The importance of marketing in East Anglia’s push for sustainability

As literal and geopolitical climates shift, businesses in East Anglia must explore the full potential of sustainable marketing initiatives, both to withstand and to affect change. Chair of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) for the East of England, Marie Lake, discusses the necessity for environmental marketing.

Never has there been such consensus on working towards a more sustainable future. The consistent phasing out of fossil fuels across western society, international efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and topics tabled at the forthcoming COP 26 climate change conference are all indicative of this desire for cleaner, more climate-friendly practices in society. The big push for sustainability isn’t coming, it’s already here, and one way or another it will affect those on every rung of the corporate ladder.

However, East Anglia, with its high levels of CO₂ and greenhouse gas emissions, must be careful not to fall behind environmentally. According to local authority carbon dioxide emission estimates by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial strategy, the East of England increased its CO2 emissions between 2017 and 2019. Given the UK has committed to reducing its net carbon emissions, this increase from East Anglia is a problem. Although the global reduction in emissions because of COVID-19 forced East Anglia’s levels down in 2020, we must ensure CO2 production does not skyrocket as society continues to re-open by promoting sustainability within the region’s key industries.

According to the European Commission’s regional innovator monitor (a benchmarking tool for comparing regional trends): “The [East of England’s] strengths are especially concentrated in four strategical sectors: health and life sciences, agricultural science and technology, information and communications technology and advanced materials and manufacturing.”

With East Anglia’s GDP mainly coming from these four sectors, any environmentally beneficial practices adopted by relevant businesses will have a significant impact. By looking at the sustainable advertising initiatives championed by market leaders, local companies can enhance their brand image through marketing which highlights their eco-friendly initiatives.

Those in the agriculture sector may look to emulate Heritage Harvest from Buckinghamshire. The cereal producer invested in re-localising it’s supply chain, whilst publicly endorsing and promoting sustainable farming practices. This led Kene Partners, the R&D tax credits specialist, to feature Heritage Harvest in its 2019 list of the UK’s most sustainable farms.

Manufacturing businesses may look to industry giants, Levi’s Jeans, to see the benefits of sustainable marketing. The brand’s “Buy Better, Wear Longer” campaign garnered widespread acclaim for working to reduce clothing waste, whilst still advertising the quality of its products.

Decathlon likewise launched “Decathlon Second Life” in early 2021. This initiative sees the sporting goods retailer refurbishing and reselling fitness equipment to reduce the brand’s environmental impact.

Even East Anglian local authorities and public sector organisations are setting a green example, with Suffolk council trialling a new electric taxi-bus service. The “Katch” service will provide sustainable transport for the Wickham Market and Framlingham areas and is a helpful development in the government’s campaign to reach zero emissions by 2050 (and Suffolk council’s ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030).

This demonstrable commitment to the circular economy and carbon neutrality is fast becoming the most desirable value for companies across most industries. BrandZ, the brand equity database from Millward Brown, reported in 2020 that the importance of brand responsibility has tripled in the last decade. A recent survey by UNiDAYS of Generation Z, the fastest growing consumer 

segment who will live longer and spend more than any previous generation, found 93% believe brands are obliged to take a stance on environmental issues. Given Gen Z has “$143 billion in spending power”, just shy of £105 billion, environmental policies are a potentially lucrative marketing strategy.

Marketing encompasses far more than many businesses realise and can go beyond affecting the reputation of a company to change the behaviours and attitudes of society. The global pandemic has forced market leaders to change their perceptions, with the CMO survey, which “collects and disseminates the opinions of top marketers”, finding 73% of companies believe the importance of marketing has increased for their businesses. Marketing has been essential for retaining customers throughout lockdown, helping companies to adapt and thrive despite the challenges. Now, market leaders are looking to “sustainable marketing” to promote their ethical, eco-friendly growth.

Sustainability initiatives give marketers the opportunity to shine a light on the good brands do for the environment and enhance brand reputation. In advance of the COP 26 conference in Glasgow, where 197 nations and territories will meet to address the climate crisis, what better time for businesses in East Anglia to embrace sustainable marketing, as well as sustainable practices?

Now is the time for organisations to look to their marketing teams for help developing and demonstrating sustainable values. Why? Because we should all want a better outcome than the one we are heading for.

For more information about CIM – the world’s leading professional marketing body – becoming a member, volunteering, or upcoming events in the East of England, visit:

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