For 70 years now, the world has lived as a consumer society where goods are produced, bought and thrown away at an unprecedented rate. Consumption has defined the nature of the Western economy and has created wealth that has never been seen before. The process of consumption, the purchase and then use of the goods themselves has become a measure of happiness and well-being. That is, until 2018, when the IPCC Climate Report clearly stated that we are approaching the ecological limits of consumption.
Why don’t we define consumption in a new way? asks Petteri Lillberg – long-term marketing strategist, management consultant and Markkinointi ja mainonta magazine columnist. This question was the driving force for the birth of the book “Kestävä markkinointi” and since then, many open questions still waiting to be answered.
How do you define a good life?
The traditional function of brands has been to generate demand and growth. How could brands create growth in the future and at the same time respect the needs and demands of our planet? Lillberg wonders: “What I personally believe is that marketers are the creators of change and are extremely good at creating intangible value for companies and goods. We know how to crystallize what is meaningful to a person, beyond the product itself. For example, when selling a coffee cup, the product itself is less relevant, than what it symbolizes, for example, some special moment or even your own time.”
“Marketers know how to influence people’s behavior and what a “good life” means to them. We sit on the pulse of consumers. Marketers have transitioned from “professional advertisers” to “professionals of the future”. Marketing and communication professionals now play a strong role in defining what the world will look like in 20 years’ time. Marketers now have a new role to play as messengers of the future, and this is an extremely important role. When you consider the elements of this role, the strengths and skills that marketing and communications professionals bring to play, you can easily see how marketing can influence climate change. It all starts with defining “a good life”. Does a good life always start with the purchase of a new coffee cup or something else, something deeper? Marketers have a great opportunity to influence this.” Lillberg continues
How to get consumers to buy ecologically produced products and why should companies invest in sustainability?
Twenty years ago, when the first generation of ecological products arrived on the market, one major problem was that these products did not deliver the same results in terms of performance and quality as their non-ecologically produced equivalents. Today, it is clear that the ecological nature of a product is no longer a justification or excuse for the product to be lower quality. This is important, otherwise consumers will not be prepared to make the switch to the ecological product.
Companies need to meet consumer expectations including ecological expectations. This puts additional pressure on the company’s product development and hopefully results in a big leap in innovation. It still pays to invest in ecological product development, as Lillberg says that sustainability is a premium argument. “Food and clothing have a price premium if they are produced in a sustainable way.” he says.
According to Lillberg, companies should consider three aspects of sustainability:
- The first is that by taking sustainability into account in product development, the company stays in the game. Sustainability is now an important argument for consumers. A company that does not pay attention to the environmental sustainability of its product and its operations will fall out of the shopping carts of the consumers.
- The second aspect is to consider the efficiency in engineering of the product and the production processes, optimizing and eliminating un-necessary process steps, resulting in a positive impact on sustainability as well as on company profits.
- The third point relates to premium pricing. Now, it is too often the case that only high-income earners can afford the premium prices of ecologically sustainable products. The big question is when will this pricing become “fair” so that buying sustainable goods does not require a thick wallet?
The sustainable economy will leap forward as soon as two things happen: the elimination of unnecessary waste through the optimization of logistics; and pricing equality for sustainable consumption, in one way or the other, so that everyone has the financial opportunity to choose an organically produced product if they so wish.
Lillberg believes that large retail chains will play a big role in bringing equality to sustainable product consumption. And note: not through cheaper pricing but through fair pricing!
Photo: Vilja Pursiainen / Kaskas Media.
Text: Maria Aksela