Policy inertia on sustainability is creating an opportunity for Australian brands and businesses to fill the void and create their own action plan, according to leading brand experts.
Speaking at the inaugural ‘Brand Sustainable’ event last week, Landor’s executive strategy director Daye Moffitt (main photo) said Australian consumers are increasingly looking for leadership on sustainability, and often finding it amongst our leading brands rather than just government. However, she cautioned that brands need to take meaningful action and lead their categories – while being careful with their approach.
“The more ‘traditional’ approach that brands have taken toward sustainability is no longer enough,” she said. “In the face of this extreme challenge, brands need to take dramatically different action in relation to sustainability to what has gone before.”
As she explains, this is because sustainability as a brand has its own issues: “Sustainability as a concept and a brand of its own still doesn’t target the masses,” she said. “The election results from earlier this year paint a pretty clear picture, with not enough people voting for parties with a clear climate stance. We shouldn’t be surprised given that sustainability itself has some work to appeal to a broad audience.”
Moffitt said the way that some sustainable products are marketed contributes to this lack of appeal, with close to 60 per cent of consumers believing sustainable products feel less luxury and more ‘hippy’. However, 64 per cent of consumers would be willing to pay a premium for environmentally friendly products and services if they were branded or positioned in an appealing way.
To overcome these perceptions brands need to break conventions and broaden appeal beyond the traditional ‘green’ consumer. They also need to ensure if they tackle sustainability in their products or brand position, they are wary of some pitfalls.
The ‘Brand Sustainable’ event, hosted by brand consultancy Landor, brought together a panel of experts from across industries to discuss what organisations can and should be doing to drive meaningful action. Following Moffitt’s key presentation, Nick Foley, Landor’s President of SEAPJ hosted an eclectic panel which included Andrew Parker, QANTAS Group Executive Government Industry, International and Sustainability; Liz McNamara, Coca-Cola Amatil, Group Director Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability; George Sabados, Co-Founder and Director, Clean Oceans Australia; plus Simon Ray, Founder of Powerfy, energy and sustainability consultancy.
Foley said research clearly shows that consumers are hungry for leadership in the area, and ready to see it taken by business as much as governments.
Leadership was a recurring theme in the panel discussion, with everyone aligned on the importance of change being driven from the top in order to engage investors, employees and consumers. With all audiences increasingly demanding a different approach, organisations that will be successful are those that embed sustainability into their business purpose, and be the leaders of change in their categories, and their country.
Embracing the passion of both consumers and employees is vital to success was also a common theme. McNamara and Parker shared examples of both consumer-led and employee driven initiatives that have led to Amatil’s 100 per cent recycled bottle and Qantas’ Zero Waste Flight initiatives.
Foley summarised: “While we may not hear much about major global accords like the Paris Climate Agreement or the Kyoto Protocol anymore, the concern about climate change, and the desire to create a more sustainable planet, is still clearly apparent among Australian consumers, with 92% trying to live more sustainably,” he said.
“Whilst tailoring a brand’s position towards sustainability is not without its challenges, in the current environment there are a growing number of savvy marketers that are making the transition and becoming more distinctive in the process. For those marketers that have portfolios that can genuinely adapt to a cleaner future, there’s a growing audience waiting for greener solutions.”
Foley pointed to an additional range of companies and brands that have announced initiatives of their own choice as examples, including:
- Kellogg’s which has moved to make its Botany Bay factory fully powered by solar energy
- PTV (Public Transport Victoria) ensuring its entire Melbourne tram network is not powered by electricity sourced from coal. Rather, the city’s commuters can board a tram safe in the knowledge that the power was being derived from the sun.
- Manufacturers of products that require single use plastics are also seeking to take action in order to avoid being seen in a negative light by consumers. Coca-Cola Amatil recently announced that all of its single serve plastic bottles sold in Australia would be made from 100% recycled plastic – a decision taken of its own volition, not driven by regulation.
“Marketers need to ensure that any attempt to heighten a brand’s green credentials must be genuine, otherwise the integrity of the brand will be put into jeopardy,” he concluded.