Selling Sustainability: BSR Futerra Release Guide


BSR, Futerra, and eight brands – AT&T, Carlsberg, eBay, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal, McDonald’s, Walmart, and Waste Management – have released a new guide to “Selling Sustainability”.

The guide helps brand, marketing, and sustainability teams more effectively influence consumers to make better purchasing choices and adopt more sustainable habits.

While the opportunities to embrace and promote sustainability are manifold, the market is also growing both more sceptical and fatigued.

The results of the study by BSR’s Sustainable Lifestyles Frontier Group proposes three ground rules for consideration:

  • Offer consumers more value from sustainability. Too often, campaigns focus on what consumers can do for sustainability and not the other way around. Consumers need a tangible value proposition that motivates purchases or actions. A wonderful illustration is Intermarché’s “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign, which offers imperfect produce at a 30 percent discount. The value proposition was clear: Shoppers got money back in their pockets, and the store tackled food waste—and saw a 24 percent increase in traffic.
  • Build functional, emotional, and social benefits. There are many barriers, perceived and real, to better purchases and improved habits. Consumers might have concerns about performance of greener products, or question the luxuriousness of lighter packaging. We recommend doing a careful analysis of the barriers associated with the behavior you want to inspire and then counteracting these with a strong value proposition based on functional, emotional, and social benefits. Electric carmaker Tesla, for example, focused on emotional value with its “Insane Mode Driving Experience,” which was viewed 5 million times on YouTube, helping counteract the notion that electric cars don’t perform.
  • Pay attention to timing. Last year, Sustainable Lifestyles members explored the daily habits of their consumers and learned something about human rhythms. For example, all people have somewhat predictable highs and slumps in their daily energy, receptivity, and attention levels, which affect our risk-taking, memory, ability to process information, and openness to suggestions. Ironically, in the evening, when our energy footprint is the highest, we are the least receptive to messages to change this. This is because functional messages work best in the morning, while emotional messages are all we can handle in the evening. Thus, sending consumers the right message, at the right place, and the right time is an important aspect of sustainability marketing, and perhaps the one we know the least about. As mobile and web technologies become increasingly sophisticated, marketers will be able to fine-tune messaging according to time of day and receptivity.

The full Selling Sustainability report is available to download here.