L. Hunter Lovins
With Jorge Fontanez, Professor of Marketing, Bard MBA in Sustainable Management
These are turbulent, uncertain times. As climate change drives catastrophic weather events, political discourse creates a “new normal.” Rules are broken. Which means some rules no longer apply. This creates challenges but also opportunities for marketers, and the business leaders who rely on communication experts to protect brand reputation. Living at the intersection of technology, sustainability and marketing, we must enlist our customers, and more broadly all stakeholders to ensure that business becomes a force for social and environmental benefit.
Let’s start with a brief history. Marketing as a modern discipline only emerged in the industrial era of the 1950s. The factories that built planes and ships in the 40s became innovation hubs for consumer goods and shelf-stable products. Manufacturing and the automation of processes became the lifeblood of our economy and the creator of jobs.
Marketing and advertising facilitated over-consumption and waste. Now, personal consumption of durable goods, non-durable goods and services delivers 70% of our GDP. Service’s share of that number grew over the last 30 years to 60% as the drivers of our economy shifted from making and selling things to financial services and technology. But we’re still addicted to consumption. Behavior and lifestyle changes, population growth and family size—linked to periods of urban decay—help explain the consumption trends that overload landfills and launch oceans of trash. Increases in demand from a rising population only worsens the unsustainability.