Over the month of March, we’ve joined our inspiring sustainable business community to celebrate B Corp month with a special focus on this year’s theme – ‘We Go Beyond’. To mark the month, we hosted a programme of roundtables with VPs of marketing and sustainability from some of the world’s leading brands.
Together, we’ve been uncovering some of the major opportunities and challenges marketers are facing while tackling the tough but crucial task of sustainability storytelling, along with ideas for how marketing and sustainability leaders can work together to accelerate their impact and do better together.
What’s blindingly clear is that fast, legitimate decarbonisation is our only option if we want our planet to survive and our businesses to thrive. In the spirit of going beyond, we’re sharing some standout insights from our roundtables to help you to take purposeful business practices and values beyond B Corp month and forward into the age of sustainability.
Better for business
One resounding cry from these discussions was that taking sustainability seriously is now a basic, bare-minimum facet of business survival. At the most fundamental level, without visible positive action, brands in every category represented at our roundtables – from FMCG to travel and leisure – will struggle to attract customers and retain the critical talent they need to stay competitive and keep innovating.
Our purpose-led roundtable participants have the best intentions, but issues are surfacing in their organisations when different team efforts aren’t tying up towards a cohesive effort to do better. That’s why some of our participants expressed the need for sustainability to be infused into the business targets of every role across the entire organisation. When everyone’s ticking the same boxes, brands can make faster, more meaningful progress together.
No such thing as second chances?
As sustainable standards get higher and more widely understood by consumers, brands are bound to screw up – or, quite rightly, have historical screw-ups and hypocrisies exposed. But when facing the question of whether brands with a controversial past can ever start to stand for good in the eyes of conscious consumers, our discussions turned to optimistic examples of how, with authentic, tangible effort, redemption can be possible for brands of any size and legacy.
The key is to respond with speed, and then start putting realistic, long-term strategies for improvement into place. Big brands with challenging legacies to undo were especially emphasised because they have plenty of possible actions to take, and therefore have greater potential for collective impact for good.
To build more empathy and understanding for just how challenging sustainable business transformation is, brands can work to unpack and explain the problem to their consumers, backing up all communications with facts, proof, and assurances that carry audiences along on that journey of improvement.
Making sustainability sell
Consumers are more cost-aware now than they’ve been for a long time, but they also want to be empowered to prioritise sustainable purchasing. It’s the marketer’s mission to demonstrate to consumers how that crucial balance between affordability and sustainability can and should be struck.
One issue that a lot of our roundtable contributors have been tackling is the common conception that buying sustainable products or services means compromising on things like efficacy, luxury, and performance. The lesson here is that while crafting a sustainability story, marketers should never lose sight of what consumers already expect, know, love, and depend on about their brands. It’s all about establishing purpose in ways where consumers can still hear the voice and feel the quality of the brand but can appreciate that it’s been elevated to a new, meaningful level.
Getting the story straight
Telling sustainability stories isn’t just about surviving. To really win in this age of uncertainty, brands need to be admired and advocated for.
One solution for creating these crucial bonds is by listening closely and showcasing through visible actions how consumer needs and anxieties are being responded to. Ultimately, it’s about returning to those essential principles of good persona-based marketing and finding the best ways to talk to audiences with stories that resonate and rally them to change.
The key to converting consumers is educating them and helping them to understand how sustainability can and should apply to their daily decision-making. Messaging has to be clear, specific, and easy to act on. Speaking from experience in the FMCG sector, one of our participants shared that vague messaging and buzzwords (ie. ‘natural’ or ‘organic’) don’t perform well, while more specific claims show the particular desirable benefits of transitioning to sustainable products, which ultimately boosts purchase intent.
Business as usual is tough enough right now, but it’ll only get tougher if businesses don’t work together and do what’s in their power to tackle climate change and influence consumer culture for the better.
To accelerate authentic action across brand operations and communications, marketing leaders need to be able to demonstrate great examples of impact. Talk to us about how working with Brilliant Noise, a B Corp-certified agency, is the best fit to help your brand tell fast and effective sustainability stories.