The launch of Interbrand’s Best Global Green Brands 2013 has been the catalyst for dialog about how to earn consumer trust and put into action the sustainability goals brands have set for themselves and consumers have come to expect. From The World Innovation Forum to social media conversations to The Corporate Citizenship Summit, some key themes have emerged in those conversations.
As Jez Frampton, Interbrand Global CEO, notes in his introduction to the report, The Sustainable Opportunity, actions speak louder than words, and as the report data indicates, brands are innovating in sustainability. Frampton also points out, “It’s all about striking a balance between performance and perception, and being transparent, open, and honest about the journey (with its occasional stumbles) on the road to sustainability.”
“As our own research shows this year, consumers across markets have a high level of mistrust when it comes to the information that companies provide about their environmental efforts,” Frampton reports. Authenticity has been a key subject in the report and conversations since the launch.
Erika Karp, Managing Director, Head of Global Sector Research, UBS, noted at the Corporate Citizenship Summit, #IBCC13, “We are all drinking from a fire hose. We must be able to distinguish what is noise and what is a signal.” Cathy Benko, Vice Chairman and Managing Principal, Brand, Comms & Corporate Citizenship, Deloitte noted at #IBCC13, “Action is the greatest measure of intent.”
In order to cut through the noise, be authentic and transparent and transform dialog and vision into action, embrace simplicity. As Dominik Prinz, Director, Strategy, Interbrand and panel moderator says, “Whether it is proving the impact in easily understandable ways – eg. FEED: buy one bag, feed 100 children or Causes & AT&T creating a simple online platform to allow people to support “It Can Wait” – people are responding well to CC initiatives if we make it easy for them to participate and understand their contribution.”
Collaboration is critical has been a resounding theme. Cindy Jones-Nyland, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Resource Development, Heifer International, observed at the Summit, “We need collaboration instead of consensus. Charity and philanthropy won't solve the world's problems. Collaboration and dialogue will.”
Gary White, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder, Water.org, speaking at the World Innovation Forum and the Corporate Citizenship Summit observed that for one billion people the water crisis is their current reality. Dan Bena, Senior Director of Sustainable Development, PepsiCo, noted that as the PepsiCo Foundation partners with organizations like Water.org, the time for brands to come together to do good with NGOs and nonprofits is now.
Organizations like Save the Children have benefited from working with corporate partners, for example both PepsiCo Foundation and Coca-Cola. Collaboration and innovative approaches to those partnerships has allowed Water.org to provide 765,000 people access to clean water through water credit.
As Lauren Bush Lauren, CEO, Creative Director, and Co-Founder, FEED Projects and Maria Dempsey, Executive Vice President, Marketing at Clarins USA, said at the Summit, “In partnering with FEED, Clarins created a ‘gift with purpose’ program instead of a ‘gift with purchase’ program.” Dempsey added, “Do good, do better and enjoying doing so.”
Ultimately, as Erika Karp said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest path to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Paula Roberts, Executive Vice President, Plan International Canada, said, “The basis of brand = mission, vision & values. Transparency is non-negotiable.”
Amy Edel-Vaughn is Interbrand's Community Manager.