Sustainable Marketing Mix
Types of Product
The first element of the marketing mix is the product. The sustainable business addresses issues related to the product’s design, packaging, and branding. A product is a tangible good or an intangible service that is marketed to a consumer.
A tangible good is something that can be seen, heard, tasted or felt.
Products such as coffee, milk, biofuel, laundry detergent, and outdoor apparel are all examples of tangible goods.
Intangible products are mostly service based and provided by someone directly in contact with customers, such as mutual fund investment services, health care services, and consulting services.
Sometimes the intangible service results in a tangible product, such as a lawyer providing legal advice in filing for a product patent. The intangible product is the lawyer’s services, and the tangible product is the patent itself.
When looking at a sustainable-marketed product, consideration should be made for sourcing of materials, ingredients used, and the manufacturing of the product.
This includes using all natural and organic materials, sourcing local and through fair trade suppliers, utilizing environmentally friendly materials, and using lean manufacturing and distribution methods that minimize the company’s carbon footprint.
Fair trade is a global trade system that ensures producers get a fair price for their goods. It is the cornerstone of a sustainable economy. Starbucks began purchasing Fair Trade Certified coffee in 2000, helping to grow the market for Fair Trade Certified™ coffee in the United States.
Fair Trade Certified™ coffee empowers small-scale farmers organized in cooperatives to invest in their farms and communities, protect the environment, and develop the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace.
Example - Timberland’s Earthkeepers
Timberland’s Earthkeepers product line is the outdoor wear company’s most visible effort to put their environmental values into their products and market it. Products produced under the Earthkeepers label feature:
1. Reduced use of harmful chemicals, including no PVC and water-based adhesives.
2. Use of recycled materials, including plastic bottles made into linings and laces and recycled rubber sole boots made with up to 30 percent recycled rubber.
3. Use of organic materials, including organic cotton.
4. Use of recycled packaging materials, with all boxes made of 100 percent postconsumer recycled packaging cardboard.
Timberland has implemented eco-labels to communicate information to consumers about the impacts of their products and has implemented life cycle management to quantify the environmental impacts of the products that it produces.
Example – Pax World
An example of sustainable intangibles is the services provided by the mutual fund company Pax World.
Pax World is a recognized leader in the field of sustainable investing-the full integration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into investment analysis and decision making-in its mutual fund offerings.
Pax World provides the intangible service of investment advice with a strong sustainability conscience.
A sustainable business also increases efforts to reduce waste and environmental impact through product packaging.
Reducing the size of the package or redesigning the shape may result in increased efficiencies in storage and transportation. Eliminating plastic wrap or liners from products will reduce the amount of waste transferred to the landfill.
Furthermore, biodegradable, recyclable, and reusable materials for packaging will significantly reduce the long-term environmental impact of packaging.
Lastly, the packaging material itself may be altered.
Walmart’s Packaging Sustainability Initiative
Walmart has pledged to eliminate twenty million metric tons of GHG emissions from their global supply chain by the end of 2015.  As part of this initiative, Walmart is planning to reduce its packaging globally by 5 percent versus their 2008 baseline.
Through a sustainable packaging scorecard that Walmart has developed and put in place to help monitor their suppliers’ efforts, Walmart can track and use their immense weight to push suppliers to help them achieve their goals.
Another packaging inroad is the concept of eco-labeling. An eco-label is a label or symbol, such as ENERGY STAR, EcoLogo, or Green Seal, that educates and informs the buyer of certain environmental claims.
Sustainable businesses are urged to use industry-wide labels, standardized by ISO 14024 regulations, which are generally recognized by the public versus proprietary labels that do not carry the same credibility factor.
Other types of eco-labels may provide information on the product through its life cycle, such as the origin and history of the product or the amount of greenhouse gas emissions created in production.
Using renewably sourced materials is another way companies can create more sustainable packaging.
Renewable materials are those that utilize forest, fiber, and agriculture products.
Nonrenewable materials are those like plastic or Styrofoam, which are derived from petroleum and other fossil fuels.
 “Responsibly Grown and Fair Trade Coffee,” Starbucks, http://www.starbucks.com/responsibility/sourcing/coffee.
 About Pax World,” Pax World, http://www.paxworld.com/about.
 Walmart, “Remarks as Prepared for Mike Duke, President and CEO of Walmart Greenhouse Gas Goal Announcement,” news release, February 25, 2010
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