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Top 10 Sustainability / CSR and Online / Social Media Marketing Trends for 2011 (Part 1: Sustainability Trends)

Posted by Lynn Miller on Fri, Jan 28, 2011

By now, you’ve probably read some marketing and sustainability trend forecasts for 2011. Why another? Because there’s not another one out there exactly like this one!

I’ve grouped the top ten trends into two broad categories: Sustainability/CSR and Online/Social Media.

Part I. Top Sustainability and CSR Trends for 2011:

1.  A re-examination of paper versus online efficiencies. Campaigns to go paperless have been so successful that most people accept as Established Fact that online communications is the greener option than paper. Not so fast! Like so many environmental issues, this one is multi-faceted.  The availability of competitively priced recycled paper stock from Forest Stewardship Council certified forests and both commercial and consumer access to paper recycling facilities has exploded, while the use of alternative energy still comprises just 8% of the total energy consumption in the US. Deciding which way to go– paper or online – requires ever more careful calculations.   Expect the paper industry to make this a rallying cry this year. Domtar Paper’s “Paper Because” campaign, launched at the end of 2010, is likely just the first of many such campaigns by the paper industry to increase public awareness of the environmental benefits of using paper.

2.   Increasing pressure for e-cyclers and electronics manufacturers to support the e-cycling principles espoused by the e-stewards program. Two years ago, my firm worked with a wireless company to review and implement more sustainable practices so that they could credibly market to eco-conscious consumers.   In 2009, few people were aware of the e-stewards program and the Basel Action Network, which work to ensure that e-waste doesn’t end up in landfills.  By some estimates, 70% to 80% of all used electronics parts are shipped by “recyclers” to developing nations. There, children rummage through highly toxic piles of e-waste to extract precious metals.  Thanks to increasing media attention, the pioneering work of  e-stewards, and quiet lobbying by some of the consumer electronics industry’s leaders, U.S. electronics recyclers are cleaning up their act.  A huge sign that this movement will take off in 2011 is a new Consumer Electronics Association statement calling for support of the e-stewards standards.

3. Water conservation, water rights and the “corporate water footprint” will assume the same prominence as the “carbon footprint.”

  • Exciting new technologies and products will help both businesses and consumers manage water consumption.
  • Expect more retailers, restaurants, and other establishments to follow MOM’s Organic Market’s lead in banning the sale of bottled water.
  • Companies that are perceived as “hoarding” finite water resources will come under increasing public scrutiny.

4.  Look for changes in the way natural, organic and other “eco-friendly” “green” products are marketed, due to the upcoming FTC Green Guide regulations. We won’t know the complete details until the final rules are published. However, based on public comments and the draft regulations, these changes seem like sure bets:

  • General claims such as “environmentally friendly” will be not be allowed without proper substantiation (really, this has always been best practice anyway!);
  • Increasing oversight of renewable sector marketing;
  • Stricter regulation of carbon offset claims;
  • Closer oversight of third party seals and certifications; and
  • Setting baseline standards for use of terms such as “biodegradable.”

5.  Sustainability communications take center stage, pushing away “green marketing.” Due to an odd convergence of forces including tougher green marketing regulations, heightened awareness of the Triple Bottom Line and CSR, increasing pressure for green supply chains, and some very smart marketing by an upstart analyst firm, “sustainability communications” will become as widely recognized a buzzword as “green marketing.”

Perhaps it’s more accurate to call this a wish list, because not all of these trends will be completely implemented this year. But their time is coming closer. Whether it’s this year, next year, or the year after, the converging forces of sustainability, transparency, and online communications will make my top 10 a reality…some day.

What do you think? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!…And please check out Part 2 of this post: Top Online / Social Media Marketing Trends for Sustainable Brands.

– Lynn Anne Miller

Copyright 2011 4GreenPs

Lynn Anne Miller is the CEO of 4GreenPs, Strategic Marketing for Sustainable Brands. She’s also the recipient of the first Shorty Award for Best Green Content on Twitter for her work with @GreenMoms and was named a Nielsen Media “Power Mom” for her personal blog,  She serves on the Board of the Independent PR Alliance (IPRA), a section of the National Capital Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

4GreenPs  connects green brands with mainstream consumers and helps mainstream brands go green with a full range of  CSR and sustainability communications services. Want to talk about how we can help you? Contact lynn at 4greenps dot com.

Tags: Green Marketing, Sustainability Communications