It’s no secret that Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) are hot topics, and they will only grow hotter as industries adapt to address the social and environmental changes around us. While this is especially relevant to industries like energy, construction and transportation, the need for sustainable practices and products is already beginning to affect all types of different companies and organizations.
Every year, more investors and customers want to know what brands are doing to help make the world a better place. Nearly 90% of millennials are willing to take a pay cut to work at a different company that better aligns with their values. As a result, it’s now become the norm for most companies to include sustainability as a critical component to a successful brand.
So, in a new era where sustainability is key to almost any brand, how big of a role should it play in your brand’s identity? The answer depends on the nature of your corporate and brand strategies. Below are a few ways you can thoughtfully weave sustainability into your brand and make a meaningful impact for your business, stakeholders and community alike.
Finding a Sustainable Niche
First and foremost, your company should self-evaluate to try and understand how it best fits into the sustainability ecosystem. Depending on different companies’ size and scope, they may play different roles in the sustainability conversation. Generally, companies fall into three main categories:
- Companies that can do what they do more sustainably and smarter
- Companies that can enable a transition to a better future
- Companies that can have a direct impact or change their business model to improve the environment
Some companies can only make modest adjustments to their existing value chain to make sure they’re doing business in a way that has a more sustainable impact on the world. Others (often B2B companies) support the move to a more sustainable future through their technology, services or products. And some might find that their core product or a re-evaluation of their strategy can allow them to participate in the new economy as a driver of sustainability with significant impacts on the world.
With this in mind, it’s important that companies approach sustainability with intentional purpose, and not just use it as a marketing tool. Too many brands try to “fit in” with changing cultural norms by rapidly adjusting their identity. The problem is that who a brand is doesn’t always match what their corporate strategy is doing, and the general public can pick up on that disconnect.
Taking a hard look at how exactly your brand can represent sustainable values will go a long way towards developing your brand’s perception and its social license to operate. In a world where the public is quick to judge whether a company meets their personal values, make sure to stand out with intentional thought about sustainability.
Environmental, Social and Governance Reporting
The traditional annual financial report no longer displays the level of transparency and data many stakeholders have come to expect today. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting is becoming a leading management tool to communicate tangible data about how a company’s practices are aligning with its brand values.
While ESG encompasses social and governance issues outside of environmental sustainability, an ESG report is valuable because it provides a launchpad for building brand integrity through sustainability. In today’s world where environmental and social responsibility matters deeply to consumers and investors, authenticity is one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd. Therefore, an ESG report should transparently communicate where a company is focused, has succeeded and where it needs improvement.
In many cases, ESG reporting may help your company measure and respond to structural environmental, social and governance issues in your corporate strategy. That’s a crucial first step towards building a brand around sustainability that speaks to customers with honesty and clarity. Once you’ve measured your risk in the three domains of ESG, you now have the power to manage it. To build a brand around sustainability in an authentic way, companies need to reflect on ESG’s impact to their corporate and brand strategies, and determine where they can meaningfully contribute to the sustainability conversation.
Communicating a Sustainable Brand
A brand is a perceived relationship between stakeholders and a company. It’s a constant conversation, so it’s essential to have open channels of communication. ESG reporting is one way to present tangible data to the intangible asset that is a company’s brand. It also allows companies to publicly align themselves with certain values that affect brand perception.
But incorporating sustainability into your brand doesn’t end when you hit “publish” on that ESG report. From that point on, you have an opportunity to promote and distribute all of the intentional thought you put into your brand.
Communicating a sustainable vision could look like an extended marketing campaign to the public, a concerted effort to communicate with stakeholders about key ESG findings, or something else entirely. No matter the method, it’s important to consider how people will consume the information, and adjust the communications to match the audience.
Sustainability branding is an evergreen task, not a one-time occurrence. The goal of it is to consistently build your brand’s integrity and share a vision of your company’s growth that benefits everyone. You can nurture a positive reputation through trust and transparency. Since your brand exists in the minds of your stakeholders, you don’t own it — but you can manage it. Consistent branding around your sustainability strategy is effective brand management because it can cultivate trust in a bond that is difficult to break.
Where Does Your Brand Fit?
Interested to learn more about aligning your sustainability goals with your corporate goals? BrandExtract inspires belief in your brand through dedicated storytelling that earnestly expresses your values and incites new opportunities for growth. ESG Reporting Partners, a division of BrandExtract, can also help launch your ESG report to success for your brand. Contact us for a free demo of Artisan, our ESG reporting platform.