The influence of sustainable marketing on consumer behaviour in Ghana

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Introduction

Over the last two decades or so, there has been a paradigm shift from corporate social responsibility (CSR) to environmental, social, and governance (ESG). And rightfully so. In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly established the Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to foster peace, prosperity, and long-term environmental sustainability. Today, sustainability has emerged as a top priority because human actions have significantly impacted the environment. To address this problem, we need to integrate sustainability into all aspects of human existence, including marketing. As a result, sustainable marketing has emerged.

Sustainable marketing is an approach that combines marketing strategies with sustainability principles to foster long-term customer loyalty and maintain natural systems’ viability. It transitions from product-centric marketing to a customer-centric and environmentally sensitive approach, aiming to create mutually satisfying exchange relationships (Kotler et al., 2002).

The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CIL) also defines sustainable marketing as a purpose-driven approach guiding businesses, brands, and society towards a sustainable future by delivering value, preserving resources, and taking responsibility for its impacts.

 

The Rise of Sustainable Marketing in Ghana

Ghana pledged to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7, but its environmental performance is not satisfactory, according to the 2010 Environmental Performance Index by Yale University. With an average projected annual expense of $850 million for environmental deterioration, accounting for 10.0% of the GDP, Ghana received a score of 51.3% and ranked 109th. Indeed, this alarming statistic serves as a clear reminder to take deliberate, sustainable action.

Sustainable marketing has gained significant traction due to the escalating environmental consequences of human actions, like climate change, deforestation, and pollution. To tackle these difficulties, organisations and consumers need to embrace sustainable practices. These practices place the environment at the heart of everything organisations and consumers do, taking into account its negative impact on people, the planet, and profits.

Sustainable marketing has the power to advance sustainability and influence customer behaviour. As customers become more aware of the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions, they are increasingly searching for environmentally sustainable products and services. This transition provides organisations with a chance to distinguish themselves by highlighting their environmental credentials and attracting an increasing number of environmentally sensitive consumers.

Many scholars have advocated for a reconsideration of the definition of marketing to incorporate sustainability. For example, according to Elkington (2018), in his widely advocated triple bottom line framework on sustainability, he surmises that the traditional reporting framework includes ecological and social performance in addition to financial performance.

Sustainable marketing demands, apart from the traditional “4 Ps” (product, pricing, promotion, and place), should embrace the “3 Ps” approach: people, planet, and profit. Elkington posits that businesses should measure their economic value, social responsibility, and environmental impact using the three bottom lines of profit, people, and planet.

This, in my opinion, is apt because the burden of sustainability is evenly shared.

Achrol and Kotler (2019) assert that sustainability is increasingly becoming a pivotal element of contemporary marketing, exerting influence on how businesses establish connections with consumers in the digital era.

Environmentally friendly jobs are gaining popularity, particularly among young entrepreneurs in Ghana, as businesses reduce emissions and their consequent impact on the environment.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) predicts that a green and circular economy could create over 24 million jobs if countries promote Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and enterprise development. This is instructive.

The Ghanaian government is implementing the National Green Jobs Strategy, which aims to promote green jobs through inter-sectoral linkages and cooperation. The Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) has launched Boosting Green Employment and Enterprise Opportunities in Ghana (GrEEn), a four-year project funded by the EU and supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ghana and the UNCDF. In June 2021, the GrEEnInnovation Challenge awarded selected businesses matching grants of up to EUR 25,000, and in December 2021, 12 businesses received a total matching grant of GH₵ 1.17 million under the maiden GrEEn Innovation Challenge. (GNA, November 2022).

From the above, it is evident that corporations, public and private, as well as the government, are taking steps to ensure that sustainability permeates every aspect of consumer life. We must continue these commendable commitments to prevent the erosion of gains. 

 Understanding Consumer Behaviour in Ghana.

Consumer behaviour is the study of the psychological, physical, and social behaviours that individuals take when purchasing, using, and disposing of goods, services, ideas, and practices. In other words, consumer behaviour is the study of how people make purchasing decisions and the elements that support or impact them.

Consumers in Ghana are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their purchases, prompting a re-evaluation of traditional business strategies due to climate change concerns and the need for sustainable practices. Integrating sustainability into marketing is a crucial step for organisations to ensure long-term sustainability and resilience, ultimately impacting consumer behaviours.

Ghanaians have taken a unique approach to consumer behaviour (Nassè, 2021). The definition of consumer behaviour, according to Galbete et al. (2017), revolves around the choices individuals make regarding their diet and food, which are integral parts of their daily lifestyle. Various changes and variations constantly influence this aspect, catering to the unique requirements of each consumer. The ability to comprehend consumer behaviour in various situations can assist companies in refining their strategies towards consumers, ultimately leading to the improvement of their products and services.

The Ghanaian consumer is gradually becoming aware of the consequences of their choices and, therefore, is willing to make changes that are necessary to protect the environment. These choices influence most organisations’ sustainable marketing strategies in terms of what they produce and sell.

 The Influence of Sustainable Marketing on Ghana’s Consumer Behaviour.

The state of an economy, together with factors like consumer spending power and regulatory requirements, as well as factors like where people live and how well-informed they are about their options, influence their ability to make sustainable decisions.

Sustainable marketing is feasible and depends on these characteristics. For instance, a consumer who prefers paper packaging, solar energy, or green foods can only exercise this preference based on their financial ability to purchase such products and the regulations that govern these choices. Consequently, this alters customer behaviour, preferences, and patterns, making them impossible to ignore or hide.

Companies in various sectors are altering their business strategies to combat the worsening effects of climate change and create a more sustainable future that safeguards not only people and our planet, but also their financial interests.

According to Jones and Robinson (2021), sustainable marketing tactics greatly influence consumer behaviour. The impact of sustainable marketing strategies on consumer behaviour is wide-ranging, including heightened consumer awareness, influence on purchasing decisions, and the fostering of brand loyalty as key outcomes of sustainability initiatives.

According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), knowing consumer behaviour is critical to increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. It entails understanding the complex demands, desires, and expectations of today’s customers, which influence their purchasing behavior. This understanding is an essential component of marketing.

 The Future of Sustainable Marketing and Consumer Behaviour in Ghana

Sustainable marketing strategies include a variety of factors that businesses use to meet their environmental and social obligations. An examination of these elements, which include environmentally friendly components, the development of new products, the disclosure of information, ethical business practices, and corporate initiatives to promote social responsibility, provides a comprehensive understanding of the complexities that influence the effect of sustainable marketing on consumer behaviour.

It is critical for consumers, just like companies, to contribute to business sustainability in terms of how much they are willing to pay for goods and services. Various factors, including cultural, psychological, social, and personal aspects, influence consumer behaviour. Every consumer category has unique needs, and sustainable marketing must effectively adapt to each individual consumer’s behaviour based on their motives and preferences. Overall, sustainable marketing has three effects on consumers: establishing brand loyalty through sustainable activities, influencing purchase decisions, and increasing consumer awareness.

The IBM Institute for Business Value (February 2022) report corroborates these effects, revealing that over half (51%) of the 16,000 global consumers surveyed consider environmental sustainability to be more significant now compared to a year ago. Consumers’ behaviour is starting to align with their intentions. In 2021, research revealed that 50% of customers are willing to pay more for sustainable brands or products (IBM Institute for Business Value).

Understanding consumer behaviour is critical for organisations seeking to remain competitive and relevant. Businesses can design successful campaigns suited to their target demographic by employing the appropriate marketing methods. Businesses that implement a sustainable approach can reach out to a large market of environmentally conscious clients.

Here are a few of the benefits of sustainable marketing for consumer behaviour:

Heightened consumer awareness

The relationship between sustainable marketing and consumer behaviour is complex and multifaceted. It begins with increased awareness of environmental and social concerns, as highlighted by studies by Luchs and Mooradian (2020) and Jones and Greenbaum (2022). These studies highlight the importance of understanding factors contributing to heightened consumer awareness for businesses to effectively engage with mindful consumers and cultivate positive perceptions.

Positive Public Perception

Embracing sustainable practices fosters a favourable image of the business among the public. There is a growing concern among customers, investors, and the public regarding corporate social responsibility. Through a strong dedication to sustainability, businesses can improve their reputation and foster trust among stakeholders.

Competitive Advantage:

Businesses that implement sustainable practices can differentiate themselves in the marketplace and gain a competitive advantage. A commitment to sustainability might attract environmentally conscious consumers who value sustainable products and services.

Establishing brand loyalty through sustainable practices

Establishing brand loyalty through sustainable practices is another key objective of sustainable marketing strategies. Greenberg and Pomerantz (2022) and Smith and Fischer (2021) found that sustainability practices positively impact brand reputation and market share, fostering a dedicated customer following. Understanding the connection between sustainability and brand loyalty provides businesses with a strategic edge in building long-lasting relationships with their audience.

 Conclusion

In conclusion, integrating sustainability into business operations and strategy could be challenging but essential for success. Businesses should capitalize on opportunities aligned with consumer values and incorporate sustainable marketing principles into their strategies, leveraging the expertise of marketers and key managers. This promotes consumer behaviour modification and generates purpose-driven profits by establishing trust through transparency, integrating sustainability efforts with core capabilities, and considering consumers’ positive contributions to the cause.

I would like to refer to a quote from the KPMG ESG Impact Plan. “ESG is not something you do; it is everything you do, and how you do it.” Our actions, and the way we perform them, must be centred around sustainability. Businesses that engage in sustainable marketing practices demonstrate their commitment to operating ethically and have a positive impact on the environment for both current and future generations.

Author: Michael Molenaar, Marketing Communications & Business Development Professional

Email: [email protected]

 

 

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