Just like that trendy backpack, everyone seems to have or those cool sunglasses, once you pick up on something, it’s hard not to see it everywhere. That’s certainly what it feels like with sustainability.
From restaurants ditching plastic straws to e-commerce leaders doing away with receipts and packaging, it seems like this is a topic that’s on everybody’s mind.
As early as the Industrial Revolution, philosophers like David Hume and Adam Smith began to warn about the dangers of disregarding the planet and natural resources. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that governments started taking action and making moves, beginning with the first Earth Day and Clean Air Act. That decade also saw the beginning of marketing strategies driven by environmentalism and social issues/action.
Still, it took quite some time—decades, even—for corporations and consumers to catch up. In the late 2000s, some companies were starting to show an interest in initiatives like energy conservation and recycling—recognizing, in particular, that “good for the planet” could equal “good for business,” too. But those were truly just blips here and there. According to a report by Nielsen, prior to 2013 only 20% of S&P 500 companies opted to disclose their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) information.
Within just a couple of years, though, brands using sustainable marketing were seeing sales rise, food manufacturers and retailers around the world had pledged to reduce their plastic usage, and 85% of S&P 500 companies were sharing their ESG details.