Not business as usual. How brands can actively rally behind the climate change cause.

Not business as usual. How brands can actively rally behind the climate change cause.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019 10:02

On 20 September 2019, Strike4Climate occurred across the globe. It was reported that over 6 million people worldwide, including over 300,000 people in Australia attended the strike.

This global strike movement is one of the largest ever seen across the world since the protests against the Iraq war in 2003, but it wasn’t just the sheer number of people that caught everyone’s attention, but also the vast number of organisations and brands that backed the cause.

To name a few, Patagonia, Ben&Jerry, Lush and Greenpeace were just some of the companies to align their brands with the cause, dedicating full pages on their websites to show their support. In an unprecedented alliance started by Australian company Future Super, together with Atlassian and KeepCup, called This is not Business as Usual, companies came together to pledge their support for worker participation in the climate strike. In just over a week, more than 2,800 companies across the nation joined the pledge.

This kind of support and public display of brand purpose is becoming more common among successful brands. There have been many that have led the way, and now others are redefining themselves with clear purpose and focus.

In fact, the heat from climate change is becoming a reality that brands cannot ignore. The pressure for businesses to act responsibly is stronger than ever - consumers are moving to support brands that take a stand. The pressure is coming thick and fast, not solely from consumers but also from regulators, employees, investors and shareholders.

Brands now need to be seen as responsible global citizens. A recent Garner report stated that “Employees, in particular, millennials are seeking to have a socially meaningful impact through work that aligns with their own values.”

The global market research company, Forrester has reported on the impact of climate change and how it is altering the world of business.

“Today, consumers explicitly consider factors such as company values and commitment to certain causes or beliefs when choosing brands to associate with or products to buy.”

Source: Forrester

There is definitely a recipe for success when it comes to the brands positively presenting themselves as a champion for climate change action. Brands must practice what they preach - they cannot simply advertise the fact. Brands must articulate their values throughout their brand strategy, brand story and communications.

In a previous blog, we highlighted some brands who are successfully incorporating sustainability into their brand values. These included:

  1. IceBreaker. Not only are their products living up to their promise, but they also commit to sustainable agriculture. They use merino wool from New Zealand and promise that the wool can be traced back to the farm it came from. They have created a sustainable business model that is built to support the farmers and is based on genuine trust and mutual concern for animal welfare and protection of the natural environment.
  2. Le Creuset. Quality and longevity of the product is what makes this brand stand out from a sustainability viewpoint. For almost 100 years, their brand promise has come with a lifetime warranty with a focus on building products that last, rather than throw-away short-lifecycle products.
  3. Who Gives A Crap toilet paper. Not only is the product and packaging made from environmentally friendly material, but the company also donates 50% of its profits to help build toilets for those in need.
  4. Sukin is an Australian, all-natural skincare brand. Their promise is - “what we leave out is what makes us special.” Their products are made of all-natural ingredients and no chemicals. 

The questions being asked, what does it mean to be sustainable; what do brands need to do in order to ensure consumers trust and value their contribution to environmental causes, in order to support them? Brands need to look at all angles, consider all options and put the planet on their agenda.

Business Insider recently interviewed four Australian brands who are weaving sustainability into their values in unique ways that resonate with their brand positioning. One example listed was Future Super.

“We won’t invest super into coal, oil or gas — leading sources of climate change — as well as any banks that finance fossil fuels, and companies that provide polluters with essential services,”
Kirstin Hunter, Managing Director of Future Super.

Many brands are coming up with unique ways to incorporate sustainability in their brand. Some of the initiatives that brands are committing to include:

1. Eliminating single-use plastics
2. Recycling programs in the workplace
3. Investing in biodegradable and earth-friendly packaging
4. Eliminating the use of chemicals in the workplace or in production processes
5. Reducing energy and water consumption
6. Ensuring environmentally friendly waste management systems
7. Measuring carbon footprint and offsetting carbon
8. Developing a climate action plan
9. Setting emissions targets
10. Initiating corporate social responsibility programs

This list is not exhaustive; ideally brands need to find the right initiative that will fit within their brand narrative - and be authentically and honestly executed. If companies fear that implementing these sustainability initiatives is going to be costly and impact negatively on their bottom line - they need to think of the alternative, and that is that climate change will damage economies, reduce the availability of finite resources and increase the cost of doing business. So it is for both business and humanitarian reasons, that companies of all sizes take action.

The below model graphically depicts the relationship between sustainability and profit. When implemented well, it will have a positive effect on market share and profits.

Sustainability Profit Relationship Model

 

 

Source: Sustainability-Profitability Relationship Model

Climate action offers companies the chance to connect with consumers in a way that demonstrates a common goal. It provides an opportunity for brands to weave this message into their brand story and communications.

It is not only customers who will support brands who actively and authentically weave sustainability into their values. This year's Edelman's Trust Barometer showed us how employees are relying more and more on their employers to lead the way on social responsibility, and with this comes the power to act on important political issues, such as the environment and its preservation. Brand purpose and aligning your brand to employees' values is becoming increasingly more important in winning the war on talent.

It is undeniably evident that brands have the power to move individuals towards positive change, in fact, some of the most successful brands have even managed to start the movement. Consumers will choose a brand they resonate with, a brand they feel represents their views. BrandMatters specialises in brand strategy; finding the right approach to incorporating sustainability into your brand strategy is imperative, and this is something we can help you uncover.

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Additional resources on this subject:

https://www.notbusinessasusual.co/

http://theconversation.com/climate-change-focusing-on-how-individuals-can-help-is-very-convenient-for-corporations-108546

https://www.adnews.com.au/news/the-climate-games-the-advertising-industry-pressured-from-all-directions#Cbz4yusgzhL6TxfT.99

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/body-shop-issues-call-action-160400989.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/simonmainwaring/2018/10/25/why-and-how-business-must-tackle-climate-change-now/#a945d064712b

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/4-aussie-businesses-share-what-theyre-doing-to-fight-climate-change-on-a-day-to-day-basis-2019-9

 

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