Sustainability In Marketing Essay Sample
The concept of sustainability has long been discussed as a business concept. During the middle of the 20th century, it became apparent to analysts that most of the world’s resources are becoming scarce. And most theorize that a time will come wherein a limit will be reached; that the world’s resources would not be enough to sustain human development. With this concept in mind, people started talking about sustainability and sustainable development that came to mean as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. And though sustainability has been well-established in terms of development, how does this concept relate in marketing? By the way, is it necessary for an organization’s marketing strategy to reflect sustainability?
Two conflicting views emerged in the 1970’s on how business organizations should conduct themselves towards society. One of which was popularized by Milton Friedman in his essay, ‘The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits’. For Friedman, talks about corporate social responsibility could not be taken seriously as they are unrealistic and perhaps hypocritical. According to Friedman, “Businessmen who talk this way are unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades”. For Friedman, business entities should not concern themselves with social responsibility since it was not the main objective of why it was created. For Friedman, business entities were created to generate profits; “to make as much money as possible while conforming to their basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom”. Some people, on the other hand, greatly criticize corporations because of the latter’s extreme focus on profiteering at the expense of environment and society. One of them was Ralph Nader, an American lawyer and activist who argued that corporations are not ‘our buddies’ but legal fictions that has to be held responsible for human necessities . Today, contemporary business strategies incorporate profit and social responsibility in a delicate balance. Commonly referred to as the ‘triple bottom line,’ the mechanics of business strategies integrates profit, social responsibility and sustainability into the corporate objectives .
The concept of sustainability in its simplest term refers to how companies “stay in business” in an indefinite period of time (Doane, D., & MacGillivray, A., 2001, p. 3.0.1). One particular example on how sustainability is reflected in an organization’s marketing strategies is in the case of Walmart. As one of the largest retail company in terms of profit not only in the U.S. but also in the world, Walmart have created programs that reflects its social responsibility and its commitment to sustainability. Initiatives such as using renewable energy in its stores, providing career opportunities for women, creation of Walmart foundation that supports the local and international community and several other initiatives that aims to promote their image as a responsible company . These programs reflects an undeniable form of marketing strategy wherein it aims to build Walmart’s its reputation for the purpose of drawing ethics conscious customers. Evidently, there is an underlying marketing strategy behind every social responsibility and sustainability initiatives that adds value to the company’s business.
In studying consumer behavior, it was observed that some consumers consider ethical issues before buying some products. Also known as ethical consumerism, it has been observed that some consumers tend to purchase products through consideration of certain ethical issues . Ethical consumerism have been the focus of some research in the latter part of the 20th century most likely because they organized and can create commotion and media atttention because of their public actions. In the United States, for example, ethical consumerism have been characterized by organized boycotts and buycotts of certain brands citing their ethical practices, which became common during the 1960’s . It is believed that ethical consumers only represent a small fraction of the market. According to studies, people who buy products out of ethical consideration are only 5% to 10% of the whole buying population (Ethical Consumer, n.d.). But despite of their small numbers, their presence and the nature of how they criticize organizations publicly can become detrimental to those companies who are the object of these strikes and boycotts. And since these activisms are often covered by mainstream media, there is always a risk of losing other consumers through negative publicitly. For the same reason, most companies avoid conflicts with ethical consumers by focussing on sustainability and social responsibility.
So why should marketing strategies reflect sustainability? Apparently, the obvious reason is it enhances the organization’s image, which is very important in marketing success. Societies abide by moral and ethical standards. For the same reason, society expects its organizations to do the same. It is only logical to think that business organizations should include sustainability as part of their marketing strategy. Most often, the organization’s sustainability strategies is reflected on its sustainability report wherein they evaluate their social, economic and environmental impact through a sustainability report addressed to its shareholders and stakeholders. As observed, incorporating sustainability strategy in an organization results in improved reputation, increases employee loyalty, reduces inaccurate information about the organization’s corporate performance, helps the organization refine its vision and strategy, increases customer’s loyalty, waste reduction within the organization is improved and improves relationship with regulatory bodies among many other advantages.
Bartlett, A. (2012, March). The Meaning of Sustainability . Retrieved February 2015, from http://www.albartlett.org/: http://www.albartlett.org/articles/art_meaning_of_sustainability_2012mar20.pdf
De Pelsmacker, P., Driesen, L., & Rayp, G. (2005, September). Do Consumers Care about Ethics? Willingness to Pay for Fair-Trade Coffee. Retrieved February 2015, from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-6606.2005.00019.x/full
Earnst & Young LLP, & Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. (2013). Value of sustainability reporting. Retrieved February 2015, from http://www.ey.com/: http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/ACM_BC/$FILE/1304-1061668_ACM_BC_Corporate_Center.pdf
Earnst & Young LLP, & Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. (2013). Value of sustainability reporting. Retrieved November 2013, from http://www.ey.com/: http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/ACM_BC/$FILE/1304-1061668_ACM_BC_Corporate_Center.pdf
Friedman, M. (1970, September). The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits. Retrieved February 2015, from http://www.umich.edu/: http://www.umich.edu/~thecore/doc/Friedman.pdf
Walmart. (2013). The Responsibility to Lead. Retrieved February 2015, from http://corporate.walmart.com/: http://corporate.walmart.com/global-responsibility/environment-sustainability/global-responsibility-report
Wayne, N., & MacDonald, C. (2003, March). Getting to the Bottom of “Triple Bottom Line”. Retrieved February 2015, from In Press, Business Ethics Quarterly: http://www.businessethics.ca/3bl/triple-bottom-line.pdf
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