How social media supports sustainable marketing

Sustainable MarketingBy using digital and social media you can help your marketing be more sustainable. What do we mean by ‘sustainable marketing‘? Well I like to take the old four ‘P’s of marketing (yes, I know some people are up to around 11 ‘P’s, but let’s keep it simple!), and onto them map the four ‘E’s of sustainable marketing:

  • Ecology
  • Economy
  • Ethnology
  • Ethics

Let’s consider social and digital media in terms of the four Es:

Ecology – Social media is extremely green when compared to the alternative communications and networking activities. Firstly, we don’t need to use any materials. No letters, flyers or press releases; no print to be distributed, and thus no fuel costs or carbon output.  Then you do your networking without travelling. Again, this means reduced pollution – as Arthur C Clarke said, around 40 years ago, “Don’t commute – communicate.”

Economy – It is important to be economically sustainable. Again, social media ticks the boxes. So far as social media is virtually free and it is involved in knowledge transfer and dissemination, it is economically viable in virtually all economies across the globe. Barriers to entry are extremely low, requiring little more than access to the Internet or a mobile ‘phone. People working close to their homes can also help support the micro economies of their immediate region rather than the big cities.

Ethnology – Marketing needs to be sustainable in terms of supporting people, cultures and societies. Social media with its open transfer of knowledge allows us to broaden our understanding of the peoples we are dealing with, and to be sensitive to their cultural needs. This is perhaps one area where digital, social communications need to be carefully considered. The enormous reach of these powerful tools means that if used without care and consideration they could be damaging individual populations.

Consider an annual conference or seminar that may be part of your marketing plan. In order to be ‘sustainable’ you decide that this year you will mount an online webinar instead. No travel for delegates, no carbon emissions, no materials to produce, no waste to recycle from the venue, no heating or lighting for the hall. But what about the impact upon the people in the community where your event was to be held? No jobs this year, no input for the local economy.  The four’ E’s need careful weighing to secure the best possible balance.

Ethics – All marketing should be ethical, but such normative goals are not always attained. We are all aware of unethical marketing activities, sadly they are a fact of life. Fortunately, such practices are rarely sustainable being based upon short term greed. Digital marketing, in its broadest sense, has plenty of examples of unethical practices, but I am encouraged by a more positive spirit in social media. Because it is self-regulating and democratic, and if you believe that most people in the world are well intentioned, the many should mediate the few.

Digital, social media does not automatically tick all the boxes, but for organizations committed to sustainable marketing it provides a useful toll that should be carefully considered. So, when creating marketing plans or campaigns, consider the four ‘E’s and assess how social media can be applied to support those goals.



Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks


  • I like the 4 Es model and see a good fit for social media. In fact, social media, if “done properly” not only accommodates the 4 Es in its use but its use can allow for the transparent communication of how a business or organisation adopts the 4 E approach throughout its marketing and operations.

    Francine PickeringFebruary 25, 2011
  • Thanks Francine – I had missed the transparency aspect which I guess also supports an ethical stance.

    Ian WestFebruary 25, 2011

Leave a Reply