Socially Conscious and Environmentally Responsible Marketing

Basic Purpose of Marketing is to Make Profits

Marketing, by definition, and as it is practiced in contemporary times entails the promotion and pricing as well as product features in addition to placement of the product with a view to making profits. In other words, Marketing, which encompasses the holistic and end to end value chain activities such as sales, advertising, public relations, pricing, and competitive positioning is always with a view to maximizing sales and generate more revenue in addition to creating profitability for the firms. This means that any marketing activity is necessarily aimed at garnering as much market share as possible.

The Emergence of Corporate Social Responsibility

In this context, it is worth noting that in recent years, the emergence of corporate social responsibility or CSR along with the concomitant trend of firms being socially and environmentally responsible means that these firms have a moral and ethical obligation to be aware of the concerns of all stakeholders including the wider society, the communities that are near their plants, and activists and regulators and not only the consumers. Indeed, CSR and the parallel trend of social and environmental consciousness mean that consumers too are demanding that the corporates incorporate social and environmental consciousness into their products and embed these aspects into the marketing activities.

Disconnect Between Marketing and CSR

However, the ground reality or the actual practice of marketing is yet to change for many firms whose production activities often involve flouting environmental rules and marketing and other activities often impinging on social norms and being unethical. Thus, there is a clear disconnect between the stated objectives of corporate social responsibility and the actual practices that most firms actualize in reality. This has given rise to something that is known as “cognitive dissonance” as far as firms are concerned where they profess to be socially and environmentally responsible, and yet, their activities are anything but that.

This has given rise to much conflict and strife between the firms and the wider stakeholders wherein the latter accuse the former of not following ethical and social norms and in turn, the former chafe at unnecessary interference in their activities by the latter. Indeed, such conflict between the firms and the activists and regulators has become so commonplace that media stories (particularly those in social media and alternative media) are full of news about firms not being true to their commitment to following and observing ethical and social norms.

Socially Conscious and Environmentally Responsible Marketing

Therefore, in order for firms to actually “walk the talk”, they have to practice what is known as socially conscious and environmentally responsible marketing wherein they embed and incorporate responsible sales and promotion as well as be more ethical and true to normative aspects in their advertising strategies. This means that not only their marketing is more ethical but their placement and positioning of their products must be aimed at creating “social value” and “environmental sustainability” instead of selling defective products to older people and products with harmful ingredients to children and young adults. Thus, there is a need for a “paradigm shift” in the way marketers approach the entire marketing and sales value chain activities.

However, this is easier said than done since there is an underlying disconnect between profitability imperatives and being socially and environmentally responsible. As the late legendary Chicago School Economist, Milton Friedman, famously observed, “The responsibility of business is to make business or earn money” which means that the reason for the existence of firms in a capitalist economy is to make profits. On the other hand, the need to be socially and environmentally responsible means those firms have to spend money on embedding safer practices and more conscious practices which not only cost money but also might lead to lesser profits.

Walking the Talk

Thus, the way in which marketers resolve this contradiction between marketing as an activity aimed at making profits and on the other hand, being socially conscious and environmentally responsible which entails lesser profits is resolved would ultimately lead to a better environment and more social value. Further, the firms and their marketers can no longer “wish away” the social and environmental costs as “externalities”, and instead, they must market their products as ethically as possible.

This includes advertising that is not based on false or untrue claims, pricing that is not predatory, the point of sale strategies that do not coerce the consumers into buying a particular brand or product, and the manufacture of the actual product itself that is based on socially conscious and environmentally responsible business practices. While this might seem Utopian and Idealistic, nonetheless, the fact remains that the 21st Century is a time of transition and hence, the sooner firms and corporates “wake up” to the pressing social and environmental problems, the better it would be for the coming generations to live in a world that is healthier, less violent, and more sustainable.

Kotler’s Marketing 4.0

Apart from anything else, this requires a “mindset change” from the prevailing philosophy of marketing for purely profit purposes to marketing that is more aware of the social concerns and environmental problems. Indeed, many experts believe that the “time is now” to make the switch in the mindset given the urgency of the situation wherein climate change, pollution, social strife, and forced displacement and migration are all wreaking havoc on our world. To conclude, marketing needs to evolve to Marketing 4.0 as the Legendary Marketing Guru, Philip Kotler, puts it in his latest book wherein social consciousness and environmental responsibility are “intrinsic” to and “embedded” in marketing activities rather than being “external concerns”.


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