Sustainability Efforts to Increase Despite Economy

May 21, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Agency Business | Analytics, Automated & MarTech | PR

Nearly one in six (58%) corporate marketers and communicators think their organizations will increase involvement in environmental sustainability initiatives over the next two to three years, and half believe the economy will actually encourage the adoption of sustainable practices, according to a study conducted by the American Marketing Association and Fleishman-Hillard, Inc.

More than half of those who participated in the recent sustainability survey (pdf) believe that sustainability is an essential element of their company’s reputation right now. The study also found that nearly three-quarters of respondents believe that corporate reputation, corporate culture and technological advancements will be the drivers for sustainability, while 63% say the Obama administration’s policies will further accelerate the adoption of corporate sustainability programs.


Reality Tempers Optimism

While the majority of companies will continue to invest in sustainability initiatives during the next year, the study found that the ways in which companies anticipate communicating that commitment are mixed. About 43% of respondents expect their companies to increase marketing of their sustainability programs and say they will do so for the following reasons:

  • Because it is the right thing to do
  • Because customers are asking for more information
  • Because it is supportive of the corporate culture
  • Because sustainability offers a clear and distinct business advantage

That said, more than half of the respondents do not expect to increase their storytelling in the category of sustainability.
Additional study findings:

  • The majority (53%) of respondents define sustainability as the need to balance financial, human and natural resources for the long-term benefit of business and communities.


  • ?Few define sustainability in terms of focusing on renewable energy resources (3%) or driving inefficiency out of the supply chain (10%).
  • Employees (82%) and customers (74%) are more likely to be the targets of communications about sustainability than are investors and analysts (52%).
  • Even the most popular sustainability programs – recycling (36%) and electric energy efficiency (20%) – are extensively embraced by only a minority of businesses.

“At a time when the economy requires everyone to stay focused on the essentials, it’s noteworthy that businesses are putting sustainability programs into that must-do column,” said Nancy Costopulos, CMO of the American Marketing Association. “It is a signal that the business community is embracing environmental sustainability in a way that this country has probably never seen before.”

About the study: Findings are based on an online panel survey of 270 corporate communications professionals, primarily those holding marketing or public relations jobs. The study was fielded in January and February 2009.


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