ESG Marketing in Action: 3 Examples for Inspiration

March 16, 2023

Have you ever felt more inclined to buy from a brand after seeing an Instagram post about how they’re making a difference? Or maybe you’ve scoped out a company’s About page to see what practices they use before completing your purchase. Perhaps, when you think about some of your favorite brands, you immediately think about the values they stand for.

That, friends, is the power of ESG marketing.

To recap, ESG is a framework for defining an organization’s values in environmental, social, and governance capacities. Chances are, your business is already making an impact in at least one of these areas. If so, have you created an ESG marketing strategy so your customers are aware?

If you’re feeling stuck, this blog post will help get your juices flowing. We’ll explore three real-life examples of ESG marketing and how those companies are using it to differentiate themselves while making a positive impact.

TOMS’ impact page

TOMS shoes are an interesting case. Back in 2006, they led with the infamous Buy-One-Give-One model. For every pair of shoes purchased, they would donate a pair to people in need. It was incredibly successful but, in 2019, the company went bankrupt.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a tragic ending.

The bankruptcy was largely because consumers loved the simplicity and generosity of the message, but TOMS couldn’t keep up with the demand. They simply couldn’t give away as many shoes as they were selling.

Since then, TOMS has been on a journey to find the right balance between sustainable profits and meaningful purpose. They’ve also had to address accusations that they weren’t living up to their promise.

These days, TOMS invests ⅓ of its profits for grassroots goods, which they define as “the result of a community mobilizing to address an issue they’re all impacted by.” They focus on three main areas: mental health, access to opportunity, and gun violence.

All this said, we’re big fans of their website’s current impact page. Given TOMS complicated history, the page does a fantastic job of providing transparency and detail on their efforts. It’s visually stunning, engaging, clear, and on-brand. It also provides several links to resources and additional info, which is important for gaining consumer trust.

TOMS is a great case study on ESG marketing and how leading with a purpose can spark a huge movement. But they’re also a cautionary tale about what can happen if a mission is no longer feasible and inspiration on how to pivot without sacrificing your brand’s heart.

Nordstrom pledges 15% to black-owned businesses

This next example illustrates how continuous, subtle ESG marketing can play into a brand’s strategy.  

In 2021, retail giant Nordstrom signed the Fifteen Percent Pledge. This pledge announced their commitment to increase their purchases from Black businesses owned businesses by 10x by the end of 2030.  

The media picked up their press release and they also made the announcement on social media. From there, they’ve been able to highlight the Black-owned brands they purchase from such as UOMA Beauty, O’Dolly Dearest, King + Lola, and Jessica Rich.

On top of this, Nordstorm also has detailed website pages on Corporate Social Responsibility and Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging. Each of these pages are clear and detailed, with solid stats on their impact and their improvements over the years, which supports ESG transparency. 

This is especially important because many large clothing retailers are known for having poor social and environmental practices. By highlighting their efforts (perfect or not), they stand out from other mega brands that make vague claims or don’t mention their values at all. 

Drio’s support of women-owned businesses

As a certified Minority Business Enterprise and a passionate supporter of women-owned businesses, social values are an integral part of our work at Drio. 

If you’ve followed us for a while, you’ll know we’re on a mission to help more women CEOs crash the million and billion-dollar boys club. We want to help women business owners take charge of their marketing and show up as themselves in it. We do so by hiring women contractors, building our community the Monument Women’s Collective, and of course, through the work we do for our woman-owned business clients!

We also recently co-hosted a successful event for International Women’s Day! The event included a panel discussion with women who are shaping Maryland’s future. A portion of ticket proceeds went towards Marian House, a healing community for women and their children in Baltimore who are in need of housing and support services.

Our support of women and minority business owners is an integral part of our messaging. It shows up regularly in our email newsletter, blog, and social media because we want to make sure our audience knows what we stand for—and how we can help them.

Final thoughts on ESG marketing examples

There are countless forms of ESG marketing out there. Whether your brand is all about environmental initiatives, social initiatives, governance, or all three, you can and should talk about it. The key is doing the deep work needed to craft an intentional value-driven strategy. 

Find the message that works best for YOUR brand and nail down the tactics that work best for YOUR goals.

Then keep it clear and consistent.  

Need help weaving ESG values into your marketing?

Our digital marketing strategy sessions could be just the ticket. During this half-day strategy intensive, we’ll peek under the hood of your business and give you the space to lay out all of your goals and challenges. Following your session, we’ll build a 90-day action plan to move your biggest goals forward.

Get in touch to request a strategy session.

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About the Author: Rachel McFadden

She’s helped build roads in Baltimore, Maryland. Now this civil engineer turned WordPress wizard and graphic designer creates websites and marketing collateral that build bridges between you and your ideal customers. In a nutshell, she makes sure that when a potential client finds you online, there’s a clear, connected, on-brand digital path that leads them straight to your inbox, smartphone, or checkout page.

Ready to strike your perfect balance between head turning and revenue generating?

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