Playbook: How brands can get green(er)
9 Nov 2021
Welcome to our Playbook series. Because let’s face it – whether you’re launching your first (or fifth) brand, you’ve always got something to learn.
For our first edition, we’re tackling the sticky subject of sustainability, and taking a look at how brands can get brutally honest with themselves and their customers.
People are more concerned than ever about the environmental impact and ethical standards of the brands they shop from. They set a high bar for independents in particular – which are perceived as more responsible than the bigger players.
“If a company engages in sustainable practices, we take that as a positive signal that its products are of good quality. This is because we believe that a firm that cares about ethical issues is also ethically motivated to sell good quality products,” wrote marketer Thomas McKinlay.
So how do you talk the talk, and walk the walk?
Let’s look at the stats:
• 100% of businesses surveyed by the World Economic Forum have made sustainability a priority, but only 21% are on track “to deliver on their commitments”.
• 80% of global consumers believe that brands must be transparent about their climate impact.
“Sustainability, transparency, and responsible production are buzzwords that make reality,” wrote brand strategist Ana Andjelic. “They are tightly paired with the modern affluent consumers’ aspiration of doing good through their actions”.
THE THREE POINT PLAN
1. Know your weaknesses. Audit your environmental impact.
We get it. Calculating your carbon footprint can be costly and time-intensive.
The good news is there are some free and legit resources to tap into – like carbon accounting engine Normative’s Industry CO₂ Insights tool, developed by Normative with the support from Google.org and available through the UN-backed SME Climate Hub.
“The release of the insights tool is the first step in releasing a free accounting software that automates emission calculations and provides insights and guidance to companies on how to get to net zero,” said Kristian Rönn, co-founder and CEO of Normative. “The tool is available for all SMEs of any size and location, but what they are committing to is halving emissions before 2030, reaching net zero before 2050 and disclosing their progress on an annual basis”.
2. Start small. (And make it clear who in your company is responsible for getting what done).
Procrastination is a feature of human nature, and it gets worse with a longer list. Start somewhere, and start small.
“[Brands] can focus on sustainable materials – so they can source an organic or better material, and just plug that into their same business model… look into operations and business impact to offer better transparency around manufacturing processes,” said Yael Aflalo, founder of Reformation. “Hold your business accountable to start making changes”.
But no plan of action is worth its salt without clear ownership of its items. So – however you want to call it – assign, delegate, and sync on the regular.
3. Own your triumphs, and mistakes.
Hats off to glasses brand Ace & Tate for giving new meaning to an “open” letter. Their recent missive detailed their “bad moves” during their quest for B CORP certification. “We f*cked up. We’re not where we want to be… but we’re learning”.
“Brands are admitting their flaws and eschewing the ‘sustainable’ label in a bid to build consumer trust and forgiveness. It’s radical transparency pushed further,” reported Vogue Business.
Speaking of labels – packaging can be a missed opportunity when it comes to broadcasting your credentials, especially ones certified by trusted third parties.
Be aware of your impact, and transparent about what you’re doing to address it. If you’re working towards targets you haven’t quite hit, talk about – but don’t gloss over – it. You’ll inevitably get called out for greenwashing, and social media travels fast.
We may have all learned it in nursery school, but honesty = the best policy.