Consumer concerns about the environment and labour standards are creating markets for green and fair trade products. In many regions, businesses are subject to a growing volume of regulation and increased scrutiny from pressure groups, the media and the public on a wide range of social and environmental issues.
Leading companies are responding positively, by embedding ethical values in their brands and developing products with better social or environmental standards. They need effective marketing to communicate the benefits to consumers.
This is an opportunity for WPP and a number of our companies have developed bespoke sustainability services for their clients. Current examples include P&G’s S-Team (including Added Value, Bridge, Fitch, G2, The Futures Company, Hill & Knowlton, Landor and Penn Schoen & Berland); OgilvyEarth, Ogilvy’s global network of sustainability marketing specialists; PSB Green, Penn Schoen & Berland’s sustainability strategy group; and Cohn & Wolfe’s Sustainability Practice.
There continues to be strong desire among consumers and employees to purchase from and work for companies that have strong citizenship brands. In Europe, the interest in environmental sustainability is exceptionally strong, whereas in the US, expectations can lean more towards helping people through community involvement, employee programs and humanitarian outreach. In Asia, there is a strong desire for accountability in all areas, including environmental and human rights.
Marketing services companies have the opportunity to lead their clients to find advantage in this consumer and employee demand. The single biggest risk for any brand wishing to differentiate itself on citizenship is authenticity. Whatever route is chosen, it must be authentic in its execution, there must be clarity on what the brand stands for and a framework that describes the brand values through social contributions. Then the brand must deliver on its promises. Strong leadership is essential.
Winners will be the brands who find ways to develop authentic messages, categories and even products that meet changing expectations. This is an extraordinary opportunity for companies, a luxury in a world where it is increasingly hard to differentiate on price and quality alone. The companies that rise to the challenge will find that they, and the world, are richer for it.
Global director CSR, Landor Associates
The S-Team is a group of experts from around WPP who have extensive experience in developing brand strategy and award-winning campaigns that leverage sustainability issues. The team collaborates with P&G and its partners on sustainability, helping them to accelerate meaningful change by connecting brands, stakeholders and consumers to the benefit of all.
The majority of today’s consumers want to help the environment by choosing products that are more sustainable while not sacrificing product performance or paying a higher price. P&G has a goal to sell $50-billion worth of Sustainable Innovation Products by 2012 – products that have demonstrated meaningful improvements to their environmental profile, with no trade-offs for consumers.
A core P&G sustainability initiative is Future Friendly, a multi-brand initiative aimed to inspire and educate consumers to save energy, water, waste, and packaging. This initiative achieved outstanding media coverage and messaging and generated incremental sales. Originally launched in 2007 in the UK and now active in North America and Europe, Future Friendly is a consumer education initiative, communicated in conjunction with leading environmental partners such as the Energy Savings Trust, Water Wise, and Waste Watch. The Future Friendly concept was developed in partnership with WPP company Added Value who researched how compelling the concept was with its target audience and WPP design agency Fitch who created an identity that resonates with consumers and stakeholders and works effectively in-store.
Future Friendly includes an awards program that celebrates everyday consumer heroes who encourage others with their sustainable activities, and is supported by a variety of high-profile ambassadors including Sir Trevor McDonald, renowned UK TV anchor man; and eco-interior designer Oliver Heath.
The awards were inspired by research showing that consumers are motivated by collective action and being part of a larger community. While there were many awards recognising businesses’ efforts to become more sustainable, no one was championing individuals making a positive impact on the lives of their families and communities. This, combined with the media’s interest in real lives, has led to the awards providing a successful call to action and platform for other communications. Future Friendly US was recognised by former President Bill Clinton at the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) – a non-partisan group designed to address key global issues through measureable and specific commitments. Future Friendly has committed to placing P&G Sustainable Innovation Products in 30 million US homes by the end of 2010.