Despite Economic Pressures, Majority of Companies Plan to Increase Emphasis on Sustainability
Customer demand and the economic environment are driving a continued commitment to sustainability, according to survey by the American Marketing Association and Fleishman-Hillard, Inc.
CHICAGO, April 8, 2009 – When it comes to investing in sustainable business behaviors and programs, more than half of corporate marketers and communicators believe that their organizations will increase their involvement in environmental sustainability initiatives during the next two to three years, according to a survey conducted by the American Marketing Association and Fleishman-Hillard, Inc. In addition, half of those surveyed believe that economic realities will actually encourage the adoption of sustainability practices.
The survey shows that 58 percent of marketing and communication leaders believe their companies will place more emphasis on developing corporate sustainability opportunities in the months ahead, despite the belt tightening that is happening in the business world.
“At a time when the economy requires everyone to stay focused on the essentials, it’s noteworthy that businesses are putting sustainability programs into that must-do column,” said Nancy Costopulos, chief marketing officer of the American Marketing Association. “It is a signal that the business community is embracing environmental sustainability in a way that this country has probably never seen before.”
More than half of those surveyed believe that sustainability is an essential element of their company’s reputation right now. Nearly three-quarters believe that corporate reputation, corporate culture and technological advancements will be the drivers for sustainability. The new administration’s policies will further accelerate the adoption of corporate sustainability programs, according to 63 percent of responders in the survey.
However, optimism is tempered with some smart realities. While the majority of companies will continue to invest in sustainability initiatives during the next year, how companies chose to communicate that commitment is mixed. About 43 percent of those surveyed expect their companies to increase marketing of their sustainability programs. They say they will do so because it is the right thing to do; customers are asking for more information; it is supportive of the corporate culture; and because sustainability offers a clear and distinct business advantage. That said, more than half of the respondents do not expect to increase their storytelling in the category of sustainability.
“It is important that companies align their sustainability and business objectives internally, with engagement from management and employees, before communicating their goals externally,” said Aili Jokela, co-chair of FH Sustainability, a Fleishman-Hillard practice group specializing in environmental issues and corporate social responsibility. “Taking careful steps in building a communications program that correlates to a strategic plan and measurable operation improvements is extremely important for authenticity and credibility. Then, it’s time to communicate.”
Additional key findings from the study include:
- More marketers and communicators (53 percent) define sustainability as the need to balance financial, human and natural resources for the long-term benefit of business and communities. Few define sustainability in terms of focusing on renewable energy resources (3 percent) or driving inefficiency out of the supply chain (10 percent).
- Employees (82 percent) and customers (74 percent) are more likely to be the targets of communications about sustainability than are investors and analysts (52 percent).
- Sixty-three percent believe that the new administration’s policies will further accelerate the adoption of sustainability programs.
- Even the most popular sustainability programs – recycling (36 percent) and electric energy efficiency (20 percent) – are extensively embraced by only a minority of businesses.
About the American Marketing Association–Fleishman-Hillard Sustainability Study
Findings are based on an online panel survey among 270 corporate communications professionals, primarily those holding marketing or public relations jobs, in January and February 2009. For more information regarding the study, please click here.
The American Marketing Association (AMA) is the largest marketing association in North America. It is a professional association for individuals and organizations involved in the practice, teaching and study of marketing worldwide. It is also the source that marketers turn to every day for information/resources, education/training and professional networking. AMA members are connected to a network of experienced marketers nearly 40,000 strong and include leading marketing academics, researchers and practitioners from every industry. AMA offers highly acclaimed seminars, workshops and Hot Topic events focused on the immediate needs of marketers, as well as trends shaping the future. AMA’s website, MarketingPower.com, is the everyday connection to marketing data, articles, case studies, best practices and a robust job bank. The AMA also is the source for the field’s top magazines and journals, including Marketing News. AMA professional and collegiate chapters and special interest groups keep members in touch with the best people and the best practices. For more information on the American Marketing Association please visit www.MarketingPower.com.
Fleishman-Hillard Inc., one of the world’s leading public relations firms, has built its reputation by using strategic communications to deliver what its clients value most: meaningful, positive, and measurable impact on the performance of their organizations. The firm is widely recognized for excellent client service and a strong company culture founded on teamwork, integrity, and personal commitment. Based in St. Louis, the firm operates throughout North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East, South Africa, and Latin America through its 80 owned offices. For more information, visit the Fleishman-Hillard Web site at http://www.fleishman.com. Fleishman-Hillard is a part of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) (http://www.omnicomgroup.com). Omnicom is a leading global advertising, marketing and corporate communications company. Omnicom’s branded networks and numerous specialty firms provide advertising, strategic media planning and buying, interactive, direct and promotional marketing, public relations and other specialty communications services to more than 5,000 clients in more than 100 countries.