During a recession, intuitively, we might once have expected marketers to take their foot off the sustainability pedal. But the business of making and marketing products and services that that are good for the planet and people is growing, at far faster rates than the general economy. Does this mean that we have we reached a tipping point for sustainability and marketing?
Anecdotally, there is plenty of evidence in business to support this idea. Go to any advertising (as opposed to sustainability) conference, and Powerpoint presentations are full of profitable and often laudable initiatives from companies like M&S, Walmart and Pepsi. And as someone working in sustainability communications I have been surprised by how diverse the spread of sectors with companies looking for strategy and tactics has become.
The numbers stack up too. Leading research firm Verdantix recently predicted that in the US sustainable businesses will grow by 50 per cent to $60bn in 2014 and here in the UK, companies are going to be increasing spending on climate change and sustainability projects from $5.3bn in 2010 to $8.4bn in 2013.
Compare those kinds of figures with the UK Treasury's forecast of 1.8 per cent growth for GDP in 2011.
Governments are also pushing or being pulled in this direction, making it easier for sustainable companies to operate.
Here in the UK, our waxen-faced Chancellor has surprised no one with his eye-watering cuts to reduce the budget deficit. But, scythe aside, the Comprehensive Spending Review has not been the disaster for green business some feared. And recent subsidies announcement by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills should also help green SMEs take their ideas to scale.
But perhaps most significant of all for sustainable businesses and marketing, the digital and social revolution is gathering pace, migrating fast from the desktop to our pockets.
Our knowledge of companies' and brands' environmental and social performance is increasing exponentially and with every product and app launch, becomes easier to access. And it's this combination of data and knowledge sharing that is, and will continue to keep sustainability issues, like climate change and biodiversity, firmly in the minds of both consumers and necessarily, marketers.
Alex Johnson is communications director at sustainability branding consultancy Clownfish