Why sustainability is increasingly important for international marketers
In recent years, sustainability has been an increasingly hot topic. We spoke to a few of our LIMEs around the world to understand how different industries in different markets are rising to the challenge of becoming more sustainable. Here’s what they told us.
Sustainable finance in Scandinavia
Famed for its progressive tendencies, Scandinavia has led the way when it comes to sustainability. According to a Statista survey:
• 73% of Swedes
• 72% of Finns
• 70% of Norwegians
• 62% of Danes
…. say they have been influenced by sustainability when it comes to buying decisions.
Eva, an Oban LIME based in Stockholm, told us: “Governments across Scandinavia have generally been ahead of the curve when it comes to the green agenda. For example, Sweden introduced a carbon tax as early as 1991, which has steadily increased since. This covers all motor and heating fuels and has helped change consumer behaviour.
“In Stockholm, we have the Sustainable Finance Centre, which is a government-backed initiative designed to promote a shift to capital investments which promote sustainable investment goals and climate targets.”
When it comes to green bonds – i.e. bonds which are ring-fenced to find solutions to climate change – Scandinavia punches above its weight. According to the Climate Bonds Initiative, the region accounts for 6.7% of the entire global green bond market – well in excess of its share of world population.
Eva highlights some eye-catching Scandi fintech brands which make sustainability a key part of their offering:
• Earthbanc – a Swedish based company which bills itself as “the world’s first green digital and investment platform”. The company aims to provide a one-stop shop for carbon markets, directly connecting investors and project participants globally.
• Normative – also based in Sweden, Normative aims to help companies get better at measuring sustainability. They do this by making the environmental and social cost of every purchase transparent.
• Matter – Based in Denmark, Matter aims to help investors understand and report the sustainability impact of their investments. Specifically, the tool shows investors the full picture of equity and bond portfolios across 50 sustainability themes for more than 14,000 companies.
Eva comments, “In Nordic culture, there’s a strong tradition of balancing individual responsibility with duty to society, which is reflected in our social model. The phrase ‘sustainable development’ was coined by a UN commission set up by former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland in the 1980s. And of course, the most famous environmental campaigner in the world right now is Greta Thunberg.”
Investment decisions that integrate environmental, social or governance (ESG) criteria are increasingly popular and are positioned to ramp up over the next decade: projections indicate a €1 trillion market where one in every three equity funds will be ESG focused. The Nordics offer valuable lessons in this area.
Sustainable fashion in India
India has a rich history of beautiful clothing, from the sari to the ghagra choli to the dhoti. Since the liberalisation of the economy from the 1990s onwards, many Indian designers have had an increasing international profile.
Yet when many think of India’s role in the fashion industry, they can often focus on underpaid textile workers working in poor conditions, relied upon by the world’s biggest fashion brands to satiate our collective appetite for fast fashion. That’s not the full story though.
Amit, an Oban LIME based in Delhi, tells us, “There are many garment factories with underpaid workers, it’s true. But there are a number of Indian fashion brands who are consciously moving away from fast fashion towards more sustainable forms of clothes manufacturing.”
An example is Goa-based No Nasties. Founded in 2011, the brand specialises in bringing organic, fair trade and vegan products to market. All clothes are made with 100% organic cotton, plastic packaging is out, and the company prides itself on being carbon neutral too.
Another example is Nicobar, founded by Simran Lal and Raul Rai. They felt the fast fashion pendulum had swung too far, so set out to create clothing products designed to last using natural materials, rather than following trends.
The rise of sustainable fashion brands is a welcome addition to India’s economy – helped by the country’s status as one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets. E-commerce makes it easier for independent retailers to expand their footprint – an example being Toile, an eco-friendly multi-designer boutique based in Mumbai whose online store sells a range of upcycled products.
Sustainable tourism in Africa
Covid has slowed international travel in the last year. But pre-pandemic, sustainability was becoming increasingly talked about in the travel space. Africa – home to some of the world’s most pristine, unspoiled areas of natural beauty – is well placed to capitalise.
Feye, an Oban LIME based in Nairobi, told us, “Sustainability has become a marketing buzzword in recent years, with lots of African tourism specialists using words like ‘eco tourism’, ‘green travel’ and ‘responsible travel’ to market trips to Africa. However, it’s important that travellers really understand what sustainable tourism is – and that’s tourism which allows the local community to earn a fair income, supports conservation and limits the environmental impact of the vacation itself.”
Responsible Travel – as the name suggests – is an example of responsible travel to Africa. Founded in 2001, the company describes itself as ‘activist’, and aims to provide trips which support communities and help preserve nature. Another example is Alexandra’s Africa, which aims to provide what it describes as “responsible and respectful” holidays to Africa, through its eco-cultural safaris. If you are planning a trip to Africa and would like to understand more about how to be a responsible tourist, then the Africa Travel Centre has this useful guide.
For over a century, Africa’s wildlife and natural beauty has attracted international tourists but up until recently, tourism often did more harm than good. Since the 1980s, however, Africa has led the world in the field of sustainable travel whilst still retaining a lucrative tourism industry. The aftermath of the pandemic, coupled to concerns about the environmental impact of mass tourism, gives brands an opportunity now to re-think their model in a way which promotes sustainability.
(You can download Oban’s sector review on African tourism – written before the pandemic – here.)
5 tips for international marketers
If your brand is making efforts to become more sustainable and would like to reflect that in your marketing messages, key points to bear in mind include:
• Think long term – sustainability won’t come overnight.
• Be consistent – it’s not enough for just one part of your company to be sustainable – it needs to be integrated across the whole organisation.
• Understand your customer – with customers demanding more sustainable and responsible approaches from brands, companies must adapt to become more customer-centric. Industry data and customer research will help you but bear in mind that consumer preferences vary by market – use a Local In-Market Expert to guide you.
• Avoid lecturing – companies can sometimes make the mistake of marketing their products primarily on their sustainable merits when customers may simply be looking for a product that meets their needs. Ensuring sustainability is simply part of the standard product offering re-affirms sustainable products and services as the norm for both your sector and customers.
• Avoid greenwashing – coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld, the term ‘greenwashing’ refers to brands marketing themselves as environmentally friendly without taking meaningful action to alter their impact. Brands who do this and get found out by consumers can find themselves on the wrong end of a backlash or consumer boycott.
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To find out how Oban’s LIME network can help you navigate customer preferences around the world, please get in touch.
Sarah Jennings | CEO
Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion. Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.