Making sustainability matter – why marketing needs to play its part

4 min. Read

Customers today care more than ever about the values of the companies they do business with. They want to know the brands they choose are socially and environmentally conscious and will quickly vote with their feet if they think enterprises aren’t doing enough, or aren’t taking the issue seriously.

One of the biggest issues of our time is tackling climate change and reducing carbon emissions. With events like COP26 highlighting that time is running out for essential changes to be made, awareness among consumers of this issue is higher than ever. As a result, sustainability is set to be on the agenda across all sectors, and telecoms will be no exception.

The need for sustainability in the telco sector

Telcos remain a significant contributor to global carbon emissions. According to the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO), for example, the sector was responsible for 2.6 percent of global carbon emissions in 2020. 

However, there are a range of steps companies are taking to address this. Greater use of 5G, for instance, makes a significant difference to a telco’s carbon footprint, as ETNO notes this technology is almost 90 percent more efficient per Mbps than 4G. Meanwhile, the use of renewable energy by the sector was up by almost a quarter in 2021 compared with the previous year.

Communications operators are increasingly recognizing the importance of tackling this challenge, and ensuring they’re seen to be doing something about it. That’s why some of the world’s biggest telcos make a point of emphasizing their corporate social responsibility (CSR) credentials.

Consumers increasingly factor in these considerations when choosing their favored brands. For instance, research by Deloitte reveals almost one in three consumers have stopped doing business with a brand because they had ethical or sustainability concerns about them, while overall, 43 percent of people stated they valued brands that are making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.

Therefore, it’s clear that these values need to be factored into any brand’s marketing activities. But it’s important to do more than just shout about your telco’s eco-friendly efforts – you need to practice what you preach. To be successful, these efforts must take place across the entire business – and this includes the marketing department.

More relevance, less waste – how an effective marketing strategy helps

Telco marketing campaigns can contribute a surprising amount to a business’ overall carbon footprint. Physical forms of marketing are often thought of as a key contributor to this, but they’re far from the only source of carbon emissions. 

Indeed, while direct mailers create as much as 51 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses each year, figures from ads platform Good-Loop suggest a typical online campaign emits 5.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide, or nearly half the annual carbon footprint of the average UK resident.

Therefore, reducing your reliance on untargeted, mass-market campaigns is a must if you’re to contribute to carbon reductions and promote sustainability. 

By only targeting those people who you know are most likely to respond positively to an offer, you can reduce the amount of carbon needed to operate a campaign, whether this is powering your servers or delivering physical mailers. But cutting down on the amount of messages you send out doesn’t just reduce spending and carbon, it also improves your odds of securing crucial conversions.

Improving targeting to boost green performance

Knowing the right people to target with the right message can also help boost environmental performance beyond the marketing efforts themselves, while still helping a telco’s bottom line. 

For example, with the right tools, you can identify customers who are especially sensitive to green issues when making buying decisions, and who are still on older services such as 4G. They can then offer tailored campaigns, such as presenting a buy-back offer that promises to upgrade them to 5G and recycle their old device, for instance.

In one of Intent HQ’s successes for Verizon, for instance, we were able to identify a range of different audiences for its eco accessories campaign, using the weblog data of almost 11 million opted-in customers to identify user segments in much greater detail than would otherwise be possible.

This enabled the telco to not only identify which customers were interested in green issues, but also understand more about their specific drivers and brand affinities. In turn, this allowed for a more focused campaign that not only reached the right people at lower cost, but increased the chances of a successful sale.

Sustainability may not be the first priority when setting up your next campaign, but in the coming years, it will become increasingly hard to ignore. By using the right tools to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of these activities, you can ensure your department isn’t letting the business down when it comes to cutting its carbon footprint.

Read about how Intent HQ helped Verizon segment and target customers showing an interest in planet sustainability by downloading our eBook today.

Image credit: iStockphoto/CentralITAlliance