Christian Happi, a professor of molecular biology and genomics, and one of Africa’s leading scientists recently sat for a Lunch with the FT, one particular comment of his has stayed with me: “It’s only when we all have purpose that we can actually change the narrative”. Today, brands and businesses are re-framing their purpose through an Environmental Social Governance (ESG) lens, with consumers increasingly driven by a narrative of sustainability.
How brands and businesses engage with consumers who have a new degree of demands will determine the long-term success of that business. So, what do those demands look like?
Consumers are looking beyond tangible products and instead want to understand the company they engage with. Specifically, what is its mission and purpose, how, if at all, is it adding to our society? They want to ensure the money they spend is going toward something they believe in and importantly, that it is representative of their core beliefs and values.
There are four key concepts I believe consumers increasingly consider when engaging with a company:
Bill Gates has been busy putting pen to paper over the last year. Using the Financial Times as a platform to announce his green manifesto and new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, he addresses how governments, non-profits and businesses can make a practical difference in reducing greenhouse emissions. Through quality storytelling and authenticity, I believe successful brands and businesses will be able to engage consumers on the individual difference they can make through small scale activity.
Take the issue of fishing and sustainability. There is a common goal to create a more sustainable food system. Healthy fish stocks contribute to a healthy marine environment and the ocean’s capacity to cope with climate change. Business Henderson to Home sells and delivers day boat fish from Brixham fisherman to UK consumers, with each purchase supporting the fisherman. The business is sharp to show the provenance of the product and emphasises the sustainability and transparency of the supply chain.
If fish isn’t for you, how about denim. Swedish company Nudie Jeans is a leading sustainable denim brand and member of the Fair Wear Foundation. In 2019 they repaired 63,281 pairs of jeans, a free service when you buy their jeans, and collected 11,573 pairs. This means they saved 50,000 kilos of textile waste just by repairing jeans.
These are just two examples of how companies have responded to address key issues of sustainability to meet the demands of the individual discerning consumer and ensure long term success of their brand.
The task of defining purpose cannot be achieved overnight, brands and businesses must tread a fine line to reposition values based on purpose and sustainability, whilst maintaining authenticity. The Government is doing its part to create and lead on the narrative of sustainability. Over the past decade, the UK has cut carbon emissions by more than any similar developed country and was the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions by 2050. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to announce the launch of the world’s first sovereign green savings bond at the latest Budget, allowing savers to invest in clean transport and renewable energy projects.
We’ve attempted a smorgasbord of 30 second snippets, stories and explanations around sustainability. It’s not exhaustive - more Yoda’s little finger than Yoda. But it is, we hope, a semi-useful guide to the story, meaning and context around COP26 and what matters in the next few years.
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