New working group links marketing to biodiversity conservation



Human behavior drives all major threats to the environment, yet, influencing it remains a major challenge for conservationists.

Inspired by the use of marketing in fields such as health, conservationists have started looking at marketing techniques to help achieve their goals. However, many are still uneasy about relying on the ‘dark arts’ of marketing that are also used to sell products such as cigarettes and alcohol. Moreover, some may feel that conservation ethic is powerful enough without relying on glossy brochures or celebrity-endorsements. However, the current extinction crisis suggests otherwise. 

Last August, more than 2000 conservationists from 90 countries gathered in Montpellier, France, for the 27th International Congress of Conservation Biology (ICCB). Organized by the Society for Conservation Biology, this was the largest biodiversity conservation meeting of the year, with more than 2000 talks and poster presentations. Amongst the 60 Symposia accepted for this event, there was one innovation as far as social sciences were considered. This ICCB was the first to dedicate a Symposium to the use of marketing tools in biodiversity conservation. 

The symposium brought together academics and practitioners from the commercial and non-profit sectors to discuss how marketing can best support conservation projects. The topics covered were equally diverse, from wildlife trade and marine conservation, to the use of celebrity endorsements and fundraising. Our goal was to reframe what marketing means in the context of conservation, away from the ‘dark arts’ perception and towards its adoption as a new path to more effective behavior change. The symposium was very well attended, with attendants exceeding the about 140 seats in the room, and reveled a yet untapped interest in conservation and marketing.

To address this demand, and following a successful event last year at the International Marine Conservation Congress in Glasgow, Scotland, emerged the Conservation Marketing and Engagement Working Group (ConsMark). The ConsMark has several key objectives. One is to promote the use of marketing techniques and strategies to tackle environmental issues. Another is to improve access of conservation practitioners to marketing tools and build capacity for their effective use. 

Working to push these news ideas forward, members of the working group came together for the first time at the ICCB. Since then and with the support of the SCB, we have developed an official online presence with an official website and a mailing list (which is also open to non SCB members).

We are now reaching out to all those interested in getting involved or knowing more about our work to connect with us either via our website or through Facebook and Twitter. If you would like to become a member or contribute to the group moving forward, contact our membership secretary Emma McKinley.

This text was first published in the newsletter of the Society for Conservation Biology.

About the Author

Diogo Verissimo applies social marketing concepts and techniques to conserve the diversity of life on Earth. He is currently an Oxford Martin Fellow at the University of Oxford, UK, where he works the design and impact evaluation of behaviour change interventions to reduce the demand for illegally traded wildlife products.

Learn more about Diogo Verissimo


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