a thing’?

This article first appeared in the may 05/22 issue of "absatzwirtschaft".

Seriously now, are sustainability and marketing actually compatible?
To many people marketing is mostly about manipulating the consumer via the 4Ps of price, promotion, placement and product. But brands and marketing managers are under increasing pressure today from a new set of demands, having to sell things as being attractive, low-cost, available and sustainable. Yet marketing itself is principally oriented toward short-term profits.

There is palpably growing skepticism in society regarding the sustainability claims advanced by many brands, which the public are often perceiving as without merit. In the age of ‘fake news’, people are demanding transparency and authenticity from companies that they are not getting, thus becoming more distrustful of marketing and advertising.


By a broad majority, marketing managers have no doubts concerning the importance relevance of more sustainable business practices. German executives in fact view transitioning over to sustainable management practices as a top priority. Many managers face a problem in that climate and environmental protection are good from an image standpoint but otherwise don’t add to business model. According to as a study by executive search firm Russell Reynolds, they continue to see sustainability primarily as a reputation risk factor to be managed via marketing.

The marketing of corporate sustainability activities is decried as ‘green-washing’ or ‘social-washing’, but calling it reputation management is more accurate. For it represents an essential element in “systematically aligning the enterprise as a whole around market demands.” What today’s markets are after all demanding is for business models to be systematically revised so as to promote the new agenda of a sustainable, digital future. The markets are demanding that companies take a pro-active stance toward shaping business and everyday life in the interest of sustainability – as opposed to squandering the future for today’s gain.

One may well ask: isn’t that a rather tall order for the corporate sector? Isn’t it up to the government to tackle such a gargantuan task? Marketing is and has always been a cultural phenomenon that influences society. Marketing makes connections, tells stories and creates rituals. It can actively promote a throwaway culture or – through new business models, partnerships, services and interactions – promote a culture oriented more around social and sustainable values. Great marketing opportunity lies in the latter.

Furthermore, nobody has to go it alone in pursuing such opportunity. Cooperation is key: across categories, locally, with social businesses, NGOs, employees and consumers. Together we need to start learning to instigate behavioral changes in a manner revealing how a more sustainable consumer culture can be a fun and light-hearted affair that relieves societal problems. Rather than the empowering only up to the moment of purchase, products should empower people to live healthier and more social lives throughout the entire cycle of their usage. We encourage you to move forward in small steps, but by all means to get moving along the transformative pathway to effective sustainability marketing.


This article first appeared in the may 05/22 issue of "absatzwirtschaft".

Image references: Image 1: "Header" // Image 2: "Green architecture" // Image 3: "Stairs"



Author: Europa Bendig

STURMundDRANG founder and General Manager Europa Bendig has been consulting on innovation processes for NGOs and international enterprises for 18 years, primarily in the luxury goods, health, services, beauty, living and social businesses. She specializes in cultural codes and narratives that give brands and portfolios cultural relevance and promote customer loyalty.


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