Thursday, July 16, 2015

Selling Sustainability is about Changing Culture

There is an ever increasing pool of sustainability manuals and guides, and while these reports are valuable, they do not really change buying behaviors. When it comes to sustainability in addition to selling products or services, marketers must also work on the far more difficult task of changing the culture. Before sustainability can be truly mainstream, the general public must undergo a paradigm shift. While this is already happening far more needs to be done to make it easier to sell sustainability oriented products and services.

People may claim they are interested in sustainability, but there is a gulf of ignorance that separates their talk and their behavior. It is a marketers job to educate people about what it means to be more sustainable. This means that people must have a better understanding of the impacts of their actions. Only then can they buy into a new value system that relates their behavior to the preservation of environment in which they live.

Marketers need to challenge the general public's basic assumptions about the disposability of the products they purchase. They also need to encourage consumers to explore the environmental and social impacts of everything they buy and everything they do.

As reviewed in a recent Triple Pundit article, this is the view put forth by Raz Godelnik, an assistant professor of strategic design and management at Parsons, the New School for Design. Godelnik has done extensive research on the convergence of innovation, sustainability, business and design strategies, as well as the sharing economy, sustainable business models and design thinking. He is currently involved in projects focusing on the impact of the sharing economy on traditional business and he is exploring the relationship between Millennials and sustainability. Godelnik also co-founded two green startups (Hemper Jeans and Eco-Libris).

"Marketers that truly want to sell sustainability need to think about how they can design a new culture and change the environment in which we live. It is probably more challenging than just redesigning a product or even a business model, but it’s probably the only way to sell sustainability to the masses," Godelnik said.

For sustainability to gain full acceptance we require nothing less than a paradigm shift in the way people think and act. While we are moving in the right direction far more needs to be done to help consumers move beyond the prevailing throwaway culture. Marketers must let consumers known that a change is coming and they must be part of the process of expediting that change.

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