Evolution of Sustainability: How Sustainability Was Used in Marketing Strategy?

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With the passage of time sustainability marketing gone through different phases. In the earlier phase it was emerged as ecological issues then after the passage of time it came with the social and ecological issues then after few years’ sustainability marketing came. Now this is the most emerging area of marketing that every researcher show interest to work in this field. In this paper figure1 represents the evolution of sustainability concept and figure 2 represents the transformation of sustainability marketing mix. As well as this paper firstly work on understanding the concept of sustainability marketing with a detailed discussion on its historic development along with the definitions. Secondly, to discuss about how sustainability used in the field of marketing strategy. Then finally, it gives an agenda for the future of this topic.


Before 21st century it came into mind that in the forthcoming years the earth will face natural resources problem although people have latest technology and increase progressively. The term ‘Sustainability’ was first introduced in the Brundtland Report, named of “our common future”. The report sustainability defined, development that fulfilling the current needs without bargaining the ability of future generation’s needs.

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Charter et al., (2006) revealed that sustainability is a ‘Triple Bottom Line’ approach, which is the planet, people and profit. With the growing awareness shown in sustainable issues suggest that the resources need to be conserved because of sustainability. In addition, According to Martin and Schouten, Sustainable Marketing is: “about understanding and managing Marketing’s pivotal role in the future of business and society […] is the process of creating, communicating and delivering value to customers in such a way that both natural and human capital is preserved or enhanced throughout”. In other words, sustainability is a long-term future for the organization and it can be attained through a visionary approach

In addition to, the meaning of sustainability is not only dealing with environmental issues but also focusing on social and economic issues. Therefore, organizations take different strategies to operate their business and that is governed by some set of value, as well as moral principle and ethics.In the competitive market, different kind of issues are coming forth in the competitive market and to gain competitive advantage companies have to take different marketing strategies. Because, sustainability is something which gives win- win situation for both marketer and consumer. With this in mind, Based on marketing mix marketing strategy deals with market segmentation and targeting as well as designing of positioning strategy. That is, the strategic marketing and marketing mix make up the two approaches of marketing strategy. And when the new term sustainability works with marketing strategy it is called sustainability marketing strategy. Therefore, it is clear after the above discussion that it is much needed to take some steps to save the future generations. The purpose of this paper is to describe how sustainability comes at this stage, as well as how sustainability is used in the field of marketing strategy and to discuss the future of sustainability marketing strategy.

Literature review

In 1905, the University of Pennsylvania was first introducing the marketing course, the name of that course was ‘The Marketing of Products’. After that, the concept has changed a lot. Different researchers have contributed in the field of sustainability marketing revolution. Different authors took sustainability from different perspectives, some took environmental issues, and some took social issues. For this reason, it is needed to design a marketing strategy, to achieve the social, economic and environmental goal in a combined manner. But effective marketing strategy designing is very complex because the different organizations have different marketing strategies to achieve their goals. All things considered, the purpose of this paper firstly is to focus on evolution as well as to understand the concepts of sustainability and marketing strategy. Secondly, how sustainability works with marketing strategy. Finally, it discusses the future of the sustainability marketing strategy.

Evolution of sustainability in marketin

Marketing field has changed after it was introduced. Kumar et al. (2012) Production concept, product concept, selling concept, marketing concept and societal marketing concept are those five concepts which discussed the evolution of marketing. Producing more at a lower cost and satisfy consumer demand is the production concept. The product concept is based on quality products with advanced features and sound performance which consumers prefer. Selling concept is based on more sell and more promotion. Marketing concept relies on a consumer-centric approach, the marketer focus on creating communicating and delivering greater value to their targeted customers. Then, societal marketing concept came with new dimensions like social and ethical terms, that marketer should add on their marketing activities. In Figure 1 shows the evolution of concept of sustainability Marketing.

Social and Societal Marketing

In 1971 Kotler and Zaltman first, gave the formal definition of social marketing. According to Kotler and Zaltman, “Social marketing is the design, implementation, and control of programs calculated to influence the acceptability of social ideas and involving considerations of product planning, pricing, communication, distribution, and marketing research”. In addition to that, Rangun and Karim (1991) said social marketing involves gaining the social benefits and individuals or organizations have to change their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors; as the campaign primary purpose is social change.Societal marketing concept can be described as a social process by creating and exchanging products and value with others so that individuals and groups can fulfil their needs and wants. After surveyed 23 companies and reviewed 36 corporate social initiatives societal marketing was categorized in six groups i.e. corporate social marketing, cause marketing, cause-related marketing, community volunteering, responsible business practices and corporate philanthropy.

The marketing scenario is changed after introducing these six issues and these issues put marketers under pressure to include them in their marketing strategies to gain competitive advantage.

Ecological Marketing

In 1974 Fisk first introduced the concept of ecological marketing. Fisk defined that ecological marketing focuses on forthcoming ecological issues, so that marketer have to take responsibility to avoid that fate.

After this definition, Henion and Kinnear (1976) elaborated the concept of ecological marketing. They said that ecological marketing is the combination of all marketing; it concerns for environmental problems as well as it gives solution for that problem. But many companies see that environmental problems became the cost factor for them.

Green and Greener Marketing

From 1970 to 1985 less priority was given to environmental issues; companies tended to put less focus on environmental issues and as a result green marketing issues arised. Dam and Apeldoorn (1996) expressed that societal and ecological marketing is removed by green marketing for market pressure. According to, Dam and Apeldoorn (1996) green marketing is a process of planning, implementing and controlling by which satisfying the customer need as well as achieving organizational goal by maintaining well-matched ecology. Furthermore, charter (1992) strengthened the green marketing by adding the term ‘greener marketing’, which tried to mix social and environmental dimensions in the green marketing. Also Peattie and Crane (2005) suggested that, consumers have shifted their focus to green marketing and they are willing to pay for green product.

Sustainable Marketing

The term sustainable marketing introduced by Dam and Apeldoorn (1996). According to them sustainable marketing as a macro-marketing concept and can be defined as marketing within and supportive sustainable economic development. Belz and Peattie (2009) took sustainable marketing as a broader perspective. According to them sustainability marketing is a process of building and maintaining sustainable relationships with the customers, the natural environment and the social environment. According to Martin and Schouten, “Sustainable Marketing is the process of creating, communicating, and delivering value to customers in such a way that both natural and human capital are preserved or enhanced throughout”.

With analyzing these definition it is clear that, sustainability marketing is all about creating and maintaining sustainable relationships, and ensuring the preservation of resources for the future generation

Marketing strategy

Marketing strategy is a significant component of the strategy, although this sector is not much explored by researchers. Slater and Olson (2001) said that, to gain a competitive advantage is the prime role of marketing strategy. Marketing strategy is defined by the different author in different ways.

According to Slater and Olson (2001) “marketing strategy involves decisions related to market segmentation and targeting, and designing a position strategy based on product, price distribution and promotion”. According to Ansary (2006), marketing strategy is the combination of segmentation, targeting positioning and differentiation strategies designed to create communication and to deliver offers to a target market.

This above definition tells that marketing strategy is all about a company’s market segmentation, targeting, positioning and marketing mix.

Sustainability in marketing strategy

As marketing has gone through gradual changes from the time of its introduction, the term sustainability has also came after so many changes. According to American Marketing Association (2013) Marketing is a process for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offering which have value for customers, partners and society. In this definition sustainability term is not considered. But Sustainability is something which satisfy customers need along with ensuring that natural and human resources are preserved. That’s why Kumar ET. Al (2012) suggested that company have to added sustainability in their marketing practices as well as marketing mix. Sustainability marketing strategy ensures building long term relationships with customers by adding value which is beneficial for business as well as society and ecology. To strengthen this, Peattie and Belz (2010) came with the concept of 4C`s (Customer solution, Customer cost, Convenience and Communication) which is very similar to McCarthy`s traditional 4P`s of marketing (Product, Price, Place, Promotion); “The 4P’s are converted to 4C’s to include sustainability criteria into marketing strategy”.

Following figure will shows how traditional marketing transform into the sustainable marketing Mix. Traditional Marketing Mix Sustainable Marketing Mix

  1. Customer Solution
  2. Customer Price
  3. Convenience
  4. Communication
  5. Product
  6. Price
  7. Place
  8. Promotion.

Conclusion and discussion

To conclude it can be said that, the journey of sustainable marketing concept has developed over the time. In the decade of 1970s, ecological issues arise in the marketing strategies but in the middle phase of 1980s social issues picked up the lime light along with ecological issues which resulted in the evolution of green issues in marketing strategy and now sustainability in marketing strategy has become most valuable issue in marketing strategy, because of the awareness of consumer, environmental groups and many other parties. Sustainability in marketing issues is not only beneficial for customer but also beneficial for company. That’s why companies have to give importance for the sustainability issues in their business practices, and slowly but gradually they are planning to make best use of it in their marketing strategy.

Day by day the competition in the market is getting higher and now a days customer wants to buy the sustainable product which means they are very much concern about the environment. Jones et al (2008) said that, the aim of sustainability principle is based on less consumption and keep resources for the future generation while the principle of marketing is just the opposite- more production, more profit which means more consumption of resources. For this reason, Kumar et al. (2012) suggest that a strategy need to be designed to balance between the sustainability and marketing strategy so that the marketer will achieve their goal without affecting the environment and society. Because, Obermiller et al. (2008) suggested that, to achieve competitive advantage by desirable, defensible and different position is the main goal of sustainability marketing. But, because of various issues and challenges are related to sustainable marketing it becomes harder for the marketer to design these type of marketing strategies.

Although it is a difficult task to tackle issues of sustainability, but the good news is that in the present day there are various environmental legislations, regulations and public policies are being implemented to address these sustainability problem.

Industries are tackling these issues by alliancing with major corporations like and they came to a decision that they would take environmental fact at the heart of corporate strategies; similarly individual company also came forward with the decision to take stand within their industries. Environmental pressure group incite marketer to make sustainable change in their business practice.

The Future goal of sustainability marketing must be focused on individual customer needs, wants, taste, and preferences (e.g., Segmentation), selecting target customer group, and positioning right customer and this should be based on sustainable criteria along with a sustainable marketing mix for goods and services with a combination of better price and marketing communication.

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