Skip to content
Observatory International Logo
+49 (0) 171 5 20 47 37

Creating sustainable marketing

Christine Downton - Observatory International Christine Downton Managing Partner, London March 1, 2022

Marketing teams needs to act faster on climate change. Christine Downton at The Observatory International explains what how they can make a difference now by creating sustainable marketing.

Many marketing organisations have limited their sustainability actions to insight and education. Most have also started requiring their supply chains – the agencies and partners that support them – are focused on sustainable practices.

But it’s still not enough and many marketing organisations are well behind the curve despite the many admirable, often agency-led, initiatives around issues such as strategy and activation that already exist.

Marketers need to look to the models, processes and resources they deploy to ensure they are operating a sustainability-focused marketing model.

The agency roster

A good starting point is the agency roster and model itself – ensuring the agency roster and the roster model that underpins it avoids duplication and provides for efficient process and asset flow between agencies as well as between client and agencies.

Rationalising the roster and removing duplication will not only make navigating the roster easier for marketing and procurement professionals but will also eliminate waste.

Moving towards a more centralised model or at least a hub-and-spoke regional model should also contribute to greater efficiencies.

Within the model itself, focusing on how and what content is produced is critical to operating in a more sustainable way. Content production needs to be focused on need and incentives should be in place to encourage the reuse and repurposing of assets.

There are a number of additional initiatives that can also help contribute to more sustainability-focused methodologies, including:

  • Work-flow management and platforms in place to enable more efficient working practices, avoiding emailing large files and the need for printing.
  • Responsible and on-going management of the Digital Asset Management, for example, ensuring a clear taxonomy with assets easy to find, removal of duplicates, archiving of essential to keep, but ruthless deletion of those no longer required.
  • Deeper analysis of social media effectiveness to avoid over-producing content and a clearer focus on activities that are really effective.
  • Similarly for email marketing, reduce unnecessary processing effort and unnecessary email traffic. Brands should implement detailed analysis of what content works, the right frequency and who to target.

Rethinking ways of working

Marketing organisations need to rethink aspects of their ways of working to reinforce and embed a sustainability mindset.

The correct measures will differ by company, but they could include measures such as ensuring performance measurement programmes include at least one sustainability measure to keep the issue top of mind.

Another initiative that could make a difference is to include sustainability KPIs in the payment-by-results mechanisms for agencies.  These can also be reciprocal with the marketers’ own performance evaluations including criteria that target actions focused on sustainability.

Marketers can ensure that enhanced training includes ways to support a sustainability focus in every brief and RFP. Should there be a need to select a new agency or to test the current agency against the market, pitches should consider environmental impact and use sustainability as one of the filters in the agency selection process.

It is early days but our experience to date is that clients are very receptive when prompted, but it hasn’t been top of mind. The area where we have seen most traction is in the search and selection process, where requests for agencies’ sustainability credentials have been incorporated into the RFI process alongside the need for DE&I credentials.

But there has also been increasing interest in how sustainability considerations can be incorporated into agency models too. We envisage that this increasingly be a focus during 2022 and beyond.

Marketers must consider the environmental impact of every aspect of their activity.  Only then they can really be part of the solution.

A longer article about this issue is published on WARC here.

Close search