Sustainable marketing - why it matters to professional services

Sustainable thinking: What the climate agenda means for professional services marketing & BD

Published on 30th September 2021

​Sustainable thinking is in demand. How do you win attention, and business, from senior decision makers?

Decarbonising our economy to combat climate change is the challenge of our lifetime and business has a central role to play.

The scale of investment innovation and organisational transformation required to bring about a net zero economy cannot be underestimated.

Research by Man Bites Dog shows that 9 out of 10 multinational companies require substantial transformation to make it happen and 8 out of 10 companies will need significant additional finance.

If we thought digital transformation was a challenge net zero transformation will put it firmly in the shade.

There is now no more important issue.

We are now all in the business of net zero transformation

New business models

Humanity is only going to succeed if we can find new business models and new ways of creating clean value that will underpin genuinely sustainable development.

The good news is that the business and finance community is resourceful enough to seize those opportunities and companies from start-ups to multinationals are already building new business models, new technologies and new net zero products and services that will help us all get there faster.

At these pivotal points of change, professional services firms are the essential navigators of what’s next.

But when it comes to the climate agenda, you’re losing ground to other stakeholders who are more agile, more collaborative and more comfortable with not knowing all the answers.

Developing and sharing your sustainable thinking and your vision is critical to competitive advantage in the next economy.

What is sustainability marketing and where do you begin?

Sustainability marketing is investing your marketing and BD budget to create purposeful change so that your organisation can do well by doing good.

Here are some useful principles.

Sustainability isn’t a hot topic.

It is so much more fundamental than that. It requires us to change our own organisations while we advise clients how to change theirs.

Sustainability also isn’t a sector or practice group.

Yes, carbon intensive industries require the greatest levels of transformation. But transition will leave no sector and no practice area unchanged.

Most importantly;

Sustainability literally does not need more hot air.

It’s a crowded space.​

What is sustainability marketing?


How can you genuinely contribute to the sustainability conversation and the solution?

Identify your organisation's authentic green space

You need to start by identifying your organisation’s authentic green space: where you can take a leadership position to create meaningful change.

When you examine your firm’s areas of competitive advantage, what are your strengths in particular sectors, practice areas, client types or geographies?

When you think about those things, what really stands out? And what might give you differentiated insights?

Leverage stakeholder relationships

What about your stakeholder relationships? Do you have the power to convene particular groups to create insight or lead change?

Learn from others

Look at organisations like the United Nations or the Sustainable Markets Initiative and see how they are tackling this. They’ve approached climate change with very specific taskforces to tackle particular issues.

Going through this process for your own sustainable thinking is almost like identifying a taskforce remit for your own thought leadership.

Ask yourself: what is the issue? Where do you have the power to intervene to accelerate change?

You might select a niche topic where you have authority to share genuinely new insights, or a broad umbrella theme where you have the convening power to support systemic change.

 The most advanced marketers are helping their organisations to shape the conversation and the proposition – examining how the climate agenda changes existing services, and where opportunities exist for new 'sustainability as a service’ offers to support clients on their net-zero journeys.

 Whatever you decide, your sustainable thinking should be core to your organisation.

About the author

Claire Mason is the CEO and Founder of global thought leadership consultancy, Man Bites Dog, that develops future thinking for intelligent brands to position them as leaders in the next economy. Find out more at: www.manbitesdog.com.

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