The role of modern marketing in carbon reduction

By scaling supplier engagement with compelling content and powerful martech, marketers can help reduce carbon emissions in the supply chain.

Dear Procurement, Sustainability and Marketing:

You’ve passed each other in the hall (virtual or otherwise) from time to time, giving a head nod and mumbling a casual “hey.” But with the CEO’s pronouncement that the company will limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and become net zero by the end of the decade, it’s time you got to know each other better. 

A lot better. 

Your CEO is realizing the value of weaving sustainable practices into business as a way to help the planet and strengthen the bottom line. Like other companies, achieving net zero requires wringing carbon from every aspect of your business, specifically in the supply chain where most of your emissions are produced. Helping your suppliers set and achieve emission reduction goals will be critical to achieving net zero. What’s more, as the SEC proposes rules to standardize and enhance climate-related disclosures to investors, the urgency to achieve your CEO’s vision only increases.  

As you read this, Sustainability, you’re no doubt nodding your head vigorously, having evangelized the principles of net zero since you were ambulatory. As the experts in supplier relations, Procurement, you are quickly catching up and understanding your role in working with suppliers to become carbon neutral. Marketing, no doubt you are scratching your head wondering (outside of a general interest in sustainability) why you were invited to this soiree.

So glad you asked. ??

In the quest for net zero, Sustainability and Procurement often partner with suppliers to set emission reduction goals like science-based targets or SBTs. Created by the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi), SBTs are formalized GHG commitments and are the first step for many companies on the road to carbon reduction. While the largest suppliers may have the budget and talent to set and achieve SBTs on their own, the remaining hundreds (or thousands) of long-tail suppliers need support. Procurement and Sustainability can only scale their expertise and engagement so far when working one-on-one.

Marketing, if you dozed off, this is where you come in. 

Using methods honed over time, Marketing can economically increase the reach of Sustainability and Procurement with compelling content and training delivered via powerful martech platforms. These tools and techniques will help some suppliers to self-service through the SBT journey. For the rest, Marketing can zero in on the most promising suppliers and pass them to Sustainability for direct engagement and (hopefully) successful SBT outcomes. As suppliers work toward setting and achieving SBTs, additional marketing campaigns and targeted engagement from Sustainability can aid suppliers in progressing along their carbon reduction journey. 

Here are tried-and-true tools and techniques Marketing can employ for successful supplier engagement:

  • Audience strategy: Defines target suppliers, how best to reach them and how to message and position the value of carbon reduction.
  • Journey mapping: Envisions the supplier engagement experience based on their maturity, creating and routing suppliers through custom content journeys designed to help them adopt and achieve SBTs.
  • Content: Creates compelling copy and calls to action at every step in the journey, inspiring suppliers as to the “why,” guiding them to the right resources and training while clearly showing the value of SBT adoption.
  • CRM: Serves as the supplier system of record for direct engagement, holding their contact and engagement information and tracking their journey along codified “states” from first touch to adoption and beyond.
  • Marketing automation: Automates journey mapping via scalable email communication paths that target suppliers based on where they are in their journey, passing key data onto the CRM system to indicate which suppliers are best suited for direct engagement.  
  • Webinars and events: Scales education in the form of training, round-tables and on-demand webinars, allowing Sustainability to reach multiple suppliers at once. Tracks interaction data which can be fed into marketing automation and CRM systems to inform automated programs and direct engagement.
  • Web portal: For larger firms, this can serve as a center of gravity with useful and engaging content in the form of videos, how-to guides and publicly available resources. Referenced by marketing campaigns and in direct engagements, these materials enable suppliers to self-serve wherever possible in their SBT efforts.
  • Analytics: Track communications and content performing well, optimizing supplier progress as they move down the engagement funnel to adoption.

Sustainability and Procurement, if you’re doing some version of the above with limited success, when you pass Marketing in the hall take a moment to ask about these tools and techniques. Marketing has the experience to bring it together in a potent package. When the three of you focus on what you do best, supplier engagement can be powerfully and economically scaled.

Marketing, maybe you can’t prioritize supplier engagement support due to competing priorities, capacity constraints, or a lack of budget. Adapting marketing platforms and processes require investments of time and resources. In these cases, consider working with partners who provide turnkey supplier engagement programs. 

Ensure these partners:

  • Understand modern marketing and the nuances of SBTs so they can create compelling content and training at every step in the supplier journey.
  • Protect and securely manage supplier data with their martech solutions.
  • Design programs to reintegrate with your native martech should the need arise. 

Sustainability, Procurement and Marketing all have a role to play in a sustainable future for our planet. Working hand-in-hand with sustainability teams to scale supplier outreach, you can all inspire and educate companies to reduce supply chain emissions and achieve carbon reduction goals.

Now that you’ve been formally introduced — talk amongst yourselves.


Conservation Confidant

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About The Author

Spence Darrington

Spence Darrington is a Managing Director and marketing scale expert at Bridge Partners. Prior to Bridge, Spence worked for Microsoft, Expedia Group, and Ford Motor Company helping transform their marketing models to achieve scale. While at Microsoft he pioneered B2B marketing shared services for delivery, building an organization of 500+ execution experts based in hubs around the world. Spence holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Brigham Young University and a Masters in Business Administration from Purdue University. Spence lives in the Seattle, WA area.