Sustainability Marketing Needs 'Here's How' Not 'Just Say No'

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Sustainability Marketing Needs 'Here's How' Not 'Just Say No'

Telling customers what they can't have will send them elsewhere. Earn their trust and educate them to promote sustainable purchasing.
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Customer education, #honesty, and ensuring the future of #sustainability. @johnfriedman
Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 6:30pm


In the 1980s, the Advertising Council attempted to empower people -- mostly young people -- to 'Just Say No' (to Drugs). While the effectiveness of the campaign is questioned today, it is often cited as an example by people seeking to encourage behavior change.

Because balancing the issues around climate, health, wellness, societal 'good' and cost are interrelated, the question is far more complex than a simple Boolean (yes/no) choice. Because these goods often come with a higher price, for example, people may find themselves torn between the immediate needs of their family with the longer-term benefit to the planet or society.

Experts point out that while percentage of consumers who will pay a premium for 'green' products is growing, it remains a small portion of the overall market. As a result, some of the more strident activists are increasingly calling for the elimination of certain products that do not meet their criteria for environmental or social standards. Get rid of the 'bad,' their argument goes, and consumers will have no choice but to purchase 'superior' products. But as we saw with prohibition, outright banning of a product (or class of products) for which there is a strong market does not force societal change; it creates a 'black' market that often gives rise to other social ills, such as the rise of organized crime.

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John Friedman, an award-winning communications professional and recognized sustainability expert with more than 20 years of experience, is co-founder and vice chair of the board for the Sustainable Business Network of Washington (SBNOW).

On social media, Friedman is a recognized as a thought leader in CSR, listing among the top voices in CSR by Forbes’ Brandfog. His insights on sustainability issues and strategy have been a regular feature on SustainableBrands since 2008 and have appeared on,, Vaultcareers, and JustMeans.

When not volunteering his time, Friedman serves as director of public relations for Sodexo, Inc. He can be reached at, is @JohnFriedman on Twitter and can be connected on LinkedIn and Facebook.

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post website and can be found here. For more information and posts by the author, visit his profile page here. This post was distributed with full permision of the author.