Sustainability in Advertising & Marketing

By: Rebekah Essick, Group Account Director

When was the last time you thought about how the products and services you use every day impact the environment?

With the current state of the global ecosystem, this impact is increasingly important. Over the past decade, companies have taken a particular interest in sustainability, and it’s become an important part of business planning. This extends to marketing and advertising practices, as there are many implications for the future.

Let’s first define sustainability in the context of marketing and advertising: it’s the strategy and promotion built around a brand’s commitment to a positive social and environmental outcome of their products or services.

Sustainability and green initiatives are no longer the big buzz words in the industry. With AI top-of-mind and various other social and economic factors at play, agencies and clients aren’t paying as much attention to sustainability as they were a few years ago. But, considering recent environmental challenges, the importance of green initiatives will only increase as time goes on—largely because consumers are still very much invested in these efforts.


At the core of every change in business practices is a shift in consumer behavior. Sustainability is no different. In recent years, consumers have become increasingly conscious of environmental factors and how their actions – and purchases – can make a difference. Now, more than ever, consumers are aligning themselves and their wallets with brands that fit their values, including helping the planet. 78% of consumers believe sustainability is important (1). And they’re showing how important they think it is with their wallets. 62% say they will seek out products that are sustainable and 84% will move away from a brand who engages in poor environmental practices (1).

Younger demographics are particularly interested in supporting brands who embrace sustainability. Gen Z and Millennials are 27% more likely than older generations to spend money with a brand they believe cares about their impact on people and the planet (2). This has implications for the long-term benefits of integrating sustainability into business practices for brand reputation and building customer loyalty. Companies can work to engage these younger demographics and create lifelong customers. And as environmental issues continue to be discussed on a global stage, it’s likely the importance of sustainability in business practices will become more central to purchase behavior for a broader audience.

Knowing the importance of incorporating green initiatives into marketing practices is one thing. But how can they be implemented?


When determining how green initiatives will be worked into a brand strategy, transparency is vital, particularly for younger generations. Honesty and authenticity are important to Millennials and Gen Z, and they are hyper aware of “marketing jargon (3).” Companies need to avoid greenwashing, which is “the process of conveying a false impression of misleading information about how a company’s products are environmentally sound (4).” In advertising, this means avoiding misleading buzz words such as “green,” “eco-friendly,” “natural,” etc. These terms are vague and don’t convey any specifics about how a product or service is actually sustainable. Consumers have grown wise to the use of these types of words and usage of them could cause a loss of consumer trust.

Not only are transparency and authenticity important for gaining and maintaining consumer trust, but they are also essential for ensuring a company doesn’t get into trouble by making misleading claims. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has written Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (“Green Guides”), which provides guidance on how marketers should talk about different aspects of sustainability within messaging. Legal action could be taken if these guidelines are not followed, and marketing messaging is deemed to be misleading to consumers.


It’s important for marketers to stay up to date on new developments and guidelines within this area. The FTC’s Green Guides are currently under review and new guidelines are expected to be released in 2024. Companies should familiarize themselves with any new regulations and ensure they are implemented throughout all business practices. Additionally, staying up to date on consumer preferences related to green initiatives will ensure organizations continue to be relevant in this area. This can ensure businesses not only maintain current customers but grow market share by keeping ahead of competitors. With discussions around environmental awareness continuing to become more and more prevalent, it’s unlikely consumer preference will steer away from sustainability any time soon.

Sustainability in marketing and advertising is a complex topic with far reaching implications beyond what can be covered in this blog. The 4A’s provides great support for agencies and brands on this topic (5).

Evaluating and understanding the cadence of messaging being distributed is key.It’s the responsibility of businesses to help build a better future. And advertising practices are a big part of that. We only get one world. Sustainability is important for its future.Knowing the importance of incorporating green initiatives into marketing practices is one thing. But how can they be implemented?


(1) 52 Huge Environmentally Conscious Consumer Statistics, The Roundup, December 2023

(2) Research: Consumers’ Sustainability Demands Are Rising, Harvard Business Review, September 2023

(3) Best Ways to Court the Attention of Millennial and Gen Z Customers, Medium, September 2023

(4) What is Greenwashing? How it Works, Examples, and Statistics, Investopedia, January 2024

(5) 4A’s Sustainability Resources

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