3 Sustainability Metrics to Design Your Marketing Campaigns Around

By: Adam Carpenter on March 29, 2023
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Sustainability has become a crucial factor for businesses of all sizes and industries as consumers increasingly demand eco-friendly and socially responsible practices from the brands they support. 

Small and midsize business (SMB) leaders and marketing managers are keen to showcase their commitment to sustainability, not only as a moral imperative but also as a strategic advantage to attract and retain customers who prioritize environmental and social values. In a study by Gartner, 92% of respondents say they have boosted investments in sustainability initiatives [1].

However, for SMBs, demonstrating their sustainable practices can be a challenging task, especially when it comes to measuring and communicating their impact effectively. Keep reading to learn about important metrics that SMB leaders and marketing managers can use when designing marketing campaigns that include communication about the organization's sustainability efforts.

What is sustainability?

Sustainability is the ability to maintain and preserve resources for future generations while meeting the needs of the present population. It’s the practice of using resources in a way that does not deplete or harm the environment or social or economic systems. It involves creating and implementing practices that ensure the long-term health and well-being of the planet, society, and the economy. Sustainability aims to strike a balance between the environment and the needs of businesses in order to develop services and products in a sustainable way.

Why sustainability is important for SMBs

Sustainability can have a significant impact for SMBs by enabling cost savings, differentiating them from their competitors, and making it easier to comply with environmental standards.

Cost savings

Adopting sustainable practices can lead to cost savings by reducing waste, optimizing resource usage, and increasing efficiency. For example, SMBs can reduce their energy consumption by using energy-efficient appliances and practices, such as turning off equipment when not in use. This can not only lower their energy bills but also reduce their environmental impact.

Separation from the competition

Sustainability can help SMBs differentiate themselves from competitors by demonstrating their commitment to social and environmental responsibility. Consumers are increasingly conscious of the environmental ramifications of their purchases and are more likely to support businesses that share their values. 

Meeting environmental regulations

Sustainability can also help SMBs comply with environmental regulations and mitigate their effect on the environment. Governments and regulatory bodies are increasingly imposing stricter regulations on businesses, particularly in areas such as waste management and emissions reduction. By adopting sustainable practices, SMBs can reduce their environmental impact and avoid costly penalties.

How sustainability is measured: 3 sustainability metrics

You can measure sustainability using economic, environmental, and social metrics.

1. Economic sustainability measures

Economic sustainability measures are strategies and actions designed to promote the long-term viability and health of an economy. Some of these include:

  • Efficient resource use: Measures that promote efficient use of resources, such as water and energy, can help reduce costs in the long run.

  • Waste reduction: Practices such as recycling and reusing can help minimize waste and reduce the cost of waste management.

  • Technology investments: Modern technology can increase production efficiency and decrease operational costs.

  • Diversification of revenue streams: Investing in new markets or developing new products and services can diversify revenue streams and reduce dependence on a single product or service.

  • Collaboration and partnerships: Working with other businesses or organizations can promote shared values and goals and increase the likelihood of success.

  • Sustainable supply chain: A sustainable supply chain is a system of suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors who are environmentally and socially responsible.

  • Long-term planning: Sustainable economic measures include long-term planning and investment, ensuring businesses remain resilient even during times of uncertainty.

2. Environmental sustainability measures

Some of the environmental sustainability measures that are most top-of-mind for business leaders include:

  • Climate risk: The changing environment and physical risks of climate change have led many companies to acknowledge the emergence of climate risk as a new environmental metric. To mitigate these risks, you can employ the kinds of scenario-based assessments of transitional and physical climate risk recommended by the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)[2]. These recommendations around areas such as governance, risk management, and strategy can help you develop risk mitigation strategies across corporate assets, supply chains, and product life cycles.

  • Carbon emissions: Carbon emissions are a critical metric, and the Paris Agreement aims to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase to 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050[3]. Companies are beginning to take action, such as migrating from coal to natural gas, to reduce emissions. Energy consumption is also a crucial factor impacting sustainability, and companies are using alternate, renewable sources of energy and ESG platforms, which collect data in real-time, to measure and track energy consumption accurately.

  • Water usage: It’s important to take into account water loss resulting from leaking pipes or water distribution lines, as well as water pollution. Employing goal-oriented metrics to track water quality, consumption, and leakage will be critical in preserving water and safeguarding the health and well-being of people and the environment.

  • Waste and pollution: Waste management is a broad and important category, and companies are beginning to use circular frameworks to assess and track their organizations' waste. Circular frameworks emphasize ways to reduce waste by repairing, reusing, and reducing the resources companies use in their processes.Committing to circularity goals and waste measurement frameworks can enable data-powered decision-making, an easier progress-tracking process, and the kind of accountability that reduces waste, fosters job creation, and boosts the company’s bottom line—all while maintaining a healthy environment.

3. Social sustainability measures

Social sustainability measures break down into four different categories:

  • Inclusivity: Inclusivity is critical to ensuring that all communities receive adequate representation. This involves identifying the needs of diverse groups, assessing those needs, and providing education and resources to support them.

  • Well-being: Ensuring social sustainability involves promoting well-being, which encompasses a wide range of factors that affect our ability to live fulfilling lives. These factors include access to support services, affordable housing, mental and physical healthcare, educational opportunities, employment, and security and safety.

  • Equity: Equity involves addressing the barriers and challenges faced by particular groups and empowering them to take control of their lives. This involves identifying and addressing the root causes of disadvantage, as well as working to reduce those disparities. 

  • Community cohesion: Community cohesion promotes participation from all groups within the organization. This involves facilitating individual participation within specific target groups and enabling access to public and civic organizations for those groups. Encouraging target groups to contribute to society and building connections between different target groups is also crucial.

Sustainability metrics for internal assessment

Quantifying the success of your business’s sustainability processes is far easier if you track the following metrics, as identified by Gartner [1]:

Sustainability metrics to track

  • Increased company brand/reputation

  • Improved resource efficiency

  • Innovation and new products

  • Improved customer satisfaction and engagement

  • Better risk management and mitigation

  • Improved investor engagement and stock market valuation

  • Avoiding carbon costs and taxes or meeting emissions standards

  • Improved value proposition of products

  • Attracting and retaining talent

  • Improved operational and supply chain resilience

  • Reduced costs

  • Improved relationships with policymakers and regulators

  • Increased revenue

  • Improving net profits

  • Avoiding stranded assets

For each of these measures, you can set up quantifiable metrics. You can then choose to combine them all into one cohesive sustainability metric or categorize them into several separate measures.

Granted, how your business applies these metrics will depend on your products, how you produce them, and a number of local factors, such as the physical environment your products and processes may impact.

For example, the efficiency with which a food production company uses resources and how a parts manufacturer does so will be different. A parts manufacturer may have to worry more about fuel and the commodities used in its products, while a food manufacturer may focus more on how it limits water pollution or limits water usage during droughts.

How to talk about your sustainability efforts

SMBs are increasingly being driven to promote eco-friendly and socially responsible practices to meet the rising consumer demand for sustainable practices. To achieve this, SMB leaders and marketing managers are looking to showcase their commitment to sustainability by measuring and communicating their impact effectively. 

This highlights the importance of using sustainable practices to promote cost savings, differentiation from competitors, and compliance with environmental standards. SMBs can use the above steps to save money, gain an advantage over the competition, and stay in line with environmental requirements.

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles can help drive a company to maintain sustainability standards. ESG is a crucial metric for assessing sustainability performance and is commonly employed to gauge the effectiveness of sustainability practices. 

The two are different, however: Sustainability is mainly concerned with the results that arise in society and the natural environment, while ESG represents a dimension of sustainability reporting. Organizations use ESG criteria to evaluate and communicate their adherence to sustainability principles, encompassing environmental and social impacts as well as corporate governance.

If you're interested in software tools that can help in your sustainability efforts, check out Software Advice's directories:


Sources

  1. Sustainability: A Customer Priority and Provider Imperative, Gartner

  2. Recommendations, Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures

  3. Key Aspects of the Paris Agreement, United Nations