Building brands in a changing society

Why the Planet Matters to Marketers

Consumers expect it; competitors are getting an advantage from it; brand loyalty may depend on it. These are just a few of the many reasons why sustainability needs a place on the marketer’s agenda, according to the Canadian Marketing Association’s latest leadership paper.

While taking responsibility for the environmental, social and economic costs of doing business has become a mainstream concept, many marketers are still struggling to find a home for sustainability issues within their strategies.

“Sustainability: Why the Marketing Needs to be Firmly Rooted in the Movement” explains why tackling corporate citizenship issues is an imperative for marketers and provides guidance on how to integrate sustainability across an organization. The 22-page CMA publication was co-authored by Weber Shandwick, the Sustainability Learning CentreThe Packaging Association and me, and includes case studies about leading brands Coca-ColaTim Hortons and RBC.

In an era of sustainability, an organization’s success rests on the ability of its workforce to embrace new “green” competencies, including becoming knowledgeable about carbon and water footprinting, product life cycle assessment, stakeholder engagement processes and more. Marketing personnel are no exception. Kathryn Cooper, President of the Sustainability Learning Centre, argues that marketers need to be “re-skilled” so that they’re equipped to hold conversations about sustainability as part of everyday brand management.

The ability to have these conversations is particularly important given the pressures that marketers face. As James Downham, President of The Packaging Association notes, where once consumers took it for granted that products arrive in the home highly packaged, they are now demanding reduced and recyclable packaging. Meanwhile, governments are increasingly legislating “you make it, you own it” policies, putting the onus on brands to take responsibility for what happens to packaging once it leaves the consumer’s hands.

For brands that are ready to share their sustainability initiatives with the public, Paul Massey and François Taschereau of Weber Shandwick stress the rising importance of leveraging social media channels. Social media has become the primary platform for consumers to hold brands accountable for their actions and inactions relating to global and local issues. This makes social media into an indispensible tool for telling compelling stories about a brand’s sustainability activities and inviting stakeholder engagement.

The leadership paper is available for download here. The webinar will be held on August 21, 2012.

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