Achieving ‘Mainstream Green’ is Key in Accelerating Transition to a More Sustainable Economy

New Guide by CMO Sustainability Accelerator and BCG Highlights Ways to Link Sustainability to Broader Related Needs and Remove Barriers to Growth for Customers for Whom Sustainability is a Concern, but Not a Primary Driver

BOSTON— 96% of US consumers say they at least sometimes try to behave in ways that protect the planet, its people, and its resources. Reaching collective climate ambitions requires massive consumer change, and chief marketing officers (CMOs) are well-positioned to drive this growth by "bringing green to the mainstream," according to an action plan for growth released today by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the CMO Sustainability Accelerator, a coalition composed of the Association of National Advertisers, Sustainable Brands, and Adweek.

The report, titled The Future is Mainstream Green: Introducing a New Growth Strategy, outlines a roadmap for how to achieve Mainstream Green — defined as driving sustainable choices by all consumers, not just those who are moved by sustainable claims. Reaching Mainstream Green is a key opportunity for marketers to help close the intent-to-action gap by motivating customers to move beyond expressing concern for sustainability to adopting sustainable behaviors and purchasing sustainable goods/services.

“Organizations cannot achieve the environmental sustainability goals that they’ve pledged without inspiring consumers across the board to change their habits,” said Lauren Taylor, a BCG managing director and partner and global leader of the firm’s customer-centric sustainability topic, who coauthored the report. “However, we need to make sustainable options meet consumers’ core needs, rather than expecting the majority to make tradeoffs when they choose a sustainable option. Making green truly mainstream will require activating large-scale collective action by companies, with CMOs playing a key role.”

“As vital members of the C-suite core to business growth, CMOs and marketing leaders around the world are seeking new and actionable ways to drive sustainable practices—table stakes for thriving businesses in a new era,” said Jenny Rooney, Chief Experience Officer at Adweek. “Adweek, ANA, SB, and BCG have come together to create a roadmap that provides direction to help marketing chiefs champion and implement sustainable business practices throughout their organizations. Adweek will continue the sustainability conversation and learnings through upcoming content and gatherings, including an event where our community can explore these guidelines and the C-level collaboration necessary for success.”

“We know sustainability can play a key role in driving growth, which is the centerpiece of the ANA’s Growth Agenda,” said ANA CEO Bob Liodice. “The ANA is proud to produce this new report in collaboration with BCG and our partners in the CMO Sustainability Accelerator initiative. These guidelines and recommendations will help CMOs drive behavioral change in consumers and marketers who appreciate the benefits of being green but need guidance on how to fulfill the promise of true sustainability while growing their business.”

“Most brands are somewhere on the journey to becoming a sustainably regenerative brand of the future, and we are delighted to provide this practical and applicable resource for CMOs to engage with their cross-functional stakeholders and help them collaboratively tackle the challenges toward good growth with their C-suite partners,” said KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, founder and Chief Executive of Sustainable Brands.

The CMO is Key to Unlocking ‘Mainstream Green’

Just 20% of consumers think they can personally have an impact on climate and sustainability issues and more significantly, approximately 70% of consumers are disillusioned – wary of corporate claims about progress toward sustainability. But they are critical stakeholders, without whom companies can only achieve a portion of their environmental sustainability goals. It is up to marketers to link corporate climate and sustainability commitments to palatable growth drivers and show their customers that they are not merely performative. In addition to representing the voice and perspective of the customer, CMOs ensure cohesion across functions to realize business value from sustainability. As experts on customer needs and barriers, they can make complex topics digestible, and unfamiliar products desirable to ultimately activate significant consumer change.

Three Steps to Making Sustainability a Driver for Growth

Marketers can achieve Mainstream Green by putting customers at the center of a three-step strategy to make sustainability a driver for growth:

  • Understand drivers of choice. Customer-centric sustainability starts with understanding customers’ drivers of choice and how they relate to environmental sustainability. Linking sustainability to broader related needs (such as health) can unlock two to four times the number of customers for whom sustainability is a concern but not a primary driver of choice. In addition, making sustainability a “bonus benefit” significantly expands the sustainable customer base to those for whom sustainability is not a driver of choice at all.
  • Create a sustainable offering. To drive business and sustainability impact, the real barriers to Mainstream Green (such as value, efficacy, or taste) must be addressed. Innovation is a win-win-win solution that makes sustainability an “and,” not an “or.” Taking a customer-centric view also elevates sustainability out of a singular functional silo, ensuring cohesion, facilitating collaboration, and producing better outcomes.  
  • Promote sustainable choices. Leverage the full customer engagement toolkit to overcome perceived barriers and drive demand for sustainable choices. For early sustainability adopters, techniques focus on removing friction to purchase, strengthening customer connections, and amplifying advocates authentically. For sustainability laggards, techniques focus on building awareness and understanding, disrupting existing habits, and inspiring and empowering customers to choose greener options.

Download the guide for customer-centric sustainable growth here.

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About the Association of National Advertisers

The ANA’s (Association of National Advertisers) mission is to drive growth for marketing professionals, brands and businesses, the industry, and humanity. The ANA serves the marketing needs of 20,000 brands by leveraging the 12-point ANA Growth Agenda, which has been endorsed by the Global CMO Growth Council. The ANA’s membership consists of U.S. and international companies, including client-side marketers, nonprofits, fundraisers, and marketing solutions providers (data science and technology companies, ad agencies, publishers, media companies, suppliers, and vendors). The ANA creates Marketing Growth Champions by serving, educating, and advocating for more than 50,000 industry members that collectively invest more than $400 billion in marketing and advertising annually.

About Sustainable Brands

Sustainable Brands® is the premier global community of brand innovators who are shaping the future of commerce worldwide. Since 2006, our mission has been to inspire, engage and equip today’s business and brand innovators to prosper for the near and long term by leading the way to a better future. Digitally published news articles and issues-focused conversation topics, internationally known conferences and regional events, a robust e-learning library, and peer-to-peer membership groups and brand collaboration initiatives all facilitate community engagement and industry progress throughout the year. For more information visit


Adweek is the leading source of news and insight serving the brand marketing ecosystem. First published in 1979, Adweek’s award-winning coverage reaches an engaged audience of more than 6 million professionals across platforms including print, digital, events, podcasts, newsletters, social media and mobile apps. As a touchstone of the advertising and marketing community, Adweek is an unparalleled resource for leaders across multiple industries who rely on its content to help them do their jobs better.

About Boston Consulting Group

Boston Consulting Group partners with leaders in business and society to tackle their most important challenges and capture their greatest opportunities. BCG was the pioneer in business strategy when it was founded in 1963. Today, we work closely with clients to embrace a transformational approach aimed at benefiting all stakeholders—empowering organizations to grow, build sustainable competitive advantage, and drive positive societal impact.
Our diverse, global teams bring deep industry and functional expertise and a range of perspectives that question the status quo and spark change. BCG delivers solutions through leading-edge management consulting, technology and design, and corporate and digital ventures. We work in a uniquely collaborative model across the firm and throughout all levels of the client organization, fueled by the goal of helping our clients thrive and enabling them to make the world a better place.