If you look back over the years, there’s little doubt that blame can be firmly placed at the door of marketing for its contribution to unhealthy lifestyles, obesity, debt, low self esteem, mental health, materialism and general over-consumption.
Our creativity and art of persuasive communication has led many people to buy many products that they neither need nor really want.
Put bluntly here in the book Good is The New Cool, Market Like You Give A Damn (Aziz + Jones):
“Marketers have helped to create a culture of materialistic excess that has led to a cancer of overconsumption.
And even today marketers are all too often guilty of ‘greenwashing’ or ‘brandwashing’ – marketing their brands and corporations as paragons of virtue while ignoring insidious practices and reprehensible behaviour behind the scenes.”
I think it’s fair to say that marketers need to take a certain degree of responsibility for causing some of our current environmental and societal issues.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a big difference between marketers simply trying to do the best they can with a bad brief (or no brief), as opposed to consciously manipulating the truth.
But the net result is, marketing helps companies sell more of their stuff (good or bad).
So is that it then? Should we all go and hang our heads in shame? Or do we choose to become a force for good?
Are we forever condemned to be the Supervillains or is it time to adopt the role of the sustainability Superhero?
We have the skills to educate and encourage ethical and sustainable behaviour – from the boardroom to the shopping trolley – clearing articulating the financial benefits of corporate sensitivity to people and the planet, plus championing the responsible use and disposal of products.
In order to do this we need to be tougher with senior colleagues and decision makers. We need to challenge green claims and promote honesty.
We need to be the conscience of the business, not just seen as a PR tool.
Easier said than done, I hear you say. But let’s at least start the conversation.