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The importance of building sustainable brands

13 April 2022 4 min read

Today, consumers prefer brands with clear corporate social responsibility values. This is because consumers buy from brands that align with their values. Supporting brands that create shared value and make sustainable choices bring personal satisfaction.

When it comes to businesses’ environmental and social commitments, consumers in emerging markets in Asia and Africa tend to be most demanding. Across 25 markets surveyed in a Global Trends 2021 report, 63% of respondents expressed that it is more important for companies to do something about fighting climate change than pay their fair taxes. Goes to show the importance of sustainability branding. On societal issues, 90% of respondents in the Philippines and Singapore want businesses to have a stance on social topics relevant in their countries.

As corporates seek to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world, sustainability branding has a role to play. Brands endure only by building the capacity for sustainability. They must do good for their societies and environments.

How can companies achieve this?

The idea of sustainability branding as a concept may seem contentious. For some, it carries connotations of ‘greenwashing’ (providing a false impression that the brand is environmental when it’s unsubstantiated). However, just as strategic branding involves far more than logos and taglines, sustainability branding involves embedding robust sustainability strategies into businesses guided by brand purpose. Aligning brands to create shared value through substantive actions and initiatives is about impacting beyond surface-level communications.

Traditionally a brand is seen simply as a logo and a set of graphic elements. As such it is often left to the corporate communications or marketing department to manage these visual assets. A more holistic and strategic perspective of branding involves unifying the entire organisation through a shared purpose. This involves not just marketing and communication teams, but strategic planning functions, innovation experts, human resource departments, and sustainability champions.

Leveraging a brand’s purpose can help build and nurture an organisational culture of sustainability. This strategy inspires both internal and external audiences to play an active part in a company’s sustainability journey. Over time, this can change behaviours, create pathways to innovation, and help future-proof brands.

One opportunity is to think about making sustainability real for people beyond compliance or mere lip service. This involves creating and designing experiences that bring a brand’s purpose and sustainability strategy to life. Brands could co-create omnichannel experiences that focus on the right issues. That makes them relevant, meaningful, and engaging (Alldredge et al., 2021).

Brands can become advocates for a better future

Brands should implement real actionable programmes. By driving shared value across all stakeholders, you would be delivering real results that make a difference to our world. It also makes good business sense to become sustainable since customers are expecting more from the brands they support. The first step is to listen to what your customers demand and support sustainable actions that would help rally potential patrons to your cause.

Alldredge, K., Jacobs, J., Teichner, W. 2021. Great Expectations: Navigating challenging stakeholder expectations of brands. McKinsey & Company. Source.
2021, November. Global Trends 2021: Aftershocks and continuity. Ipsos. ISIN: FR0000073298.

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