What’s in it for me?

It’s the driving question that consumers ask themselves every day.

With the proliferation of choice more apparent than ever, consumers must be asking themselves the same questions before making purchasing decisions: What’s in it for me? What do I gain? What can I save? What do I lose?

The problem with selling sustainability is that these questions are rarely, if ever, answered and let alone asked.

Too often, consumers are expected to do the job with little to no incentive. But how can we rely on consumers to reward businesses for their sustainability efforts, if they aren’t offered something in return?

A part of the problem is that we often expect that sustainability should sell itself. Better for people and planet becomes the central value proposition. Worthiness and guilt become resources to engage.

But do people ever consider the future or global health when perusing the aisles? Our bet is that they care about what meets their needs right then and there. Worthiness attracts only a few, and guilt works only in the short term.

“We often expect that sustainability should sell itself. Better for people and planet becomes the central value proposition. Worthiness and guilt become resources to engage.”

Another part of the problem is that most people tasked with selling sustainability are experts on the technical side – not in consumer insights. We can’t expect sustainability managers be cooking up CR strategies and at the same time have the tools and resources to make these palatable to consumers.

We need to galvanise marketers to become sustainability heroes by bringing their knowledge and insight of the preferences and habits of their consumers to the table. Marketers – we need your help.

A tool for finding value

This is why BSR and Futerra produced our guide to Selling Sustainability. It’s the output of a long-standing collaborative effort with the Sustainable Lifestyles Frontier Group and our eight member brands – AT&T, Carlsberg, eBay, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart and Waste Management.

Its purpose?To help sustainability teams and marketers more effectively influence consumers to make better choices by giving them what they want. To deliver value for business and consumers.

If you don’t come around to reading the guide (but really you should), we propose three ground rules for selling sustainability:

Offer consumers value

Most campaigns and products focus on what consumers can do for sustainability, but they need to clearly state the value that sustainability can give consumers.

Highlight the benefits

There are many barriers, both perceived and real, to changing habits and trying new things. Tear down the barriers and highlight the benefits of these new behaviours and products.

Timing matters

Our energy levels fluctuate throughout the day, and so the types of messages we pay attention to will vary depending on the time of day.


There is more of the good! Media convergence and proximity technology has given marketers a greater ability to target their consumers than ever before. New generations of consumers are more willing than ever to listen to and support companies that deliver value. You will be rewarded for your hard work.

Calling all sustainability fans, experts, mavericks and virgins – we ask you to read, share and discuss this guide with marketers around you. And marketers – bring on your best consumer insights.


Now go create some value.

Back to Top