One clear path to improved relevance and differentiation for brands lies in embedding sustainability into their business such that it generates value for the entire organisation. Creating shared value through sustainability can establish differentiation in your brand. This can influence stakeholders internally and externally, from customers and employees to investors and the community.
However, the challenge ahead is twofold: firstly, how do you decide what strategy to focus on and how do you know this will create value for your organisation, build your brand, and enhance your culture? How do you make your business case?
Secondly, once you know what to focus on, how do you align all stakeholders around a single vision that embraces sustainability values at the core of your business strategy and culture?
One prerequisite for success is that the decision to pursue sustainability strategy as a source of differentiation, along with the vision for achieving that goal, must come from the top. If a business compartmentalises this thinking, the impact will be limited at best.
Another prerequisite for success is ensuring that shared value for all stakeholders is a whole company initiative. Internally, everyone must understand it, and everyone must be made a stakeholder in delivering it in practice across and beyond the organisation. Most of the ideas and innovation required to make this happen will come from your teams if they are appropriately engaged and empowered to make the change.
Melco: Above and beyond.
Our client, Melco Resorts & Entertainment (“Melco”) did just this.
Driven by their CEO and leadership team, through to their people on the resort floor and their supply chain, they committed to making genuine contributions through their business. They wanted to RISE to go Above & Beyond for society and the environment. In doing so at every opportunity, they are building their brand and business in the process.
Melco decided to incorporate sustainability into the heart of their guest experience. A truly holistic sustainability strategy will touch almost every part of an organisation. This created opportunities to demonstrate their commitment to improving society and the environment, by creating unique moments and experiences for their guests and colleagues that touch on these important issues.
These moments can be viewed as authentic demonstrations of how Melco is innovating and solving systemic issues within the context of their business model and footprint.
They brought their guests inside the fold, seamlessly highlighting their commitment sustainability through their properties, food, service, and experiences—at all guest touchpoints. Guests can experience their innovative recycling solutions, their sustainably sourced food and sustainable buildings, and the culture of the place they are visiting. For example, icons on Melco’s menus highlight vegetarian and sustainable seafood. A Green Monday initiative promotes vegetarian and vegan dishes to colleagues and guests alike. Melco is also the first integrated resort to commit to globally installing a water purification and bottling solution to eliminate the production, transportation, and disposal of plastic bottles. Through these projects, Melco usher stakeholders on a journey towards sustainable consumption.
These genuine and positive experiences influence how Melco’s guests feel about their consumption choices. They feel better about staying with Melco, reassured that every dollar spent is doing some good, encouraging them to keep spending and to return.
Stop doing things the old way.
No business wants to be boxed in by rules or governmental compliance forced upon them. Nevertheless, leaders cannot ignore urgent risks to our world. While adherence to sustainability reporting and compliance is a good start, it is a cost of doing business, not a means to achieve long-term value creation and differentiation.
Like Melco, leaders should consider how to go above and beyond the bare minimum to protect our society and environment; addressing sustainability challenges head-on with measurable action will pay dividends in terms of staff retention, customer loyalty, premiums, and profit.
Every company will need to formulate their own response to how they will leverage sustainability as a source of differentiation, whilst remaining relevant and competitive in their own space.
Place sustainability at the heart of the brand.
To enhance value creation and sustain commercial success, clear roadmaps are required with goals, targets, and initiatives designed to place sustainability at the heart of businesses.
It is essential that these strategies are backed by real actions—programmes, and initiatives, that are measurable. These strategies and actions need to be communicated clearly in ways that are engaging, where all stakeholders understand and recognise the value they provide.
Through constant monitoring, strategy adaptation and innovation, and attention and care to make sustainability a shared responsibility, your sustainable brand strategy could be your differentiator.