Sustainability Embedded

At the heart of marketing


The Sustainable Marketing Compass

The first strategic planning framework for embedding sustainability at the heart of marketing

A four-step model

Leading from strategy to implemetation


UN SDG Alignment

Align your marketing with your company’s and the world’s most important sustainability goals.

Strategic Foundations

Embed core sustainability-based principles at the heart of your marketing.

Activation Pillars

Go to market sustainably and avoid greenwashing pitfalls.

Data Models & Testing

Precision and privacy coupled with constant learning and improvement.

UN SDG Alignment

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. 

According to research by GRI in 2021, 83% of companies stated that they supported the UN SDGs, recognising the value of aligning their reports with the Goals. Of these, 69% of companies articulate which Goals are most relevant to their business, with 61% specifying how their actions support the SDGs. Finally, 40% of companies set measurable commitments for how they will help achieve the SDGs, while 20% include evidence to assess their positive impacts.

Despite accelerated corporate adoption the UN SDGs have failed to make much of an impact on the marketing function, beyond a brand reference within the annual corporate accounts. Yet they increasingly drive the priorities and focus of many organisations.

The Sustainable Marketing Compass places the UN SDGs at the heart of marketing, essentially providing a core foundation for redefining success across commercial, environmental and societal objectives.

Strategic Foundations

Placing the UN SDGs at the heart of marketing, requires us to align them with those of the organisation and also reconsider the core principles upon which traditional marketing has been based.

Redefine Success

HISTORICALLY - Marketing is seen as the ‘engine of growth’, where the sole measure of success is based on revenue/profit generated with a lack of care for environmental and societal aspects. REDEFINED - Marketing becomes an orchestrator of controlled performance across the pillars of sustainability, based on the organisation's articulated purpose (based on UN SDGs) and adopted success model.

Shared Value

HISTORICALLY - Marketing drives financial value to company shareholders and employees, by aligning a product or service to a customer need and expressing its ‘value’ in terms of its ability to satisfy that need. In both cases the value generated is inherently selfish and specific to the individual. SHARED VALUE - starts by firstly seeking to generate value across the broader economic, societal and economic bases. Secondly, Shared Value is distributed across a broader suite of stakeholders, from individuals across the entire supply chain, to the natural environment.

Real People

HISTORICALLY - Marketing’s corporate power was founded on its ability to understand and represent the customer, for the commercial benefit of the organisation. Digital and data technologies have exploded capability, however, privacy invasion, bias and malpractice has reduced trust in marketing to an all time low. REAL PEOPLE - forces marketers to accept the limitations of the algorithm and consider targeting at the broader community / topic, or even societal level.

Efficiency & Governance

HISTORICALLY - Marketing's definitions of success have been decidedly unchallenging. "Half the money spent on advertising is wasted" was the mantra adopted by marketers world wide. Today, despite all our tech and data sophistication, we celebrate 'success' rates in single figures. Whilst at the same time poor governance leads to mass wastage, fraud and exploitation. EFFICIENCY & GOVERNANCE - is needed at the heart of marketing to re-earn trust and minimise waste.

Activation Pillars

Companies have always had a purpose – to make money for their shareholders. The rise of purpose marketing in the last 5 to 10 years has started to change the narrative with companies looking at a broader spectrum for where and how they can create value.

Increasingly new companies are starting to emerge, such as Tony’s Chocolonely, that are ‘Purpose Native’. Here, commercial performance is often secondary to a societal or environmental objective.

Marketing has become infatuated with making customers believe their wants are needs, irrespective of the individual or societal impacts. A purpose-centric marketing function focused on delivering shared value needs to establish a more two-way relationship, a partnership approach based on mutual respect and collaboration.

Many marketing teams, “… have gone from flying blind to flying on autopilot.” referring to the fact that the wholesale shift to digital has introduced a client dependency on agencies and aggregators, and , “…When everyone is taking this approach, it’s tough to stand out, and the need to be more strategic about how and where you spend will only increase.” Mckinsey

How would you plan a campaign with both a financial and carbon budget? How do you benchmark the positivity/negativity of your organisation’s ‘Brainprint’? Once delivered, does a single digital response rate look like a 5% success rate or a 95% wastage rate?

Data Models & Testing

Data sits at the heart of marketing and sustainability. Sustainability-based marketing requires the combination of these joint datasets to provide insight and benchmark performance across:

  1. Established performance pillars
  2. New aggregated indices 
  3. Short to long term strategies

At the same time, data also has significant sustainability impacts:

  1. Lack of data impacts performance 
  2. Data bias amplifies societal inequality and division
  3. Unconsidered storage of data has a huge carbon impact

Beyond brand health, testing methodologies in marketing are focused on optimising commercial performance. 

Sustainability-based marketing asks the marketer to validate that implementation is also thorough and just. Does it consider other stakeholders bar employees, shareholders and customers that benefit from the value proposition? Is the proposition scalable? Can it be easily replicated?