Sales and marketing

Deciding how and when to engage with customers on environmental and social issues are key questions for Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs).

CMOs can play a key role to play in shaping customer support for new sustainability innovations, for example by promoting cleaner products and services or through championing new models such as collaborative consumption, or driving the shift from selling products to selling services.





Potential role and responsibilities

Potential responsibilities and questions for the Chief Marketing Officer

Overall role: Influence and support customers to make more sustainable choices, whilst growing revenues and brand loyalty.

Responsibilities Key questions
Brand, customer loyalty and trust What are our customers’ key expectations of the sustainability of our products and services?
How can we better meet our customers’ requirements (e.g. for high quality, healthy and low impact products and services)?
Distribution channel management and marketing communication How can different distribution channels be used to engage our customers on sustainability issues?
Sales management and pricing What key approaches could we take to improve the sustainability of the choices available to our customers (e.g. choice-editing, providing cheaper more sustainable alternatives, promoting alternative ownership models, etc.)?
Source: Accenture, 2013
Areas of opportunity

The sales and marketing function has a vital role in testing and realising the benefits of the five innovation areas identified, especially with regard to changing models of consumption. This section outlines the role of the sales and marketing function in delivering on each innovation, and provides key questions to help evaluate and test each in turn.

Innovation area

Role of the sales and marketing function

Example questions

Shared value

Conduct market research to understand the needs of society

Build stakeholder engagement on the company’s purpose and role in society

Showcase best practice examples of shared value creation in workforce and communities

What are our stakeholders’ key concerns with our business operations and approach?

How can we best engage our communities and employees on our plans, in order to build trust and license to operate?

How could we leverage our company’s key strengths in supporting the needs of communities in which we operate?

More with less

Target new markets for resource efficient products and services

Promote the company’s own resource efficiency performance to build reputation

What are our customers’ requirements with regard to resource efficiency?

How could our usage of clean technology benefit customers and communities (e.g. lower pollution, etc.)?

What sales could be generated from products and services that are more resource-efficient?

Circular economy

Encourage customers to return used goods and provide longevity-based services (e.g. extended warranties)

What are the most effective ways to shift customer behaviour to close the loop on key resources?

What are the brand and trust benefits from influencing the customer in this way?

What sales could be generated from circular business models?

New consumption models

Build new revenue streams from new consumption models

Support customers to access the services they want cost-effectively, e.g. via sharing, collaborative consumption and provision of products as a service

Build customer demand for lower-impact consumption

What is the market opportunity to provide leasing services or support collaborative consumption?

How does social media and technology create the potential for alternative consumption models?

What could be the impact of new entrants and disruptive competitors?

How could we generate new revenue streams that complement existing sales (advertising, intermediation, payment processing, etc.)?

How can we collect revenues throughout the lifetime of our products and services?

How can we make new consumption models attractive to our customers?

Transparency and engagement

Leverage benefits of supply chain traceability to engage customers and build loyalty

Influence and educate customers around sustainability issues within the supply chain


What are our customers’ concerns about the supply chains of our products or services?

How can we engage customers with product origin information and take advantage of technology and social media?

How can we support customers to make more sustainable project choices?

What are the potential branding and trust benefits (and risks) for our company?

What sales uplift (volume or price) could we expect from delivering more transparent goods and services?

Source: Accenture 2013
Other useful tools and resources

Social media listening and analytics tools

Social media listening tools can trawl newsfeeds (such as from Twitter and Facebook) and undertake data-mining to generate insights for companies, enabling them to better understand their markets, competitors and customer trends. The tools differ in their methods, ranging from finding conversations in the blogosphere and news websites, to using text analytics to categorise sentiments that are being expressed by others. The tools are typically able to work in multiple languages and require that a ‘topic profile’ is developed at the outset, which outlines words, phrases and keywords to ‘search’ for.

Social media listening tools can help companies identify responses to potential launches of new sustainability campaigns, innovations or products, or can be used to build a picture of the customer needs and requirements around sustainability. They can also be used to understand competitor positioning, alternative products in the market and their relative success and to assess broader stakeholder and community concerns.

Case studies

yerdle: Building collaborative communities

Launched in late 2012 by co-founders Adam Werbach and Andy Ruben (former executives of Saatchi and Saatchi and Walmart, respectively), yerdle is a platform for giving and receiving goods within an online social community such as Facebook. Yerdle joined an already crowded informal marketplace, with established players such as Freecycle, Gumtree and Craigslist accounting for the lion’s share of the on-line informal economy. However, yerdle differentiated their services: They capitalized on the links between the consumer and their existing friends, typically through social media networks like Facebook. By accessing users’ social media networks, yerdle allows consumers to be instantly connected to a range of available products from peers who they already trust, and perhaps share tastes with. This also helped overcome another barrier that had affected the reputation of existing sharing schemes - according to Werbach, your existing friends are more likely to share your sense of quality, so there are no big ‘surprises’ when exchanging goods. Furthermore, by capitalising on the success of social media, yerdle avoided the ‘critical mass’ problem associated with many start-ups in this space.

Yerdle’s mission is to reduce 20% of the things people buy through sharing, thereby collectively protecting the Earth’s finite resources. [i]

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Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative: Encouraging re-use, repair and recycling

Outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia’s business model is designed for a circular economy. By selling high quality, premium-priced products, customers are incentivised to retain their goods for longer, rather than purchase frequent replacements from rival companies that offer cheaper alternatives.

Patagonia also encourages their customers to recycle their clothes at the end of their useful life by sending them back to the company who then strip all useful material from the product and re-use them in the manufacture of new garments. To achieve this, Patagonia has invested in research and technology, and sends all recyclable product to Tejin, a Japanese manufacturer of synthetic fibres, for remanufacturing. Polyester is one of the main materials used in their products, for which Patagonia believe they have now ‘closed the loop’ completely – no new polyester-based compounds are procured for the manufacture of Patagonia’s products. Patagonia’s R&D department are primarily focused on ‘designing-out waste’, ensuring that every new product is highly recyclable. As of 2011, all of Patagonia’s clothing is now 100% recyclable. Patagonia claims this has created large savings and has enabled them to hedge against rising oil prices and reduce other raw material costs significantly.

Patagonia has backed up this supply chain innovation with direct consumer messaging. Their 2012 ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’ campaign made a bold statement to customers by asking them only to buy the products that they need, thereby encouraging sustainable consumption. Over 56,000 customers have now signed Patagonia’s pledge to reduce, repair and recycle products they own.

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