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Sustainable Marketing Study: Europe Does It for Profit, UK Because It Feels Right

In this Marketing Report:

Sustainable business is a hot topic. What is less popular, perhaps, is the concept of sustainable marketing, understood as the promotion of environmental and socially responsible products, practices, and brand values.

If your company is spending a bit more on its marketing because they know it has a positive impact in your community, then you are doing sustainable marketing.

As marketing experts, the Sortlist data team deep dived into the ways companies invest in their marketing to have a positive impact on sustainability topics. Here’s how they do it.

2 years ago

Time period when British brands started having a sustainability marketing strategy


Most British brands invested less than this amount for these sustainable strategies in 2021


Amount by which most sustainable marketing budgets will increase in the next years

Sustainable Marketing: UK Companies Think It’s the Right Thing to Do

Reasons Why Companies Invest in Sustainability

Results go to show that brands put profit above everything else, including ethics.

The United Kingdom is the only market where the majority of companies (20%) responded that they invested in it because it was the right thing to do.

Bar chart of reasons companies invest in sustainability

How Long Have Companies Had a Sustainability Marketing Strategy?

The majority of brands, including British ones, also claim that their sustainability marketing strategy started two years ago (21%). Only a very small 5% has always been sustainable.

Bar chart of time companies have had a sustainable marketing strategy

How Many Brand Campaigns Deal With Sustainability?

When asked what percentage of their campaigns dealt with sustainability, 24.17% of companies revealed that number to be between 5 and 10%.

British campaigns rank as more sustainable than the rest of the markets (29.17%), higher even than the global average.

Bar chart with percentages of sustainable marketing campaigns

Fair Salaries Is the #1 Sustainable Marketing Investment for Companies

Work Equality Is Placed Above Diversity and Climate Change

The data is clear across markets: the top investment for companies is fair salaries and fair working conditions for their employees. It comes in a higher position than diversity and green energy.

The United Kingdom is the market that would invest least in green energy.

List of top 10 sustainable investments

Who Are the Big Spenders?

The Bigger the Company, the Bigger the Investment in Sustainability

Most of the companies with a sustainability marketing strategy have more than 250 employees, with British companies being the biggest of all.

This indicates that it is still a business decision mostly taken by bigger companies.

Pie chart of company sizes

A High Revenue Is a Sign of Sustainability Investments

Most of those companies have a revenue of more than 50 million euros.

Pie chart of company revenues

More Money and Time Are Being Spent on Sustainability Campaigns

As it turns out, companies claim that their sustainable campaigns are more expensive than normal marketing campaigns, but still view them as worth it. 35% say they spend more money on these campaigns…

Pie chart comparing budget of sustainable campaigns to budget of regular campaign

More Money and Time Are Being Spent on Sustainability Campaigns

…  and 39% say they spend more time.

British companies are the only ones to reveal they spend the same budget on these sustainable campaigns.

Pie chart comparing time spent on sustainable campaigns to time spent on regular campaign

In 2021, big companies spent between €10,000 and €50,000 in their marketing strategy for sustainability

According to the data at Sortlist, last year 19% of companies spent between €5,000 and €10,000 in their marketing budget, and 15% between €10,000 and €50,000.

Despite their size, more British businesses spent less than €10,000 last year than businesses in the other markets surveyed.

Pie chart of sustainable investments in 2021

How Will Budgets Change?

On average, most companies claim they will increase their sustainable marketing budget by 5 or 10% in the next few years.

The majority of British companies will continue to invest in these strategies.

Pie chart of budget expectations of sustainable campaigns in the future

Return on Investment for Sustainable Marketing

Sustainable Looks Good on Brands

Unanimously, all companies report a positive impact on brand image (24.13%), followed by a boost in customer loyalty (20.13%).

Pie chart of sustainable campaign results

Expectations Are High for Sustainable Marketing

90% of companies surveyed think that including sustainability topics in their marketing strategy is worth the return on investment.

Bar chart of considerations of return on investment of sustainable campaigns

Conclusion: There Are Opportunities for Sustainable Marketing

As we saw, British companies are investing in sustainable marketing mostly because they feel it’s the right thing to do.

What’s more, companies in general are turning their sustainable marketing efforts towards fair salaries for their employees.

This is the case of bigger brands, who clearly see a positive return of investment for their sustainable marketing strategy and place their trust on it without hesitation. It makes sense, then, that they plan on increasing the budget dedicated to those efforts in the following years.


The study was conducted between July 18th and July 22nd, 2022, among 1,000 companies in 5 countries: the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Spain, and France. In the study, we asked companies about their investment in sustainable marketing strategies and their expected ROI. The responses are anonymous.

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