How To Level up Your Sustainable Marketing Practices With QR Codes

“Sustainability” isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a global shift toward environmental friendliness, and consumers and businesses alike are jumping on board

On an individual level, many consumers are conscious of reducing their carbon footprint and are opting for eco-friendly products and services. Businesses switching to sustainable marketing strategies is part of being a good global citizen. Sustainability is also key to winning over climate-conscious consumers. 

One way to make your marketing more sustainable is by using QR Codes in place of paper marketing materials. Here’s how to use QR Codes to support your environmental sustainability efforts—and win over customers in the process.

What is sustainability marketing? 

Sustainability marketing involves sharing your organization’s sustainability practices with customers. In your sustainability marketing, you should discuss the environmental impact of your manufacturing process, shipping, and product design. It’s also important to make sure the marketing tactics you use align with your values. This process is essential for building trust with your audience.

For customers, sustainability has become a very important consideration when making purchasing decisions. According to a 2023 report from Deloitte, one in three people have not followed through on a purchase because they had concerns about the ethics or sustainability of a product. Further, one in four consumers are prepared to pay more for sustainable products.

For companies, however, sustainability marketing can be shaky ground to navigate. For every company that makes a genuine effort to be ethical and transparent with consumers, there’s another making dubious claims about its “green” or “conscious” practices.

Greenwashing is rampant across all industries. Instances of these unethical practices rose by 35% in 2022 and continue to grow. To make a real impact, you’ll need to convince your customers that the intentions behind your sustainability and sustainable marketing strategies are legitimate and that the language your business uses is not just a green-coated gimmick.

Example of sustainable marketing

The best sustainable marketing initiatives use creativity to highlight a company’s environmentally and socially responsible practices. For example, you can use social media to share behind-the-scenes videos of your sustainable practices or even launch interactive campaigns to encourage your consumers to be sustainable, too. 

Outerwear brand Patagonia does this using its Patagonia Action Works campaigns. Not only does the brand have excellent sustainability practices on its own, but it also encourages its customers to get involved with environmental protection programs around the world. 

A key component of sustainable marketing is reducing your paper consumption. Since the rise of online shopping, many companies have moved away from printed catalogs for more eco-friendly shopping. However, you can make an even more positive impact by moving away from printed user manuals or any other paper marketing strategies.

Transparency is key to your sustainable marketing efforts. One way to highlight this is by dedicating a page on your website to sustainability that displays real-time data and information about your sustainability policies. If you haven’t achieved your sustainability goals yet, be honest and upfront with consumers, and share what you’re doing to meet your goals.

Why choose QR Codes? 

Long before Greta Thunberg brandished a cross-stitch QR Code in an X (formerly Twitter) post, these dotty little squares had already been making inroads where companies needed to boost their sustainability goals. There are many eco-friendly reasons to use QR Codes throughout your brand’s marketing strategy. 

Less paper usage

QR Codes are particularly effective for minimizing paper waste. Instead of sharing information in a paper pamphlet or flyer, share it on your website using a QR Code.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitality businesses swapped out physical menus for QR Code menus. Customers can scan the QR Code with their smartphone camera and browse the menu directly on their phone. 

While this was initially done for safety reasons, many businesses have continued to do it as a way to keep their paper usage low. This practice isn’t just for menus—you could swap out almost any paper marketing materials for a QR Code.


Another benefit of QR Codes is that you can reuse and repurpose them in many different ways. A QR Code link to your website’s sustainability page could be shared in your stores, on your social media, or even on a billboard. You can add a QR Code anywhere you’re already promoting your business.

A Dynamic QR Code is editable, so you can change the link after you’ve created it. You can also edit the QR Code’s design features. This functionality gives you more flexibility in your marketing because you’ll be able to reuse assets across campaigns.

Global accessibility

Another huge benefit of QR Codes is that they’re used all over the world. As long as customers have access to a smart device, they’ll be able to scan your QR Code. This means that you won’t have to print your materials in multiple languages. Instead, scanning QR Codes takes users directly to your site, where you can provide more detailed information in multiple languages.

How to market sustainably with QR Codes

You’ll find QR Codes everywhere from bus stops to restaurant tables, and they are as user-friendly as they are ubiquitous. They are an effective way for your company to connect your physical products with digital resources. Here are three ways to use QR Codes to make your marketing campaigns more sustainable.

Reduce waste

Reducing waste is a key component of any environmental sustainability strategy. QR Codes will aid in your company’s waste reduction efforts, particularly when it comes to cutting back on paper products.

If you’re selling a physical product, you can reduce waste by stripping away unnecessary packaging. Instead of using inserts or flyers to share product information, you can place a QR Code on the product’s box linking to a digital user manual. You could even put the QR Code directly on the product itself!

If you provide an in-person service, try using QR Codes instead of handing out printed brochures or flyers. As previously mentioned, you can use QR Codes to replace paper menus in restaurants, bars, or hotels.

In addition to helping you cut back on waste, this approach also creates a better consumer experience. Most consumers will eventually throw away paper marketing materials, so including them can feel like a hindrance rather than a benefit.  Switching to digital marketing materials feels more sophisticated and streamlined.

Waste paper next to a trashcan
Wastepaper beside a trash can. Source: Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels

Transparency about your practices

With the rise of greenwashing, today’s consumers are understandably suspicious of sustainability claims. You’ll need to put your money where your mouth is and prove to your audience that you’re committed to long-term sustainability.

Many consumers already associate QR Codes with sustainability. When they see you use a QR Code on your product label rather than a paper insert, it makes a positive impression. However, this is just a start.

Many brands use QR Codes to share information about their sustainability practices. This practice is catching on in the fashion industry, where many brands are placing QR Codes directly in their clothes. 

Each QR Code leads to a page detailing exactly what materials the clothes are made of, where they came from, and important care and recycling information. The fast fashion industry has come under fire in recent years for its unethical supply chain practices, so this approach helps sustainable brands build trust with their customers.

Another Tomorrow is a clothing brand that pioneered this approach. This luxury fashion brand places a QR Code on the care label of each piece of clothing. Scanning the QR Code takes customers to a webpage with information on the piece’s entire journey.

When taking this approach, honesty is key. Customers want to know exactly where you are in your sustainability journey rather than reading vague platitudes about reducing carbon emissions. Use hard data to back up your sustainability claims, and be transparent about areas where you need to improve. 

QR Code on a merino wool blanket prompting people to scan to learn more
A QR Code on a label offers consumers more information about where its materials come from. Source: QR Code Generator.

Keep customers better informed about their choices

Consumers want to know where their products come from, but many brands don’t provide enough manufacturing information for them to make informed decisions. The use of QR Codes can help you share this information directly with consumers so they can make more informed purchasing decisions.

This approach works across industries. We’ve already discussed the impact of QR Codes in the fashion industry, but QR Codes can also help consumers shop for everything from food to beauty products to electronics.

For example, U.S. brand Princes has incorporated both blockchain technology and QR Codes into its packaging to promote “sustainability storytelling.” With each QR Code scanned, customers will see where their tomatoes were sourced, tracking them through each step of the process.

In the UK, the Sustained Choice app allows users to scan a product’s barcode and get information about its sustainability rating. Wondering where the milk in your coffee came from or if your fruit was shipped from further afield than you’d like? QR Codes can help with that. Adding a QR Code to your products with sustainability information shows customers that you care about both the planet and their experience. 

An array of different organic vegetables
An array of organic vegetables. Source: Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash.

Move sustainable marketing practices forward with QR Codes

Once you’ve developed a sustainability strategy, you’ll need to share that strategy with your customers. QR Codes are an ideal tool for marketers who want to share this important information without creating more paper waste.

QR Code Generator PRO’s Dynamic QR Code options allow you to customize each QR Code and link to everything from websites to social media to PDF downloads. They take just minutes to create and are easy to add directly to your marketing campaigns.

We all want to do our part when it comes to fighting climate change. However, sustainability takes time. Switching to QR Codes is a small change you can make right now for a big impact. 

Try QR Code Generator PRO today to make your marketing efforts more sustainable!

Tobias Funke

Tobias Funke is Bitly’s Vice President of Product. With a background in software engineering, he has a decade of combined experience in product development and the QR Code space. Tobias leads a team that developed one of the most successful and popular QR Code generators available. His entrepreneurial and growth mindset helps build products that continuously disrupt the market. You can connect with Tobias on LinkedIn.

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