With increasing coverage of the environmental and social challenges that we all face as citizens, business or governments, brands can no longer take a back seat in recognizing their impact and contributing towards tackling the critical issues of our time. The opportunity to become part of the solution for those issue(s) most pressing to your industry, not only positions your brand as a thought leader vis-à-vis competitors, but positions your business for longer term sustainability and viability. In doing so, you will also realize that this is not a journey you can take alone, and that creating change and altering the course of ‘business as usual’ takes a cohort working in collaboration to uncover innovative, disruptive opportunities and solutions.
Here are three ways brands are getting together, and rallying others in the private and public sectors, to champion change across three discreet issues: Labor in apparel manufacturing, climate change and infrastructure restoration.
Tackling a Specific Issue: Labor in Apparel Manufacturing
Case Study: Social and Labor Convergence Project
On October 21 2015, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) announced the launch of the Social and Labor Convergence Project ‘with the aim of improving working conditions in the global apparel and footwear manufacturing sector.’ Through a collaborative approach between apparel/footwear brands, such as Nike, H&M, Gap Inc., and Adidas Group, non-profit supply chain experts, auditing firms, and other stakeholders across the entire value chain, the Project will see the development of an industry-wide, standardized methodology for social and labor performance assessment. Facilitated by SAC, a leader in progressing sustainable fashion practices as mainstream business acumen, the Project will see industry supply chain stakeholders join forces and commit to propelling the industry forward through the creation of standardized practices, greater transparency, and shifting the focus from assessment towards performance improvement based on positive social impact.
Tackling a Big Issue: Climate Change
Case Study: We Mean Business
From industry-specific challenges to large-scale, cross-industry issues, we can see the same degree of co-operation with brands and stakeholders coming together to carve out a new, climate conscious future. To tackle climate change, We Mean Business was established as ‘a coalition of organizations working with thousands of the world’s most influential businesses and investors.’ The group champions transitioning to a low carbon economy as an innovation opportunity that will, in the end, benefit people, planet and profits. The coalition is a platform for ‘amplifying the business voice’, inspiring investors and government to play their part in making smart investment decisions or creating smart policy frameworks. With over 250 companies signed on and almost 150 investors, 671 commitments have been made around taking action against climate change. Having been established for just over a year, it is ever more timely with COP 21 taking place in only a couple of weeks.
Tackling a Big Goal: Infrastructure Restoration
Case Study: Caterpillar’s National Summit
In some instances, tackling a large-scale issue, such as infrastructure restoration, starts with the commitment of a leading business to drive change. We see this through Caterpillar’s recent summit, which brought together a broad coalition of stakeholders ‘from engineering, construction and financial sectors, as well as thought leaders from academia, non-government organizations and government officials.’ Hosted on November 4th, the summit brought discussions to light on the need for restoring degraded natural infrastructure. Why Caterpillar? For 90 years, they have built strong relationships with a wide range of infrastructure businesses, which puts them in a unique position to offer insight and direction on this important debate. By providing both science and business cases for restoring natural infrastructure, attendees walk away with tangible metrics for success.
“Caterpillar is taking early action toward the UN sustainable development goals, especially Goal #15, which seeks to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems and halt and reverse land degradation,” said Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation. “It is critically important for corporations such as Caterpillar to engage with diverse partners in developing and driving solutions to these global challenges.”
When considering what social and/or environmental issues your brand should tackle – whether big or small – consider reframing this exploration through the lens of opportunity, collaboration and scalable impact. Here, you may find the prospect of joining a world-class coalition of experts to propel your sustainability mission forward, or you may even uncover the opportunity to lead one.