How Brands And Consumers Build A Sustainable Future

A study by Mckinsey and the CECP, Shaping the Future: Solving Social Problems through Business Strategy,  lays out four alternatives for our future:

1. Corporations respond to expectations for greater social responsibility and government allows corporations to voluntarily meet these expectations.

2. Corporations try to adopt socially responsible practices but customers don’t trust them, so government and NGO’s stop partnering with them creating bifurcated capitalism.

3. Companies refuse to work for global change, forcing government regulations and adding to expenses and fuelling customer distrust.

4. Society and corporations cannot match expectations, creating a downward spiral of social responsibility plus economic, environmental and social decline.

In the video above, We First Founder and CCO, Simon Mainwaring, discusses how these four versions of the future presume that we want a better world and that we want the private sector to play a role- but positive outcomes will not come unless business makes authentic commitments and embraces collaboration with both consumers and other industry partners.


Brands cannot survive in societies that fail

Caring about the future of society and the planet is key to the future of business. After all, if there is no middle class to buy your products you won’t have a business. If the infrastructure of society collapses, you won’t even be able to conduct business for long. Based on this realization, what does this mean for marketers?

1. Remember that old adage, If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem? Well, if your company is not responding to the crises of the world we actually live in, your brand will be viewed as a destructive force.

2. As the data continues to show, consumers expect brands to be more responsible and are extremely aware of the power they have with brands because of consumer activism.

We can build a better world and build our business

We live in a mutually dependent global marketplace and the best brands are rising up to lead cultural conversations and even partner with other brands. In return, these smart companies reap the benefits of purposeful marketing and engagement including:

1. Clarity of business strategy

2. Employee retention, satisfaction, and productivity

3. Consumer goodwill, loyalty, and profits

4. Brand awareness, PR, and community engagement

For example, according to the Stengel 50, a study done with over 50,000 brands over ten years, establishes a cause and effect relationship between a brand’s ability to serve a higher purpose and its financial performance. Notably, investment in these 50 companies over the past decade would have been 400% more profitable than an investment in the S&P 500.

The Stengel 50: Sustainability MatterSmart brands embrace purpose

Some examples of brands that have listened include Yoplait, with its Save Lids to Save Lives initiative to raise donations for breast cancer; Starbucks’ Shared Planet proposition, a commitment to only give consumers ethically and responsible grown coffee; and Pampers’ partnership with UNICEF for 1 pack = 1 vaccine to help eliminate maternal and newborn tetanus, a preventable disease that has taken many lives of newborns and many others.

Sustainability now is no longer dismissed as merely good intentions, but is now properly recognized as key business driver that has mass impact. And with fast moving social technology on our side, the cultural conversation around holistic sustainability and what citizens expect from business will only intensify. 

For two days of hands-on training on how to define, frame, and share a purposeful brand story and build out your own 2015 Social Branding Blueprint™ based on the latest marketing research and case studies, join us Oct 7-8 at the 2014 We First Brand Leadership Summit.