Staff Reporters
Apr 24, 2023

Marketers lag behind in sustainability efforts, new WFA and Kantar report finds

While sustainability looms over most companies, a quick temperature check on the marketing landscape finds that organisations are not doing enough, even if there is meaningful progress.

(L) Ozlem Senturk, senior partner at Kantar's Sustainable Transformation Practice and (R) Stephan Loerke, WFA CEO.
(L) Ozlem Senturk, senior partner at Kantar's Sustainable Transformation Practice and (R) Stephan Loerke, WFA CEO.

The World Federation of Advertising (WFA) has unveiled its Sustainable Marketing 2030 report, in conjunction with Kantar’s Sustainable Transformation Practice. While environmental sustainability is a topic many organisations are thinking about, it does not top their action plan when it comes to taking the lead on it. The report finds that 39% of the respondents are still only taking the first steps on their sustainability journeys. 

Nevertheless, there is evidence that the will to transform is gaining momentum. 90% of those surveryed agree on a more ambitious sustainability agenda, 94% stressed on the need to act more bravely and experiment to drive transformative change. This is reflected in more brands now having sustainability as a KPI in their marketing dashboards – up from 26% in 2021 to 43% in 2023.

The data is based on quantitative and qualitative research, with responses from 938 senior client-side marketers across 48 countries worldwide, including a wide mix of territories, company sizes, and categories. The research was conducted between October 2022 and March 2023.

Additionally, the report states that 54% of marketers agree that the industry has a significant role to play in educating people about their choices and actions, reflecting the insight that marketing must seek to drive and normalize sustainable behaviours – both internally and externally.

As people become more aware of the response required to solve the climate crisis, they understand that what their organisations are currently doing is not enough, despite making meaningful progress. As a result, organisational confidence is down, with fewer performing in the top bracket, from 29% in 2021 down to 15% in 2022. 

"We have reached the point where the status quo is no longer an option. Radical transformation is essential. We passionately believe that marketers are uniquely placed to drive the change we need on account of their unique creativity, innovation and communication skillset,” remarked Stephan Loerke, WFA CEO.

Organisational issues are cited as the top impediments for climate inaction. The respondents say the lack of internal resources (35%), knowledge and skills gap (35%), organisational mindset (32% said that sustainable solutions are perceived as costly), the lack of a P&L policy that protects the planet (35%), and a lack of transparency in measurement (30%) are barriers to concrete efforts.  

Progress will require marketers to leverage innovation and creativity to make a difference to the business – with innovation cited as the top opportunity to drive transition (57%) followed by new business models (55%) and educating consumers at scale (54%).

“Sustainable Marketing 2030 focuses on the value-action gap within marketing organisations. It’s remarkable that even though 94% of marketers are willing to be brave to drive transformative change, organisations still behave in the same way. Our benchmark aims to provide marketing organisations with a compass to assess where they are and help them take the first steps towards the right direction,” Ozlem Senturk, senior partner, Sustainable Transformation Practice, Kantar.

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