How Marketing Can Have A Sustainable Impact On Society


Flock were delighted to recently release our Marketing Sustainability whitepaper, “The Sustainable Marketer”. The paper includes a framework to help marketing organizations build a Marketing Sustainability Strategy, with useful resources, best practices as well as case studies from our partners at WARC.

The framework is based on 3 simple principles: SEE, ACT, MEASURE. S.E.E stands for Society, Environment, Economy, and highlights the key topics that marketing can directly affect within the three areas of sustainability. In this article we’ll have a deep dive into the “S” of SEE – Societal Impact. For details on the Environment and Economy, please download the whitepaper using the link above.


Having a sustainable impact on society is the outcome of behaviours and actions that truly embrace diversity and inclusion and supports artistic talents. Putting in place protocols to manage brand safety and misinformation whilst providing full transparency on how a consumer’s data will be used, holds just as much importance. Societal Impact has been broken down into the following key areas we believe marketing can impact most.

  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • Culture
  • Digital & AdTech
  • Consumer Data Protection & Privacy

1. Diversity & Inclusion

Based on the IPA’s 2020 Agency Census Report, showing female numbers rolling back, the under 25s and over 50s in decline, and non-white C-Suite presentation at 6.4%, it’s clear that agencies are still lacking in diversity which unsurprisingly is also reflective in advertising work today.

The results of the recent All In census, the UK’s first industry-wide census which includes agencies, brands, media owners and tech providers, paints a similar picture and shines a light on the imperative need for greater support systems within organizations to enable diverse talent, to include those with disabilities, mental health conditions as well as working mothers to exist and thrive.

While strides are being made to address the issues through initiatives such as our own work with ISBA on “Representation Of A Nation” and the IPA & ISBA Inclusion Group which launched the “All In” campaign, we are still at the start of the journey which requires a collective effort by all.

To deliver inclusive marketing authentically, inclusion needs to start from within our own organizations. Diversity is counting numbers, inclusion is making those numbers count so ensuring all team members, irrespective of gender, race, age, disability, socioeconomic background, and other characteristics feel genuinely valued and supported is vital to developing work that is inclusive.

Key questions to ask to help you to A.C.T.

Your Organization:

  • Does your company truly embrace D&I through its actions, not just rhetoric?
  • Does it have a mentoring program where ALL staff have the opportunity to be mentored and further their career?

Your Partners:

  • Is your marketing team and your agency partners diverse and inclusive?
  • Do your commercial contracts with your partners include D&I practices and policies?

Your Marketing:

  • Are D&I objectives incorporated in your briefs to agency partners, media owners and tech providers?
  • Are you targeting audiences using a diverse portfolio of media channels, not just those with the highest indexes?
  • Are you measuring the OUTPUT and OUTCOME of your work amongst diverse audiences?
Diversity and inclusion

2. Culture

The creative industry, comprising writers , filmmakers, photographers, designers and typographers to name a few, can directly influence society’s culture through the work they produce for brands.

Marketers and agencies have a responsibility to support these artists and can create a positive impact by hiring diverse creative businesses, start-ups and new talent. For example, paying an up-and-coming artist to develop an ad soundtrack or a new photographer to take a photograph versus using old, existing or monopoly owned assets, can help foster new talent and create a better culture for us all. Also, hiring under-represented talent from creative schools such as Brixton Finishing School as well as neurodivergent talent can help drive fresh ideas and new ways of thinking that can positively influence our culture.

Key questions to ask to help you to A.C.T.

  • Do you and your agency partners seek out new and diverse creative talent (i.e. filmmakers, photographers, typographers, musicians, designers, etc.)?
  • Do you recognize and promote the artistic talent involved in the development of your advertising and marketing communications to help further their career and/or business?

3. Digital & AdTech Ethics

As the digital, data and tech landscape continues to rapidly evolve, it’s imperative that marketers keep pace and have clear protocols in place with their agency partners, media owners and tech providers to manage the issues of brand safety, ad fraud, fake news and misinformation. As marketers are responsible for advertising expenditure, which fund social media platforms, marketers need to A.C.T in order to drive ethical practices within the industry.

As a starting point, it is essential for marketers to have transparent ways of working and reporting in place with their agencies, media owners and tech providers to enable tracking of advertising investments. We would encourage marketers, media agencies and media platforms to join WFA’s Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), which is a cross-industry initiative established to address the challenge of harmful content on digital media platforms and its monetization via advertising.

Key questions to ask to help you to A.C.T.

  • Do you have protocols in place to ensure that your advertising is not inadvertently funding fake news, hate speech, or misinformation?
  • Do you have full visibility of where your digital advertising investments are going and how the investments will be managed, tracked and reported back to you by agency partners, media owners and tech providers?
Fake news and misinformation

4. Consumer Data Protection & Privacy

As we enter a post-cookie era, we highly recommend that marketers work closely with their agency partners, media owners and tech providers to have full transparency on how consumers will be targeted, what data will be used, and how this data will be managed and stored.

Commercial contracts with parties should also include clear data management protocols, which should be in accordance with consumer data protection and privacy policies in the respective marketplace.

Key questions to ask to help you to A.C.T.

  • Do you know what specific data will be used for targeting/re-targeting and who owns this data? Is there a way to minimize the data that is collected?
  • Are you ensuring customers have genuine choice and control on how their data is used?
  • Do you know how the data will be managed and stored, by whom, and for how long?

Access “The Sustainable Marketer” for more information, key questions, and resources on how marketers can improve their societal impact here.

Learn more about what Flock are doing to become more sustainable here.

Take the Flock Marketing Sustainability Benchmark Survey here.

Or, to chat to us about your own thoughts on Marketing Sustainability, please feel free to contact us using the form below. We’d love to hear from you!

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