What are the obstacles to adapt a sustainable marketing strategy?

It is evident that implementing sustainable marketing strategy has become a standard practice and more and more companies are taking steps to reduce the environmental impact of their products and services.  However, the number of global sustainable-minded businesses with integrated environmental sustainability is still small.

I’ve just finished reading a book Customer-Centric Marketing: Supporting sustainability in the digital age and the authors have identified barriers to adapt sustainability and I’d love to share 5 of these obstacles.

Investor dominance

Shareholders and investors are afraid that company managers and directors may act out of self-interest and position the organisation in such a way to reduce returns and share values. Most of the time, company directors and managers only communicate with their shareholders a few weeks before the annual general meeting. It is important to act towards investors in the same way as you would customers and keep them informed.

Responsibility for ownership

Some companies and organisations recognise the importance of corporate social responsibility and they may include “green” issues, charitable links and ethical supply policies in their mission statements. However, recent studies results showed that CSR is abused by companies seeking competitive advantage through misinformation. Transparent communication in an ethical way is key to reducing sceptical environmental claims.

Barriers to sustainability adaptation

Dividends versus investment

Today’s investors are seeking maximum returns on their investments and demand stable dividend payments. This tremendous pressure, reduce director’s ability to create and undertake new sustainable projects as they want to pay dividends to maintain market value.  However, it is a question how company directors can satisfy shareholders who enable the company to grow as well as employees and the community in which the company is located.

Short-term approaches

Neil Richardson, Jon James and Neil Kelley, say that the financial crises in 2008/09 demonstrated clearly that, for example, “many financial institutions do not operate in a free market where they can do as they wish. Governments will always bail out financial institutions if the alternative is economically damaging.“ Northern Rock’s case is an invaluable lesson where the bank’s business model (community-friendly society) was changed to a more aggressive model which aimed for higher returns.  Adapting additional policies such as FTSE4Good Index can be useful to develop a more sustainable approach.

SMEs don’t need to plan

Last but not least, small and medium size business owners do not feel necessary to create a sustainable marketing plan as they feel that planning is more relevant for larger companies. The writers continue that “It’s impossible to apply single rule to all SMEs as they are simply too diverse. Many exhibit entrepreneurial behavioural patterns whilst having a little structure whereas others are long-standing and well established, with structures comparable to larger companies.“ The best advice to tackle this issue is to look for cost-effective solutions such as advice from local business schools or reading green marketing books.

No question that sustainability is a challenge that all companies and organisations will face over the next 30 to 40 years and customers will be concerned about sustainability. Addressing their green and ethical concerns as well as keeping them happy and satisfying their needs will a guarantee a long-terms success.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Which one of these barriers applies to your company?


If you think that you should have a sustainable digital marketing plan for your business, feel free to contact me.  I offer website development and web design Southampton services for your business as well as I can help you in promoting your brand online.

Just drop me an email krisztian@ecotreedesign.co.uk and I’ll get back to you at my earliest.

Photo was taken by Zoidberg72

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