A Battle With Our Marketing Ethics. Overconsumption Sucks.

  • 10 months ago
  • 4 Minutes to Read

Marketing is destroying our planet. It’s complex, but we need a shift. Quick.

For years marketeers have pushed us to buy the shiny next new thing, and it’s this mindset that’s helped to accelerate the breakdown of our climate. Overconsumption is completely correlated to our planetary boundaries being broken. And it’s people like me that’s the problem. 

Now I don’t want to sound like that person everyone hates sitting next to at that dinner party, you know the one I mean, the person who tells you about all of those things you really should be doing with your life to be a better human being, yet doesn’t do any of them themselves. But this topic, at this specific time, deserves some airtime. Even though as an agency we’re striving to do things differently, we can’t shy away from these uncomfortable truths.  

Photo by Enviral: In the office

Sorry to get all – ‘pillar-y’ but let’s carry this conversation through the lens of; business, government and individuals. 

Business, we need to change 

The 5 P’s in marketing is a true classic textbook piece. It’s been dubbed as the not so secret key to a successful business product or service (Place, Product, Promotion, People and Price). But what about Planet? Or Purpose? Why don’t they make the cut? 

We can talk all day about why businesses need to adopt a purpose before profit mentality, and just check out BCorp if you’re interested in knowing more about this – but for now we need to aim things at the marketing department!

More so than ever, the whole ‘let’s talk about the planet thing’ is cropping up left right and centre in marketing messages. Well hey… news alert. Overconsumption is still bad for the planet, even if it is from an eco brand. Yeah, we need to stop pushing products on people, but more so than that, we need a real behavioural shift in how we consume. And that starts at the source – the table where the marketing department figure out how to communicate and sell more stuff. 

We have a big problem with bundle deals, buy now messages, short time period deals, strategic remarketing, cookie cutting techniques which incentivise impulse buying – the list goes on. Just look at Black Friday, in my eyes the darkest day in the shopping calendar. I understand that this year things are a little different, 2020 has been tough, people are struggling, but we mustn’t lose sight of the environmental impact of this day. It’s predicted that online deliveries are expected to release 429,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere on Black Friday.

In my eyes, you’re not necessarily a bad person if you buy something for 30% off on a day (… it’s a holiday in America!) that is built for deals deal deals. But you probably have a lot of introspection needed if you are a marketing person pushing this day if you’re a successful business. Especially if you ramp up the price to then discount it to normal levels.

Perhaps – rather than spending your time on figuring out a new way to sell an innovative new toothpaste, you could shift your company to using your commercial budgets to educate customers through teacher brand content. It can also really benefit your companies brand awareness if done correctly (check out our recent campaign with Good Energy for a successful case study) and if done correctly can have your brands message interwoven. It’s mindful communications. 

It’s time for mindful e-commerce techniques to be spread from the rooftops and into the marketing meetings. 

Not just from an advertising perspective (side note: for any marketeers reading this, head over and check out mindful commerce) but for businesses and governments + digital platforms to impose stricter rules and taxes. If this was in place, we wouldn’t be spreading as much as a manipulating process which gets people to consume things they really don’t need. 

Obviously, there’s a slight elephant in the room that Facebook and Google make a good wedge from their advertising products (last year it was estimated that 67.9 billion US Dollars in 2019 with 98.5% of that revenue coming from advertising, then Google did a biggy 134.81 billion dollars just from their ad revenue)… perhaps a ‘good wedge’ was a slight understatement.

They’re unlikely to impose an angle to stop these techniques whilst they’re making money – yet their platforms are hosting ad buyers and marketeers a perfect storm to sell more stuff. Facebook is literally the best advertisement platform that’s ever existed and even though we have a business in scaling purpose driven brands through these platforms, and use techniques to gain ‘cut through’, someone has to make a stand.

Swiftly moving on… to governments.


Yep you’re the ones who can do something about this. We’ve seen it in the last few months regarding a ban on high sugar junk food – and perhaps we need to go another level regarding commerce which overly manipulates spending? On top of that introducing eco-labelling, carbon taxing on products, investing in the circular economy or putting a task force together to truly crack down on false ‘green’ claims, there’s much much more the government could be doing to change the way we consume. With investment in the right areas, the government could truly help to make some positive waves. 

I mean just look at the stats, the world’s richest 1% cause double CO2 emissions of the poorest 50% (Oxfam). As a society we must start taking responsibility for this, and we need our government to lead. From climate studies in schools to stricter government policies on ‘greenwashing’ – actions like this will help educate and explain the issues we’re facing to ensure we’re equipt for the fight. 

With fake news, trolling, greenwashing and opinions flying in from every angle, we know the world of sustainability can be a noisy place. It can be hard to sift fact from fiction. It can be hard to know what is the right action to take. But one thing we do know is that overconsumption is devastating our home, and we need a drastic shift in our behaviour to save us. We’re not perfect but we think that as long as our actions are taken with the health of the planet in mind, with a considered approach, then we have a chance.


Now I know us little guys often get the blame. Who can remember BP’s epic PR stunt which coined the term ‘carbon footprint’ and made us feel responsible for the individual footprints responsible for climate change. BP, the company who claims they emit 55 million tons of greenhouse gases each year, but actually release an additional 360 million tons when their oil and gas is eventually burned (NY Times). Why wouldn’t they try and deflect the blame. 

Now I’m not here to judge, in fact I’m here to do the opposite. In our eyes, if Black Friday can help someone afford something they need, or if someone buys something for a neighbour or family member to show them some love over Christmas – then we can see the benefits of it (please Mum, don’t buy me a reindeer shaped single use plastic confetti cannon). What we struggle to understand is the overconsumption and the whole ethos that it represents. As individuals we need to vote with our cash, we need to support the brands and businesses who are truly putting people and the planet first. This also means mindful consumption, supporting local and not always buying new. As individuals, we might not be able to change the world alone, but our collective power and influence is huge. 

Be mindful in the brands you choose, consider buying things second hand and get involved in calling out the culprits. If these big brands see that their marketing messages aren’t working on you, they will be forced to change, forced to rethink and forced to do business differently. It’s through doing things differently that we can really safeguard our planet.

TIP if you need to transition from a self-proclaimed spendoholic: Check out mindful cart. Simply put, if you put something in your cart – mindful cart will clear it after so many days, as their thought process is that if you didn’t buy it straight away – the chances are you don’t need it. Marie Kondo digital style!


We’ve got this guys. Black Friday and Christmas especially are a time of year that can be confusing – even for the headsy-est of environmentalists. Communicate, talk, put a message on your family whatsapp either 1.) telling them exactly what you need if they want to spend money on you or 2.) give them a list of charities they can donate to and open your internal meetings if you work in business to talk about purpose before profit.


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Written by
Joss Ford