While marketing has been one of the cornerstones of our activities, we no longer see it only as a promotional tool: We are firmly convinced of its immense potential to change the game on decarbonization.
In this first article in a series looking at How Marketing Mix Modeling can become a powerful tool for sustainable business performance, we explore why and how marketing can reconcile business performance and sustainability goals.
New carbon taxes that are tightening existing regulations (both on European soil and for companies in other countries); consumers increasingly demanding responsible products ; the COVID-19 crisis and pandemic; and new brands entering the market whose business model is entirely based on sustainability… do we need to convince you that the planet’s problems — climate, pollution, health, biodiversity, etc. — are becoming very real business issues? That these new forces are already shaping the economy?
The increasingly tangible urgency of climate change will sooner or later force the global market to align itself with the decarbonization objectives of the Paris Agreements. Consider just one example: The ban on internal combustion engines announced in Europe for 2035 is forcing carmakers to completely rethink their most traditional products, with all that this implies in terms of investment, skills, strategy, and design time. The risk here would be to become a new Kodak: a company that did not anticipate the profound changes and that in fact did not know how to adapt to the new realities. The future belongs to those who anticipate this market evolution to perpetuate their business model’s very raison d’être. Otherwise, they risk obsolescence or extinction.
Another example: fast food. Remember Burger King’s slogan in 2020 “Since we are part of the problem, we are looking to be part of the solution“? This slogan drew attention to global warming, and in particular, to the methane produced by cows at the very top of the hamburger production chain. Could the restaurant chain possibly get away with not reassessing its previous offerings, and not pushing alternatives to meals that emit less CO2? So far they’re getting away with it.
There aren’t any truly innovative sustainability initiatives in the fast-food sector. Pressure from consumers or competitors for veggie/vegan alternatives has probably given brands the right insight into their sector, but it’s a safe bet that they won’t really move until the day a carbon tax on beef is introduced.
“Comfort is not the objective in a visionary company. Indeed, visionary companies install powerful mechanisms to create discomfort — to obliterate complacency — and thereby stimulate change and improvement before the external world demands it.” This is what Jim Collins and Jerry Porras write in their book “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.” In other words, organizations that think, invest for the long term and anticipate change are the winners of systemic change. Something to think about.
The marketing trade-off today is to rethink investments both to get the best of today’s products — which no longer correspond to tomorrow’s needs — and to promote the most responsible products in the long term.
If this constraint seems a contradiction in terms to you — the search for traditional business performance versus “sustainable” business performance — it is no longer a question of knowing if you should do it, but how you will do it. By calling into question entire sectors of certain companies’ activity — here we give the examples of the internal combustion engine, which is on the verge of disappearing in favor of electric vehicles, or vegan cosmetics, which are disrupting the beauty market — the energy transition is forcing companies to rethink their previous offerings and consequently calls for a profound, inescapable transformation of traditional business models.
In concrete terms, what does this mean for a marketing department? It means a need to be proactive in the change to accompany the new decarbonization strategy that your company will surely implement. Where to start?
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Read the other articles of the series:
 Since 2021, the European CAFE regulation imposes on car manufacturers an average CO2/km emission threshold that must not be exceeded. If they do not meet this threshold, the manufacturer will be subject to severe financial penalties. And in December 2022, the European Union adopted a new border carbon tax that aims to limit climate-damaging foreign industrial imports. It will come into effect between 2026 and 2027. This tax is intended to force companies from non-EU countries to comply with the European climate standards already in force (EU Emissions Trading System).
 We think of organic cosmetics, vegan and/or locally produced food, second-hand approaches, etc., which informed, demanding, attentive consumers are coming to expect.
 A leader in the photo industry since its founding in 1880, Kodak did not take the digital turn — which meant rethinking its business model — thinking it was a fad. The company went bankrupt in 2012 and became a textbook case.
 The idea of a meat tax has already been considered by agriculture ministers in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands. It is also being studied by NGOs and universities.
 This book studies the characteristics of American “visionary” companies (case studies of IBM, Boeing, McDonald’s, Walt Disney, etc.), businesses that endure and succeed even long after the death of their founder.