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Mission controlled

With the average consumer more discerning than ever, it’s getting harder and harder for modern businesses to cut through the noise. Getting your environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy right can be a key differentiator in a saturated marketplace.

But putting one in place is easier said than done—so we’ve put together some top tips to get you started.

Placing ESG at the centre of your marketing universe


of consumers “will discontinue [their] relationship with companies that treat the environment, employees, or the community in which they operate poorly”


of businesses surveyed report that ESG is a strategic focus for 2024


of consumers report that authenticity is an important factor in deciding which brands they like

NB—This is an expanded version of an article previously published in our Review newspaper.

Marketing has been around since at least 1500 BCE. But the developments we’ve borne witness to in the last 20 or so years have changed the game completely.

The dawn of new technologies, the rise of the internet, the explosion of social media, the advent of big data, and the start of CRM platforms—these innovations and more have opened up new possibilities for engagement and personalisation on a never-before-seen scale.

And with the future of marketing likely to hinge on the twin pillars of artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR), this dizzying pace is showing no signs of abating. The problem? It’s getting harder to stand out.

To make things more difficult, your customers now have higher expectations of your business. According to a PWC study, 76% of consumers “will discontinue [their] relationship with companies that treat the environment, employees, or the community in which they operate poorly.”

ESG is more than just a moral imperative—it’s the key battleground where your future success will be lost or won. Put it at the centre of your marketing strategy and you will be rewarded handsomely.

What’s so great about ESG, anyway?

In 2024, ESG is more than just a “nice to-have”—it’s a business imperative.

It’s a key tool in your stakeholder management arsenal. Investors, for instance, “have become more aware of the importance of ESG criteria in their investment decisions.” To realise your lofty business ambitions, you’ll need as many as possible in your corner—so keep them sweet. After all, the corporate world is littered with horror stories. Volkswagen lost billions—not to mention the trust of the public—after “Dieselgate” in 2015.

ESG-friendly behaviour is also essential to proving your longevity—are you agile and adaptable enough to traverse shifting market conditions?—and thus encouraging prospective shareholders to take a gamble on you. As pointed out by Apiday, “The quality of a company’s ESG-related risk management is important to investors in weighing overall risk and return.” SoFi’s “Face of Finance” campaign is a great example of this. As part of a pledge to “help change the face of finance,” the US fintech prompted AI to generate images of “people who are good with money”—and found that less than 2% depicted women. The campaign comprised a digital ad, a photo booth activation, partnerships with creators, education initiatives, and even Taylor Swift and Beyoncé tickets. Not only was it unique and insightful, but it also signalled SoFi’s ability to put new technologies—in this case, AI—at the centre of their marketing strategy. What’s more, the fintech has shown their commitment to the cause by embracing an omnichannel approach and backing up their words with tangible action. This kind of authenticity is priceless.

In addition, this trend represents an opportunity to capture an emerging market segment—Gen Z and Gen Alpha—and become their go-to vendor. With 40% of Gen Z already making investments in “companies with purpose,” act now to shape the future of sustainable business—before your competitor does. Hyundai provide a compelling case study in this area. Their “Your Turn, Elon” billboard turned heads at Geneva International Airport during the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. By opting for a single out-of-home ad, the campaign landed with maximum impact— and positioned the manufacturer as direct rivals to Tesla in the surging electric car market.

And ESG is a proven revenue booster. According to a McKinsey study, “Products making ESG-related claims averaged 28% cumulative growth over the past five-year period, versus 20 percent for products that made no such claims.” Outdoor clothing giant Patagonia can certainly attest. They made headlines with their famous “don’t buy this jacket campaign” in 2011. Taking out an ad in the New York Times to coincide with Black Friday, the sustainability champions encouraged consumers to buy a second-hand product instead of their new jacket. It was a risk, but the gamble paid off—and then some, with profits soaring by 30% the following year. In case you needed any more evidence, look no further than Bumble. The dating app is a “case study in empowerment and innovation,” consistently putting inclusivity at the heart of its marketing campaigns. Their recent “MyLoveIsBlackLove” offering platformed black single people and their dating aspirations by engaging “an all-star team of multi-tier Black British influencers, artists, actors, athletes, entrepreneurs and activists.” The results speak for themselves. Bumble went public in 2021 with an $8.3 billion valuation. Today, it’s used in 150 countries worldwide, and boasts 42 million monthly users.

Sounds good—how do I get started?

A good ESG marketing strategy has many parts. One place to start is by offering innovative products that contribute towards sustainability or inclusivity. Carbon-tracking solutions have taken off in a big way recently, enabling consumers to see the impact of their everyday purchase decisions. The demand is obvious—45% of shoppers “would be prepared” to discontinue their relationship with their favourite brands if they refused to measure their carbon footprint.

That’s why logistics company CHEP enlisted The Fold to build a web app to demonstrate the environmental and financial savings of the pooling process to their end customers. Find out what we did, and how we got on, here.

Quick win: Sustainable packaging is a must for commerce businesses. Over 60% of surveyed respondents would “pay more for a product with sustainable packaging.”

It’s also crucial that you back up your claims with evidence—otherwise, you’re greenwashing. Reporting on your progress is a nice and simple way to go about it. By giving your customers a peek behind the curtain, you can show them that you genuinely want to do better. Giesecke+Devrient’s pledge to “remove all virgin plastic in its payment card products by 2030” is an example of this. The PayTech is blazing an industry trail and inviting its peers to follow suit. By committing to something tangible and measurable, they’ve asked their customers to hold them accountable.

As we’ve alluded to above, a multichannel approach can ensure as many people see your business as possible. Leaning into storytelling is a compelling tactic. By fostering an emotional connection, it’s much easier to stand out and build credibility with your customers—and ultimately boost revenue.

Quick win: If you haven’t already, it might be time to think about your content marketing strategy. It could be one of the most effective levers at your disposal.

One company that uses multiple touchpoints to engage consumers is Greiner Packaging. To celebrate their 40th anniversary, they rolled out a “fun and interactive connected experience” in partnership with creative technology studio Appetite Creative. Users scanned a QR code to access an “entertaining [and] Elvis-themed” bespoke digital experience. The use of interactivity and gamification grabs attention, creates a memorable experience, and incentivises repeated engagement with your brand. It's important to go where your target audience is—which might mean leveraging new, alternative channels.

Satellite service providers Inmarsat knew this when they asked us to create a social media campaign to tie in with the COVID-19 pandemic. Premised upon the importance of staying connected during times of crisis, they wanted to position themselves as leaders in satellite security. You can check out the full case study here.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to do this by yourself. Building relationships with NGOs, sustainability brands, and charities can be some of the best marketing out there. By partnering, you can get access to additional resources, tap into new customer segments, and give your finances a boost. Dell and Action for Children is a great example of this. The technology retailer and the leading children’s charity co-created the “Inspire IT” programme to support “thousands of children and young people a year to connect with the digital world successfully.” It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement that gives the charity a healthy injection of funds while enabling Dell to showcase their ESG credentials.

Similarly, there’s a lot to be gained from putting together initiatives and projects for your community. You’ll differentiate yourself from the competition and increase your customer retention in the process. By offering your customer something different, you can improve their perception of your business, as well as reducing your dependence on paid advertising.

Quick win: Your community is a vital resource in your marketing toolbox. Get to know them, and don’t be afraid to lean on them.

We created a brand identity for Darwin200 that attracted potential sponsors, scientists, mentors, sailors, and the wider public to their planetary conservation initiative—completing the same global voyage that Charles Darwin did aboard the HMS Beagle. Get more info here.

Topical thinking

In your bid to demonstrate authenticity, it’s not a bad idea to get topical. Being across the zeitgeist shows the consumer that you’ve done your homework—and does wonders for your online searchability. It’s particularly important for your social media strategy, where the latest trend has a very limited shelf life. For example, Make My Money Matter made a splash with their recent “Oblivia Coalmine” campaign. The use of star power—in the form of budding British national treasure Olivia Colman—lent a gravitas to the subject matter and boosted the advert’s reach. The video “effectively exposes the oil and gas industry’s greenwashing marketing techniques” through its satirical script, which references keeping “Greta and her chums happy” by building a “few little wind turbines.” All in all, it’s a masterclass in ethical marketing.

Last—but by no means, least—it’s critical to put your money where your mouth is. Making grand statements is all well and good, but consumers are well-versed in and weary of the tricks of big corporations when it comes to greenwashing. When it comes to companies that aren’t just talking the talk, two spring to mind—

Telco giant Verizon is showing the business world how to do ESG marketing well. Employing a multichannel approach to disseminate research reports, resources, and more, they’re “dedicating…assets to [create] a positive impact in a sustainable way.” As well as sharing annual progress on their commitments and commissioning external research to keep themselves honest, Verizon recently allocated $1 billion to “investments in renewable energy.”

Fellow telco institution Vodafone is also taking its social obligations seriously. As part of their “everyone.connected,” initiative they’ve pledged to help four million people and businesses “cross the digital divide by 2025.” To do this, they’re donating technology; offering targeted, affordable services; upskilling businesses and communities to provide support; and producing extensive content. It’s an unwavering level of dedication that speaks to a brand with ethics at its core.


Hopefully, this article has shed some light on why putting ESG at the centre of your marketing strategy is vital in 2024. With more and more businesses realising the benefits of a well-considered approach every day, there’s never been a better time to get started. We’re excited to meet you at MWC 2024—and beyond. If you’d like to chat, either at the show or another time, drop us a line at We’re happy to come to you.
—The Fold team