Reforming marketing for sustainability: towards a framework for evolved marketing
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This paper seeks to provide guidance to the question ‘how can we evolve marketing so that it becomes a force for sustainability?’. Much useful advice has been produced on the how existing norms of marketing can be applied to the topic of sustainability – for example, taking the marketing ‘Ps’ and integrating a sustainability approach into each. Many people on the ground trying to implement ‘Sustainable Marketing’ find that there is much high-level enthusiasm for this kind of change, at a management and strategic level, but this enthusiasm is quelled or blocked when the realities of day-to-day marketing activities are faced. Why is this? We conclude that many of the barriers marketers and organisations face in this respect is due to 1) A misalignment between the perceived role of marketing and sustainability 2) Lack of an agreed definition and structure for evolution that companies can follow and stakeholders can use to hold them accountable. This report therefore starts by looking at the very foundations of modern marketing and where best practice is pointing – both of which have the potential to provide a very suitable base for Sustainable Marketing, but equally they could motivate the opposite. By combining these insights with insights on what is required in order for social, economic and environmental sustainability to be met, we suggest that marketing needs to adopt an approach of ‘guide-an-co-create’ rather than a ‘make-and-sell’ or ‘sense-and-respond’ to its customers and society and put forward a set of 6 foundations that could form the basis of a ‘framework for evolved marketing’. These are: 1) Pursue a relentless focus on understanding and satisfying real primary needs 2) Acknowledge the critical leadership role marketing plays 3) Recognise and build upon relationships 4) Adopt a long-term sustainability mindset 5) Take a rigorous approach to measuring the sustainability of all marketing decisions 6) Put marketing at the heart of all organisational strategic decisions This report is intended to provide the starting point for discussion about if there is support for a framework that might be used in the way a voluntary code might, and if so, are the 6 suggested here the right ones? The hard work then comes when companies work with the framework to innovate their own examples of best practice in each. Through this practice sector level key performance indicators and benchmarks are likely to evolve. By using a question based maturity –matrix style approach (as has been used successfully in other sustainability settings) it will therefore become clear over time, which companies are leading in this area and can make valid claims and those who are not. The framework presented is intended to support organisations in setting their strategic direction so that it is aligned with sustainability though its marketing - which in advanced companies should be driving their strategic direction. It is equally intended to support the journey of those who are doing marketing on a day-to-day basis – both those who formally consider them to be marketers as well as the many, many people who are doing marketing but don’t define themselves in that way. We believe that by providing a common language and common direction for the evolution of marketing, it could become a key driving force for a sustainable future.
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