Sustainability: Maximize the Power of Brand

tall+trees+looking+up.png
It's the behaviour of your company and its people that form your reputation, and your reputation is your brand
– Dave Allen, CEO, Enterprise IG (global brand agency)

Sustainability can be a powerful market differentiator for a company. Having a green consciousness gives clarity to your company’s vision and values, making a strong statement that people identify with and appreciate.

Sustainability Increases Brand Value – thereby Generating Demand

You do have a choice, a clear choice. You can remain stuck in the yesterday-thinking of “value”, “cost-effectiveness”, “quality”, and “performance”.  Or you go can further, connecting your company’s “what”, “how“, and “why” to the needs and desires of your clients, potential future clients, and the larger world.

Brands with purpose are increasingly the norm.  While social responsibility and sustainability might have seemed like nice to-dos just a few years ago, business practices that demonstrate these values is now increasingly expected. Companies that don’t actively engage in important issues will get left behind in today’s world of evolving priorities.

Sustainability is an opportunity to cash-in as a leader. If your company can make the transition from passive observer to thought-leader, there is the potential for a tremendous upside.

Recent history in the corporate world has some interesting lessons in this regard. Honda increased sales in their ground-breaking fuel-efficient cars when other manufacturers were struggling in the mid-2000s. GE saw an increase in its brand value by more than $6 billion when was launched by then-CEO, Jeffrey Immelt.

Specific to the A\E\C industry, there are also some current day lessons to be learned from analyzing aspects of successful firms. In Architect Magazine’s 2014 rankings, each of the top five firms also ranks in the top 10 for sustainability. Perhaps more interesting, in the top 10 firms based on business rank, all but three also rank in the top 10 for sustainability

Yesterday’s brands were about quality and safety, today’s brands are about identity, and tomorrow’s brands will be about society - Coca-Cola’s Tom Forge

Types of Sustainability Brands

It’s important to understand where you company places along the sustainability continuum.  From there, you can chart a course of improvement to fully realize the benefits of sustainability

Recently, Verdantix published Rethinking Sustainability: Brand Risks and Opportunities, which identifies five very interesting archetypes of how companies communicate about sustainability.

  • Purists make sustainability synonymous with the corporate brand, (eg. Patagonia)
  • Explorers integrate sustainability into the corporate brand, aim for a wide audience, and embed sustainability in their business-as-usual communications, (eg. IBM and GE)
  • Advocates have active sustainability communications that are distinct from their normal corporate communication, (eg. McDonalds and Samsung). Most companies fit into this category.
  • Reactionists are firms who take a more passive approach to sustainability and mention it mainly in reaction to crises.
  • Nothingists, as the name suggests, do not communicate about sustainability at all.

Where does your company fall into the spectrum?


Sources

Rethinking Sustainability- Brand Risks and Opportunities: Verdantix
Sustainability and its Impact on Brand: Environmental Leader

Julia Craighill

Ensight Consulting, 6911 Maple Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD, 20815