Sustainability Strategy Alignment
Sustainability Strategy Alignment
What is it and why is it important?
At the corporate level, we have discussed purpose and values and the importance of pulling them through to the brand, employer brand and across the business:
- To align with the refined purpose of a business “to create long-term value for all stakeholders” vs “creating short-term profits for shareholders” of the past
- To attract, retain and engage audiences – employees, customers and stakeholders – who are aligned to the purpose and values
- To ensure that the promises being communicated are consistently delivered to meet expectations at every experience, across the whole business – whether this is the service a customer receives, the quality of the product, how an employee is paid, or the company paying not evading taxes
In particular, the promotion of purpose in advertising has been accused of “woke washing”, where passionate marketers eager to make their jobs more meaningful and less manipulative have jumped on cultural/societal bandwagons without thinking about whether its appealing to customers, credible or can indeed be delivered across the business.
As purpose has grown in importance, as has sustainability, to the extent where they’re often spoken about as one in the same.
At the corporate level, sustainability has grown from corporate social responsibility, community relations and corporate reporting. It was seen as a “must-have” for companies to be seen as good corporate citizens.
For these organisations, one aspect of CSR may have been brought through to the brand in a community “do the right thing” pillar – like Westpac did with their Rescue Helicopter, or Blackmores Running Festival for Cure Cancer.
However, it rarely translated across the business to “do the right thing” for all stakeholders. With banks charging fees to dead customers, telcos selling mobile plans to customers who couldn’t afford them, restaurants underpaying casual employees, maltreatment of employees and whole communities in sweatshops and blood diamonds. All to increase profits for shareholders.
Sustainability has historically been more closely associated with the environment with brands often accused of “greenwashing”:
- On a single brand, overpromising and underdelivering on their environmental promises
- On a single brand, promising environmental care with no care in other aspects such as treatment of employees, squeezing suppliers on costs; or
- In a portfolio scenario, promising sustainability on one or all brands yet not delivering it on at least one brand
Whilst this has been happening, we’ve seen the rise of conscious capitalist organisations and brands that have been built upon purpose and sustainability. Patagonia and Wholefoods have shown how conscious growth is possible and viable, even if somewhat reluctantly. And through his research on “Firms of Endearment”, Rajendra Sisodia demonstrates how such businesses are outperforming the S&P 500 with eight times the returns to investors.
CSR has now evolved to ESG – environmental, social and governance. We’re seeing governance frameworks such as Shared Value and B-Corp and new models such as Doughnut Economics be adopted by organisations. More organisations are aiming towards the Triple bottom line – people, planet and profit – the quadruple bottom line – purpose, people, planet and profit, with some shifts from the idea of profit to prosperity. From do less harm to do more good to net zero to net positive. All shifting the way organisations pursue growth – for the benefit not to detriment of other stakeholders, including customers and employees, partners and suppliers, investors, community and the environment.
Sustainability Strategy Alignment
We’re now living in the decade towards 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, faced with increasing awareness and experience of the gaps in the plan – illness with Covid, the climate crisis and inequality to name a few. Customer, employee and stakeholder demand is increasing for organisations to be responsible. At the same time, as is sustainability savviness – greenwash, woke wash, rainbow wash, at your peril.
Just as its important to pull your purpose and values through to your brand, employer brand and across the business, it is critical for your sustainability strategy:
- To align it with the refined purpose of a business “to create long-term value for all stakeholders” vs creating short-term profits for shareholders
- To identify the key aspects of your sustainability strategy across all dimensions, to pull through to the brand and employer brand
- To ensure that the promises being communicated are consistently delivered to meet expectations at every experience, across the whole business
- To prevent greenwashing and woke washing, know where the gaps are so you don’t overpromise and underdeliver:
- With your brand and employer brand across ESG
- With your brand and employer brand vs 17 UN SDGs
- At the organisation / portfolio level
How we go about it
- Understanding of business, brand, employer brand strategies
- Your vision, purpose and values that align employees, customers and all stakeholders
- Your business, brand and employer brands and value propositions
- The core brand promise and how that’s aligned with the employer brand to deliver the business strategy
- Your current marketing strategy – product, place, price, promotion, people, process and service – that delivers business objectives
- Understand your sustainability strategy
- Business position on sustainability, its role in your business
- Maturity/Stage of adoption vs benchmarks
- Materiality assessment
- Sustainability strategy and priority initiatives across multi-dimensions
- Alignment workshop to determine the relevance of your sustainability strategy to all audiences and how they tangibly pull through to your customer, corporate and employer brand experiences, develop prioritisation for marketing
- Strategy and creative development for the strategic and creative platforms, communications strategy with key messages <=> experience strategy to ensure delivery across the business
Our managing director, Rachel Bevans, developed a keen interest in the different aspects of sustainability in London 15 years ago when she was fortunate to work as a consultant at independent London agencies at the leading edge of sustainability: from a corporate reporting perspective with Radley Yeldar; and from a consumer perspective with Dragon and Blue Marlin. She has worked with organisations such as WSP Engineering, Citygreen, Unilever, TAFE NSW Riverina, SUMO Salad and CareFlight on positioning, value propositions, packaging and communications across environmental, social and workplace pillars.
Rachel is a Certified Sustainability (ESG) Practitioner (CSE) and a member of Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WeAll), New Economies Network Australia (NENA), Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL), Net Positive Community and Not Business As Usual. She has conducted research in this area with conscious leaders and conscious consumers, and written articles about the Wellbeing Economy, Employee Wellbeing and Sustainability Strategy Alignment.
How can we help you?
Please contact us to discuss further what we can do for you.