New Study: Marketers Feel Frustrated in Their Desire to Drive More Sustainability Efforts

Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword these days — it’s insurance against reputational risk, the key to new market opportunities, a safeguard against climate change and a critical element for staying competitive. And companies that are resistant to adopting a defined sustainability standards will feel the effects.

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“Mind the Gap: How Marketers Feel About Sustainability,” a new report by marketing website The Drum and marketing agency gyro, finds that while the majority of marketers feel a moral imperative to incorporate sustainability practices into business, only 38 percent of the companies they work for have defined strategies.

Over two hundred brands and agencies were surveyed for the report to understand how marketers perceive their organization’s impact on the environment, the barriers they encounter and how they view their roles alongside the C-suite in driving the sustainability agenda. An absence of management urgency, a lack of buy-in from management and cost of initial investments were identified as the three principle barriers faced by forward-thinking marketers. What’s more, 52 percent of marketers that participated in the survey said their companies did not have sustainability strategies.

“Nothing is more humanly relevant than sustainability,” says Christoph Becker, global CEO and CCO of gyro. “Now is the time for business to drive positive and necessary change. Because sustainability isn’t just about business, it is about the future of life itself. As this groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind study proves, a company’s stated approach to sustainability is the primary marker that shows it is living up to its stated ideals.”

Mind the Gap points to several key benefits for businesses that integrate sustainability into their operations. Forty-two percent of marketers believe investment in sustainability will lead to long-term financial gains and 41 percent feeling confident sustainability will put them at a strong competitive advantage in the market over the next five years. Additionally, 52 percent feel that investing sustainability will boost brand perception.

The results of this report bring the marketers’ perspective to the growing body of research that shows a direct correlation between a brand’s sustainability agenda and consumer purchasing habits. A study from Unilever — a company that profited to the tune of $56.5 billion in 2015 alone thanks to its line of sustainable living products — of 20,000 adults from five countries found that consumers are actively choosing brands they recognize as doing social or environmental good. Another survey by Wine Intelligence found that U.S wine consumers are willing to pay up to seven dollars more per bottle for wine from companies using sustainable practices.

Similar evidence has also been found by Pure Strategies. In its latest report, the consulting firm revealed that growth in corporate sustainability spending resulted in gains of between $5 – 8 billion in 2016.

“At a time when we are all seeking truth, losing trust in political systems as well as private enterprises, we need a new narrative of growth,” said Kate Howe, Managing Director of gyro London. “A narrative that is humanly relevant, builds trust, and ultimately leads to an integrated approach where businesses can come together to work towards a common goal — that of managing the impact of the communities that we live in, and the communities our children and our grandchildren will eventually inherit – that’s sustainability.”

“While marketers already understand the soft benefits of sustainability, they are also starting to see the hard returns,” said gyro global chief strategy officer Patrick O’Hara. “Our survey shows that business people – especially marketers – are increasingly aware that sustainability has hard business benefits including greater brand favorability, operational efficiencies and competitive advantage.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

This article first appeared on Sustainable Brands