“Does sustainability sell?”
Recently, this email subject line appeared in our inbox and it didn’t sit right, so we asked ourselves why and a robust discussion ensued.
It’s because it positions sustainability as if it’s only a fiscal decision.
It reduces sustainability to another marketing claim, something that is expected to sell more of something – and therefore only has value if it does.
Something to elevate a brand’s status.
This is the problem.
We have to detach ourselves from the promise of making a sale or building a brand with surface-level “claims” if we’re to really take sustainability seriously and to actually maximise the full potential of operating more sustainably.
The real reason we need to consider sustainability is because:
a) it’s the urgent, moral and responsible action* to take;
b) it presents opportunities to create 360-degree value, which has exponential impact.
(*That’s not virtue signalling btw – it’s science).
It might bring in more revenue via marketing. But that’s not the point.
Being sustainable needs to be because it’s about future-proofing on all levels: economic, social and environmental.
It just makes logical, strategic sense.
When first embarking on strategy, you take a look at all relevant external factors – they may be directly or indirectly relevant – those elements over which you have no control.
These are factors like social trends, economic performance and forecasts, political parties creating policies that impact your company’s operations, regulatory changes from the local through to the international level, technological advancements that may enhance your offer (or bounce it into irrelevance).
Stuff you can’t control, but can get a handle on, plan for, mitigate against, or leverage.
One of those factors is the environment. And the biggest thing happening there actually affects every single other external factor we as organisations should care about.
Increasing temperatures caused by the collapse of our climate will change the way we live. It will affect our housing, health and personal finances.
It will change the way we eat, drink and spend our leisure time. Where and how we holiday.
It will change the way we work. What work can and cannot be done. Decisions we make. The stability, location and safety of our work.
So we, as organisations who sell goods and services to people, need to consider this seriously and strategically. Otherwise, we may as well begin shutdown operations now.
“The countries that build great zero-carbon companies and industries will be the ones who lead the global economy in the coming decades”.Bill Gates, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster
Yes, sustainability will sell. But becoming “sustainable” is so much more than the surface-level marketing opportunity this statement belies. It’s an exciting innovation opportunity too.
Through the strategic process of identifying your organisation’s strengths, weaknesses and capabilities (the internal elements over which you do have control), against those external factors, opportunities will undoubtedly arise.
How could they not?
With new markets emerging to drive the renewable future, there’ll be an abundance of opportunities to explore, with new needs to serve.
What an exciting prospect.
So much more than “what we’ve always known” to find paths to growth amongst. A true breakthrough landscape to explore exciting and unprecedented opportunities.
Leveraging your brand’s inherent strengths and capabilities to become a part of the solution to the greatest challenge the human race has ever faced?
Now that’s the stuff of legacy brand status right there.