Academic journal article Journal of Global Business and Technology

Achieving Sustainable Competitive Advantage through the Implementation of the Societal Marketing Concept by a Major Retailer in South Africa

Academic journal article Journal of Global Business and Technology

Achieving Sustainable Competitive Advantage through the Implementation of the Societal Marketing Concept by a Major Retailer in South Africa

Article excerpt


This paper is essentially a case study based on information gathered from a number of sources that include the contents of the annual report of this major retailer, personal communications with individuals who were able to provide information relating to the topic and to the retailer (including the Manager: The Good Business Journey" at the retailer under consideration), international and local journal articles as well as the mass media in South Africa

South Africa is a country that demonstrates both extremes around issues surrounding the external natural environment. On the one hand, the country attempts to educate its population and implement strategies that are concerned with the protection and sustainability of the natural environment while on the other hand it is the world's eighth largest polluter of green house gas emissions. The retailer under consideration in this study is a South African firm that has managed to be both successful and profitable by taking a multi pronged approach in its implementation of the societal marketing concept. Not only does this firm attempt to reduce the negative impact of its business on the natural environment but it also attempts to safe guard the well-being of its target market and society at large by introducing products that are organically produced and natural. This firm also participates in community projects that focus on assisting and educating disadvantaged individuals in the South African community.


The societal marketing concept in this article is defined as "fulfilling the needs and wants of the target authence in a way that improves society as a whole while meeting the objectives of the firm" (Schiffman and Kanuk, 2007:14). Kotier and Armstrong (2001:21) propose that what is significant about the societal marketing concept is that it questions whether what the firm does to satisfy the individual's needs and wants is for the benefit of the individual and society in the long term. Kotier and Armstrong (2001:21) suggest that the fast food industry for example offers tasty and convenient food at reasonable prices but consumer and environmental groups are concerned about the impact of the fast food industry on consumer health and the environment. This is particularly relevant in an environment where obesity in countries such as South Africa is becoming a major issue amongst children (17% of children under the age of nine are obese or overweight Anonymous, 2009:29) and global warming is a concern that is receiving some attention in the South African mass media and worldwide The societal marketing concept suggests that firms should come up with innovative and sustainable ways of producing and marketing a product or service while at the same time ensuring that the firm is profitable and able to survive in the long term (Fuller, 1999:6). This is particular significant since corporations, because of their dominant role and their activities on the planet, have a major impact on the social and natural environment (Hawken, 1993 quoted by Fuller, 1999:1).

Although a survey of academic literature reveals that very little has recently been published in terms of societal marketing concept and its implementation (Ward and Lewandowska, 2006:242), this concept is becoming increasingly significant in a business environment where issues such as global warming, climate change, diminishing natural resources and increased obesity in human populations is becoming more prominent in the mass media around the world. Schäfer (2005:108) states that individual stakeholders and nongovernmental organisations are increasingly calling on firms to act in a socially responsible way. According to Schäfer (2005:108) firms are no longer being assessed only on financial gains achieved for shareholders but they are also being assessed on the contributions they make to stakeholders and society. This statement is borne out by Zhu, Sarkis, and Geng (2005:452) who have commented on the fact that China is beginning to experience "green barrier" pressures from importers of their commodity products. …

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