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  • Writer's pictureAmy

Participatory Sustainability: Disrupting Eco-Consciousness in The Promo Industry


Sustainable. Eco-friendly. Carbon-neutral. Recycled materials. Ethically sourced. These are just a few of the environmentally and socially conscious buzzwords that have surged in popularity in the promotional products industry in recent years. As our global society becomes more aware of environmental issues and the impacts we have on our planet, demonstrating eco-consciousness has become more important than ever. This trend toward sustainability and 'being green' has started to shape consumer preferences and, by extension, brand strategies, at an exponential rate. And this is great! It's important for us to act as responsible environmental stewards. But in the experiential marketing industry where so much of what we build and produce is allocated to finite campaigns, what does being "eco-conscious" really mean in the world of promotional products and XM? Is it enough to select eco-friendly options when so many of these items end up going to waste in the end? When I sat down to think about it, I started to wonder what more can be done. That's when the idea of "Participatory Sustainability" was born.


What is Participatory Sustainability?

Admittedly, its a term I made up. But I think it has legs when applied correctly. The thought was that we need to start changing the post-activation game when it comes to promotional products and experiential marketing. Brands invest big bucks in sustainable and recycled materials, eco-friendly swag, and ethically sourced products. But at the end of the campaign, the unused items often sit in storage collecting dust, or worse, end up in a landfill. No one wants to see these items go to waste, but it happens more than we'd care to admit. Participatory Sustainability is a way of disrupting this, giving renewed purpose to outdated promotional products and marketing assets through community engagement: marketing initiatives based on the concept of upcycling leftovers from previous marketing initiatives.


Why Brands Should Care

Sustainability has become a cornerstone of brand identity and consumer loyalty. The benefits of sustainable and eco-conscious business practices are well-known. Implementing participatory sustainability into the marketing mix offers several compelling additional benefits to brands and companies.

  1. Enhanced Brand Image: Through the high visibility of these initiatives, companies can strengthen their brand image and improve their reputation as an eco-conscious entity.

  2. Increased Brand Loyalty: These events not only demonstrate a genuine commitment to sustainability but actively involve your customer base that values these practices, thereby strengthening the relationship with the brand.

  3. Dollars & Cents: The cost-savings are fairly obvious. Not only does this type of event reduce overall waste, but it also allows budgets to go further.

  4. Long-term Visibility: It's good for the company, the consumer, and the planet. Everyone can feel good about being a part of it, and the impressions are long lasting.


Promo POV

I'm sure some of you reading this are thinking - wait, isn't Wild Card a promotional products company? Don't you benefit from INCREASED demand for products? In short, yes and yes. To be sure, the concept of Participatory Sustainability presents an intriguing challenge to our traditional business model. At first glance, I agree that it seems counterintuitive. However, in an era where sustainability has transitioned from a niche to a necessity, we've decided to take a different path, one that might seem to compromise short-term gains but aligns perfectly with our long-term vision and values.


The reality of the promotional products industry is that it traditionally generates revenue through volume. More products sold typically means higher profits. But what happens when these products outlive their promotional lifespan? Too often, they end up as waste, contradicting the growing consumer demand for responsible environmental practices. The Wild Card team is all about creative solutions and helping our clients do their best work. That means if sustainability is a core value, we need to double down on that. We're committed to innovation and inspiration, and that means taking a look at how things are done and how we can improve upon past norms. Working to eliminate the amount of waste in our industry is something we are striving to do more of, and participatory sustainability is one way to do that.


The promotional products industry has come under scrutiny for generating waste. We have all been to an event and get something for free, then six months later it ends up in a donation bin. Participatory Sustainability is our commitment to changing the narrative. By repurposing outdated promotional items and marketing assets through community engagement, we're not just reducing waste; we're actively contributing to a more sustainable world. This approach might mean selling fewer new products in the short term, but it strengthens our relationships with clients who value long-term environmental responsibility over temporary gains. And it gives us new avenues for continued creative collaboration, which we thrive on.


A Call to Action

In a world where sustainability is increasingly non-negotiable, Participatory Sustainability as an experiential marketing tactic offers a promising pathway to not only meet but exceed the ecological and ethical expectations of today's consumer.


We invite our partners and clients to join us in this journey. Participatory Sustainability isn't just about transforming products; it's about transforming perceptions and priorities in business. By choosing this path, we are choosing to be leaders in a movement that values the environment as much as economics. Afterall, we don't just make stuff, we make stuff happen!


If this concept intrigues you, take a look at our Participatory Sustainability dossier, and feel free to reach out to us to explore how your team can integrate this next level of eco-consciousness in your marketing mix.




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