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Rethinking Sustainability: Brand Risks And Opportunities

Date: 10 April 2013

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21 pages, 6 Figures

Executive Summary

In the past two years, a small number of firms have started to integrate sustainability within corporate communications, in pursuit of brand benefits. Simultaneously, many other large corporates still talk very little about sustainability. Between these extremes sit the bulk of firms, keeping sustainability communications in a silo and pushing communications out to a limited audience, most often the ‘green ghetto’. This report helps executives responsible for sustainability communications, and their colleagues across communications, marketing and sustainability teams to understand the different strategic approaches, the risks and opportunities, and the business case for enhancing communications to support the corporate brand. The report identifies five strategies: Purists, Explorers, Advocates, Reactionists and Nothingists. The Advocate strategy reflects the approach of most firms and provides limited business benefits as sustainability is kept distinct from the corporate brand. Verdantix analysis highlights that to break out of the default Advocate approach of peer firms, the Chief Marketing Officer needs to take the reins and kick start an enhanced strategy, in order to capitalize on brand enhancement opportunities.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

SUSTAINABILITY COMMUNICATIONS ARE STUCK BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

New Demands For Enhanced Sustainability Communications Mount Up
Despite Pressure To Do More, Spending Earmarked For Sustainability Communications Is Flat
Sustainability Communications Strategies Are Trapped In The Green Ghetto

FIVE STRATEGIES FOR SUSTAINABILITY COMMUNICATIONS

1) For Purists Sustainability Is Synonymous With The Corporate Brand
2) For Explorers Sustainability Is Integrated Into The Corporate Brand
3) For Advocates Sustainability Communications Are Managed In A Silo
4) For Reactionists Sustainability Communications Are A Crisis Management Activity
5) For Nothingists Sustainability Is Off The Communications Agenda

CHIEF MARKETING OFFICERS SHOULD CAPITALIZE ON BRAND OPPORTUNITIES

CMOs Need To Take Charge Of Sustainability Communications To Reap Brand Benefits
How A CMO Can Kick Start Enhanced Sustainability Communications

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Figure 1. Budgets For Sustainability Communications By Region
Figure 2. Budgets For Sustainability Communications By Industry
Figure 3. Features Of The Five Sustainability Communications Strategies
Figure 4. Examples Of The Five Strategic Approaches To Sustainability Communications
Figure 5. Audiences For Sustainability Communications
Figure 6. How To Self-Assess Sustainability Communications Strategy

ORGANIZATIONS MENTIONED

Apple, AT Kearney, Best Buy, Bureau Veritas, Costco, Dell, Deloitte, DNV, Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, EY, Global e-Sustainability Initiative, Global Reporting Initiative, HP, KPMG, Lowe’s, McKinsey, PwC, Target, US Securities and Exchange Commission, Walmart.