If your business isn’t thinking about its purpose, social impact, or why it exists outside of making a profit – you should be, or face being left behind. For the last year social justice / injustices have been brought to the fore. From the BLM protests, the pandemic, to the climate crises, the way society operates has been under scrutiny.
The businesses that have addressed these issues have by and large come out on top. Long gone are the days of empty brand gestures – like a rainbow on a label, instead businesses are required to actively transform and play their part in making society more sustainable.
Industry Today says that “more than 90 percent of CEOs state that sustainability is important to their company’s success,” and in order for this success, “companies need to develop sustainability strategies, market sustainable products and services, create positions such as chief sustainability officer, and publish sustainability reports for consumers, investors, activists, and the public at large.”
What is a sustainable brand?
Ultimately a sustainable brand is one that has successfully integrated environmental, economic, and social issues into its business model. The push to be more eco-friendly is in full swing across the business world. According to HSBC’s Made for the Future report, almost half of UK companies are planning to increase their environment-related spending in the next few years.
Becoming a B Corp company is fast becoming the badge of honour companies and consumers are looking for. Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. However, businesses need to understand that doing the right thing will come at a financial cost.
Katie Leggett, sustainability manager at innocent drinks, says: “It’s the truth that we’re often charged more to purchase products that have embedded purpose. The benefit to the business may not be short term but may instead be for the planet, and the knock-on impact associated with that…. We vote for the world we live in with the products we buy, and people are starting to vote for products that consider the environment and society as they’re being made.”
How consumers are driving the change
We know that people are moving away from fast fashion, buy-now throw away later culture. Consumers are focusing more attention on brands that are more ethical and environmental. As a result of this, bands need to demonstrate their sustainability policies through their product offering and marketing.
However, a word of caution. In recent years we’ve seen many brands proclaiming to be following a greener practice as a way of enticing consumers. Often called ‘greenwashing’, even large businesses like Coke have come under fire. Greenwashing is a term that describes practises that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.
Lead by example
Instead businesses need to figure out their place in the wider-world and how they can make a positive impact on society as a whole. Of course, once your brand has figured out this new ethos, it’s imperative that brands display this the right way. The way they’re presented online, their offline marketing, and of course the products or services they provide.
There’s no shortage of companies who have paved the way to a greener future, from travel to luxury goods.
Simply put, sustainability is a business approach that will create long-term value for both your business and society. As the expectations on business responsibility increases from both consumers and governments, businesses will need to become more transparent in their practises. Good customer relations and good intentions are no longer good enough.
The time to change starts now.