Brand and Sustainability – A strategic imperative

February 13, 2023
B2B Financial Services Brand strategy Marketing communications

It’s no longer an option for brands to ignore sustainability. Consumers are demanding brands step up and prove they are authentically determined to prioritise planet alongside profit. It is not just consumers demanding this, but employees and investors are also prioritising sustainability when they make choices as to who to work for, or who to invest in.

Sustainability needs to be considered whether your brand is a new brand or well-established. Many of the world’s largest organisations are driving sustainability in their strategic goals, through a number of initiatives and ambitious target setting.

Brand action on sustainability

Brands can bring sustainability into their strategy in a range of ways. Some of these actions include:

  • Lead by example, internally and externally
  • Create products with less packaging
  • Invest in recycled packaging
  • Use natural, organic ingredients
  • Introduce eco-friendly options that are more affordable
  • Insist on sustainable practices within supply chains
  • Set emissions targets and put in place action plans to achieve sustainability targets
  • Focus on reducing waste (reuse, recycle, repair)
  • Minimise pollution
  • Offset carbon
  • Contribute to environmental causes
  • Be vocal in supporting sustainable initiatives
  • Invest in local production options where possible
  • Use and invest in renewable energy and technology
  • Partner with organisations who can help with your brand achieving sustainability targets
  • Educate consumers on how to be more sustainable

One thing is certain, brands will not survive if they continue with business as usual if that doesn’t address sustainability in some way. Even if we put a fraction of the effort that went into tackling COVID-19 into addressing climate change, we will be in great shape for a greener future.

Consumers demand sustainability

Consumers have the power to choose sustainable options, but brands need to build trust and prove their commitment through action. They must practice what they preach. It can be confusing for consumers, especially with the amount of greenwashing that has already started to take place. Government and regulatory bodies are cracking down on greenwashing in advertising, organisations such as B Corp are creating strict certification criteria for companies to adhere to which is one way for brands to build consumer confidence.

Brands need to highlight their sustainable values in their marketing communications but also hold themselves accountable.

For brands, the challenge of sustainable transformation is balancing the profitability and day to day operations of business as usual with making the necessary changes to reach sustainability goals. Some sectors and industries will find it more challenging than others. But every step and action does count and every day we are reminded of the urgency to act.

At the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, targets and agreements were signed, however consumers were left wondering if they went far enough?

The agenda had all the right intentions – cutting our reliance on coal, oil, and gas, reversing deforestation, and mitigating against greenhouse gases. Greta Thunberg and other prominent climate activists say it was a failure and that agreements made by world leaders were not enough to tackle the climate crisis we are facing.

The sustainability journey for brands

Some brands, large and small are already leading the way in their industries while others are not sure where to start. The first step is to set goals and understand the concerns and perception of your brand in the eyes of consumers. Brand research can give your organisation a clear understanding of what your customers expect and enable you to set out plans to achieve this.

A great example is Bank Australia. Their ‘clean money’ policy promises their investments will only focus on planet positive initiatives such as clean energy, sustainable investments, not-for-profit and community. They have promised not to invest in fossil fuels, live animal exports, the arms industry or gambling and tobacco.

The good news is that every industry is taking responsibility for reducing emissions and planning their path to net zero. Even leading players within the mining industry such as BHP and Rio Tinto have agreed upon reaching the net zero goal by 2050. The hope is that they stick to this and with continued pressure from government, investors and consumers will achieve this sooner and build upon this commitment with other opportunities such as moving away from coal and into renewables.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed consumer behaviours and attitudes around the globe at such a rapid pace, brands must take the time to understand their customers and clients new context. Brands need to question everything they thought they knew about their customers, as well as how much customers know about them. That includes what they do and how they do it.

Brands who act now will reap the rewards

Brands proactively changing to sustainable strategies will reap the benefits of this new context. It is now a strategic imperative for brands to be sustainable because consumers are expecting it.
So how will your brand prioritise sustainability? BrandMatters can tailor a research approach that will uncover the expectations of your core clients so that you can ensure your strategy aligns with what is most important to your customers and what will set you apart from your competitors.

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