Concern over the Environmental Impact of Marketing Activities Seems to Wane

March 18, 2022

This article is included in these additional categories:

Brand-Related | CPG & FMCG | CSR & Environmental | Education | Industries | Pharma & Healthcare

Only 1 in 3 senior marketers report that their companies have explicit goals related to their impact on climate change, and even fewer respondents (24%) believe that reducing climate change is part of marketing’s job responsibility, according to the latest edition of The CMO Survey [pdf]. Perhaps as a result, fewer marketers report that their companies are likely to make changes to reduce the negative impact of their marketing-related activities on the ecological environment.

The most likely change a company would make is to its products and/or services, as cited by 52% of respondents. However, this is a slight decline from 55% last year (the February 2021 study), and a much larger drop from the 73% who said the same 2 years ago.

Similarly, fewer respondents than in past years said their company was likely to change its partners to reduce negative ecological impacts of their marketing-related activities (30.9%, down from 35.4% in February 2021 and 56.5% in February 2020) or to change its marketing promotions (42.5%, down from 43.5% and 49.4%, respectively). Of the 6 activities listed, only two maintained a stable response from last year: changing distribution; and changing brand.

The report’s author attributes the “lackluster” concern to COVID, noting that the “COVID-related drop in environmental concerns continues.”

What Actions Are Companies Taking?

The report asked marketers (virtually all of whom are VP-level and above) which specific actions their company is taking to reduce the risk of climate change. The results show that no single action is being taken by more than one-third of respondent companies.

The most common is to reduce the climate impact of products/services, as cited by close to one-third (32.6%) of respondents. Fewer still (31.1%) reported that their company was increasing reuse, resale, or recycling levels.

As for more directly marketing-related actions, fewer than 1 in 5 said they were adopting climate-related goals in marketing (15.7%), reducing the climate impact of their marketing communications (12.7%), or reducing the climate impact of their digital marketing activities (5.6%).

That said, almost half (47.4%) said that their company is at least willing to make short-term financial sacrifices to achieve climate-change goals.

Few Believe Changes Will Impact Their Customers’ Experience

Marketers’ reports of waning organizational concerns over marketing’s environmental impact come amid a sense that any changes would not make much of an impact on their direct job responsibilities, including the customer experience. Fewer than 1 in 4 feel that making changes to reduce the climate impact of their products/services would highly impact (top-3 box on a 7-point scale) their customers’ experience with their products and services. At the same time, more than 4 in 10 rate the difficulty of communicating ideas related to the climate impact of their business to their customers and partners as high (top-3 box on a 7-point scale).

And while the marketers surveyed admit that their customers and/or partners are shifting demand to more climate-friendly products/services (57.5% agreeing) and increasing demands for transparency on climate impact (51%), only about 1 in 3 (34%) think that their customers and/or partners will reward their company for taking actions to reduce its impact on climate change.

These feelings of course vary by sector, with the majority of marketers at Energy (67%) and CPG (52%) companies thinking that their climate change actions would be rewarded. (None of the Education respondents agreed, as did only 1 in 8 Healthcare marketers.)

About the Data: The results are based on a January-February survey of 320 top marketers at for-profit US companies, 96.6% of whom are VP-level or above.

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