Sustainable Marketing vs. Green Marketing - featured image

Sustainable Marketing vs. Green Marketing – What’s the difference?

It is clear that everyone is talking about sustainability nowadays. But since marketers and environmentalists use the terms “green” and “sustainable” interchangeably, there seems to be confusion.

While both “green” and “ sustainable” touch on environmental preservation and awareness, sustainability involves a broader responsibility to keep a social, economical and ecological balance. Whereas green focuses on environmental wellbeing.

Inevitably, sustainable marketing and green marketing are also used synonymously but it is useful to know these terms don’t always mean the same thing.

Sustainable marketing vs green marketing

As a result of environmental issues worsening worldwide, international bodies such as the UN have taken the lead to drive global sustainable action. With this pressure comes the ever-increasing need for brands to adapt and market their “green” status.

So what is the difference between sustainable marketing and green marketing?

Green marketing means promoting efforts to be environmentally friendly to a target audience. In other words, building an environmentally sensitive image. But it’s not only about promoting an offering with environmental attributes, going green also requires brands to change their message and production process.

With this growing emphasis on a greener future, it’s important to note that companies attempt to appear green. Known as greenwashing, many companies use environmental ideals without it truly being part of the company values. Fortunately, media attention influences more people to look beyond the pretty packaging and nice-sounding words.

Sustainable marketing, on the other hand, takes the notion of “green” to a deeper level. It involves creating awareness for a better and more sustainable future. Sustainability addresses environmental degradation, climate change, inequality, poverty, peace and justice to achieve harmony between nature and humans.

Green Marketing vs Sustainable Marketing Infographic

Examples of sustainable and green marketing

An example of green marketing includes Starbucks’ recent efforts to engage their community in environmental issues. The focus is on creating marketing assets that include eco-friendly messages. Like the company’s sustainable agriculture methods and ‘greener’ stores.

A massive brand like Starbucks might not be the first brand you think of when it comes to sincere efforts to look after the environment. But the company at least seems to be taking more responsibility to reduce its environmental impact. More than decreasing energy and water consumption, they’re also exploring solutions for recycling waste, investing in renewable energy, and partnering with farmers and organisations to address climate change.

They connect with their environmentally conscious community by communicating these messages.

Starbucks Greener Stores - Green Marketing Campaign-minAs for sustainable marketing, it’s just a little broader in scope. Companies in this area aim to promote a balanced approach that involves the environment but also customer needs, society’s long-term interests, and global wellbeing.

For example, as a pioneer of responsible fashion, MUD Jeans’ sustainability story goes beyond the norm. They claim to partner with manufacturers that prioritise wellbeing, have a fully transparent supply chain and use 92% less water to produce every recycled pair of MUD Jeans. They also garnish their message with meaningful terms such as ‘zero waste’ and ‘pesticide-free.’

Not only that, but MUD Jeans also use their ‘Best for the world’ B Corp award as proof they are the best of the best. This means, out of 4000 certified B Corps worldwide, they are among the 5% with the highest verified score in environmental performance.

Mud jeans best in the world B CorpThis is a good example of their commitment to honesty in their marketing messaging and sustainability claims.

Now, I’m not particularly a fashion enthusiast. I’m more of a not-so-perfect minimalist. And not the aesthetic kind, the be-happy-with-less kind. I’ve been wearing the same old clothing for more than a decade and rarely buy new, well, anything. But MUD Jeans’ sense of mission makes me feel better about considering a pair of sustainable bottoms.

If MUD Jeans can capture the attention of a minimalist like me, they must be doing something right.

What about greenwashing?

Both sustainable marketing and green marketing should be about promoting products or services that are sustainable or eco-friendly.

That doesn’t mean pretending to be sustainable. Dressing up in a disguise of eco-friendliness in order to dupe people who’re concerned about the environment into buying is known as greenwashing. It’s the projection of sustainability vs. the action of sustainability. Neither sustainable marketing nor green marketing should involve greenwashing, which is distinct because of the level of lying.

In a way it is marketing but a very malevolent kind of marketing.

If you want to know more then here’s another Akepa post on what greenwashing is. And here’s another great guide on green marketing and the differences with greenwashing.


The key difference is that green marketing is where the ‘environmental’ parts of a marketing strategy are most dominant, whereas sustainable marketing is about promoting a wider vision of a better future that harmonises society, companies, and the environment.

As the African proverb goes:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

And remember neither approach should involve greenwashing.

I hope you found my sustainable marketing vs green marketing article helpful. Feel free to share your thoughts and examples with me in the comment section below. And if you’re a sustainable company who can benefit from the help of a sustainable marketing agency, get in touch with us!

Until next time.

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Celesté Polley

Celesté is a content writer, creative photographer, pianist, avid birder, environmentalist at heart, and Earth wanderer from South Africa.

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