我们特别同意《哈佛商业评论》总编辑阿迪·伊格内修斯（Adi Ignatius）的观点，即今天的首席执行官不仅需要考虑到他们的股东，还需要考虑到所有利益相关者。这是一个更复杂，但也更有价值的过程。耶鲁大学管理学教授莱维·多尔（Ravi Dhar）从学术角度进一步解释了利益相关者营销的利与弊。随后，牛津大学商业和公共政策教授卡蒂克·拉曼纳（Karthik Ramanna）谈到了在ESG中避免洗绿的问题，为企业和投资者提供了一个可持续发展的解决方案。最后，哈佛大学管理学教授约翰·戴腾（John Deighton）以“少些营销，多些造市”为战略，讨论了建立可持续品牌的方法和工具。
可持续品牌定位，是品牌识别和价值主张的一部分，要积极地传达给目标受众。许多第一代可持续品牌在市场上失败了，因为公司过分强调产品的积极社会生态属性，而忽略了对其他产品属性的关注，如性能、功能或设计。结果，许多产品无法与传统产品竞争。为了建立和定位强大的可持续品牌，有一些准则需要遵循。Marc Stoiber、Perrine Bouhana、Martin Belz等学者和专家在这方面做了前期探索，并总结出可持续性品牌建设的“8C原则”：
对于如何实现可持续品牌，全球各大品牌以及咨询机构在近些年中均在不停的探索，以获得最好的结果。其中，BBGM提出了The Pull Factor Project模型（见图2）。该模型提出了将消费者需求、可持续行为以及品牌资产三者相结合，从而构建可持续品牌。
从具体举措来看，建立一个可持续品牌与一个普通品牌有截然不同的策略。制定有效的措施并提前规划能确保公司在建立可持续品牌中平稳过渡。结合The Pull Factor Project模型，我们为企业实现可持续品牌构建提出了以下建议：
《哈佛商业评论》总编辑阿迪·伊格内修斯（Mr.Adi Ignatius）指出，首席执行官的角色正在发生变化。公司高管现在需要广泛地考虑他们的所有利益相关者，而不仅仅是他们的股东。这项工作的回报更高，但也更复杂。然而，即使角色在不断变化，伟大的领导力仍有一些基本属性是不会改变的。伊格内修斯先生认为，在如何创造持久的品牌价值方面，以下四位伟大的CEO是杰出的典范：皮克斯的艾德·卡姆尔（Ed Catmull）、苹果的史蒂夫·乔布斯（Steve Jobs）、百事的英德拉·努伊（Indra Nooyi）和海尔的张瑞敏。
Sustainable brands are those that incorporate key environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) and economic issues into their business operations. As ESG continues to be discussed globally, the concept of sustainability is being accepted by and implemented in the consumer and manufacturing sectors. The demands and behaviors of consumers are also changing, providing additional drivers for sustainable brands. The theme of today’s World Brand Summit is Sustainable Brands Drive Corporate Growth, and we will be discussing ways for brands to enable growth and development through moments of impact.
Compared with the once-popular “green brands,” sustainable brands not only focus more on environmental performance but also have stricter requirements regarding the social well-being and economic impact of the brand’s products or services. Sustainable branding concerns the sustainability behavior not only of a single brand, but also of the company as a whole. For example, sustainable brands focus on the demographics who use the product (the consumer level), the conditions under which the product is manufactured (the manufacturing level), and the people who manufacture the product (the workers in the supply chain). Generally speaking, sustainable brands adhere to the triple bottom line of ecological (environmental), social (equity), and financial (economic) sustainability.
We particularly agree with Mr. Adi Ignatius, Editor-in-Chief of Harvard Business Review, about how CEOs today need to take into consideration not only their shareholders but also all stakeholders. This is a more complex, but also more rewarding process. Professor Ravi Dhar at Yale further explained the pros and cons of Stakeholder Marketing from an academic perspective. Professor Karthik Ramanna at Oxford then talked about avoiding greenwashing in ESG, providing a solution for firms and investors in sustainable growth. Finally, Professor John Deighton at Harvard focused on the strategy of “Less marketing, More market-making” to discuss methods and tools for building a sustainable brand.
How sustainable brands can improve company performance
Sustainable branding is popular primarily because the strategy can generate company growth that can be maintained. Moreover, sustainable branding can lead to more positive social recognition for a company. From a branding perspective, social recognition has a significant impact on a company’s competitive advantage in the consumer market, and is crucial to creating a bond between the company and its consumers. As a result, sustainable brands can provide companies with a strong, stable financial performance; a deeper emotional connection with consumers; and a more distinctive brand personality.
From the perspective of business management, sustainability can help companies improve their operational efficiency, thus reducing operating costs and increasing the capital conversion rate. Improving the efficiency of production material usage and the green tracking of products can also help companies enhance their business processes and more quickly adopt new technologies. This results an environment that better facilitates the cooperation and development between upstream and downstream companies, and creates more development opportunities. Sustainability can also help companies attract talent through more humane management practices. In the era of globalization, human capital is a one of the most valuable intangible assets a company can have. Sustainable branding can positively and more effectively cooperate with their potential hires, and, together with their employees, make progress based on corporate values.
According to SSIR, 90% of CEOs, based on their observations of the consumer market, believe that sustainability is an important factor of business success. According to an IBM research report published in 2020, 81% of global respondents/consumers can be primarily be classified into two categories: value-driven and purpose-driven. Value-driven consumers (41%) focus on convenience, brand trustworthiness, and sustainability, while purpose-driven consumers (40%) seek brands that reflect their lifestyle and values. Another category of consumers called brand-driven consumers (13%) explicitly demand brand sustainability. Based on this third category of consumers, brand sustainability is no longer merely a company choice but an important consumer demand. In terms of the overall consumer base, the same report stated that more than 70% of all consumers believe that it is important for brands to perform well on multiple sustainability issues.
According to IBM’s research on various generations of consumers, the concept of sustainability has become an important part of a company’s public perception and is a common demand among different consumer groups. The proportion of Gen Z consumers who are concerned about the sustainability of brand products or services exceeds 70%. Since young consumers’ consumption ability is increasing rapidly, and because this consumer group also has a stronger desire than other consumer groups to express and share their opinions, brand sustainability has become inevitable. Consumers’ pursuit of sustainability is one of the most important changes in consumer attitudes in recent years. Due to their resources and unique strengths in this area, only sustainable brands can adapt to these changes and opportunities, and they are thus able to capitalize on first-mover advantages and create opportunities increase their market share.
How to achieve sustainable brands:The 8C principles
Sustainable brand positioning is part of brand identity and brand value, both of which must be actively communicated to the target audience. Many first-generation sustainable brands have failed in the market because the companies prioritized the positive socio-ecological attributes of the product but neglected attributes such as performance, function, and design. As a result, many of these products have been unable to compete with products manufactured by companies with more traditional branding. To build and position a strong sustainable brand, certain guidelines must be followed. Scholars and experts such as Marc Stoiber, Perrine Bouhana, and Martin Belz have made preliminary explorations in this regard, and summed up the "8C principles" for sustainable brand building:
Core: Sustainability should be linked with key issues and core business. By evaluating the entire life cycle of aproduct, brands can identify the product’s socio-ecological trends and thus its socio-ecological impact.
Co-operative: To solve the main socio-ecological problems related to a product’s entire life cycle, it is necessary to cooperate with suppliers, retailers, consumers, scientists, and other non-market entities (such as non-governmental organizations) to create and market sustainable products and services.
Credible: The basic element of credibility is to first solve the key social and ecological issues related to the company’s products, and then link sustainability with core business. Working with trusted partners and using third-party labels to achieve a high level of transparency (e.g., through an online tracking system that allows consumers to see how a product is designed, manufactured, and distributed), can further increase the credibility of a sustainable brand.
Consumer Benefits: The social and ecological attributes of the product usually only play an auxiliary role in consumers’ decision-making processes. To increase the attractiveness of sustainable brands, companies should emphasize the inherent consumer benefits of the socio-ecological attributes, including efficiency and cost-effectiveness, health and safety, symbolic meaning, and social status. In addition, they should combine socio-ecological attributes with benefits such as function, design, and durability to create a “motivation alliance.”
Conversational: Sustainable branding, as it creates a two-way dialogue, is more effective than one-way marketing. Inviting consumers into a dialogue about the sustainable development process can strengthen the relationship between a brand and its consumers.
Consistency: If sustainability is the key to brand positioning, it is necessary to have a comprehensive communication method to address sustainable development.It is important to communicate consistently through, for example, advertising, personal sales, and online channels. In addition, the sustainable product brand must be consistent with the company's overall environmental and social performance.
Commitment: A sustainable brand requires the commitment of not only public relations departments and sustainability officials but also senior management and marketing decision makers.
Continuity: Sustainability must reflect the core value of the brand and contribute to the long-term realization of the brand promise. This means that a brand should not change its sustainability focus too frequently or participate in an excess of unrelated areas.
In recent years, major brands and consulting organizations around the world have been exploring how to build successful sustainable brands. Among them is BBGM, who has proposed the Pull Factor Project model. This model proposes combining consumer needs, sustainable behaviors, and brand equity to build sustainable brands.
In terms of specific initiatives, the strategy for building a sustainable brand is considerably different than that for building a generic brand. Effective measures and a concrete plan can ensure a smooth transition towards building a sustainable brand for one’s company. The Pull Factor Project model offers the following recommendations for companies that are aiming to build a successful sustainable brand.
1. Know your consumers
First, companies must conduct market research to analyze their target consumers. They need to understand not only their consumers’ needs but also their consumers’ perceptions and brand recognition. Companies must focus on improving brand perceptions that are not in line with their sustainable development goals.
Understanding the needs and perceptions of brand consumers and addressing consumer concerns are important ways to increase brand loyalty and engagement and ultimately build sustainable brands.
2. Understand global social and environmental trends
Although the ultimate goal of sustainable branding is the same for all companies, the social and environmental issues that matter most to consumers change each year.
For example, since 2019, the concepts “carbon footprint” and “carbon neutral” have been gaining popularity among consumers and companies in various countries. In December 2019, the European Union pledged to halve emissions by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050; in September 2020, China proposed to reach peak CO2 emissions by 2030 and aims to become carbon neutral by 2060. Major brands around the world are also actively committing to carbon neutrality: Amazon announced in September 2019 that it intends to reach its corporate carbon neutrality goal by 2040, and Apple pledged in July 2020 to achieve 100% carbon neutrality in its supply chain and products by 2030.
It is important for companies to stay informed on global social and environmental trends and, based on said trends, to conduct relevant brand sustainability building and marketing, which will improve the rate at which brands gain consumer recognition.
3. Assess existing sustainability behaviors
Finally, companies musts assess their existing sustainability behaviors. For example, regarding a company’s supply chain, manufacturing,and emissions activities, the following questions must be considered: Where do the company’s products come from, and how are they transported? Do all processes meet sustainability standards? Does the company’s emission targets meet sustainability criteria?
Companies must identify the areas that are most critical to their business and continuously work to make them more sustainable. For example, in the food-and-beverage industry, raw materials can be identified as an important area. In labor-intensive industries such as textiles, community and employee well-being are some key areas. Through sustainable behaviors, companies must build new brand-related elements, such as the name, tagline, promise/essence, attributes, and values/behaviors. Companies must also consider the best means to communicate their message to ensure that customers are aware of the company’s sustainable behaviors. This will enable the company to gradually build a positive sustainable brand image.
What do the experts attending the World Brand Summit think about sustainable branding?
Mr. Adi Ignatius, editor-in-chief of Harvard Business Review, noted that the role of the CEO is changing. Executive leaders now feel the need to think broadly about all of their stakeholders, not just their shareholders. As such, the position is becoming more rewarding but also more complex. Even as the role evolves, however, there are fundamental attributes of great leadership that remain the same. Mr. Ignatius also pointed out that the following four CEOs are outstanding examples in terms of how to create lasting brand value: Ed Catmull of Pixar, Steve Jobs of Apple, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, and Zhang Ruimin of Haier.
John Deighton, a professor of management at Harvard University, offered advice on how to implement a sustainable branding strategy: less marketing, more market-making. After examining two industries, textiles and food, he realized that we are wasting more than we consume. When marketers initiate the production of a product, the supply chain manufactures the product in such large quantities that the cost is driven down. If marketers fail to sell the product, the cost of the wasted supply is not a significant problem for the brand, but it is an enormous problem for the planet. Disposing of excesses of the manufacturing process is a substantial environmental burden, but it is what economists have traditionally called an externality, a cost that is not reflected in prices. Increasingly, activists are making these social costs public, and when brands ignore these costs, their reputation suffers. The solution Professor Deighton offered is to open new markets that create an appetite for recycled clothing, patchwork fabrics, less-than-perfect fruit, etc.
Dr. Karthik Ramanna, a professor of business and public policy at the University of Oxford, pointed out that in many companies today, ESG is still seen as a reporting or compliance exercise rather than a strategic activity. He outlined five steps that enable brands to build authentic trust with customers and ensure realistic corporate ESG activities. First, companies should not ignore stakeholder issues; Second, companies should try to avoid political issues. Third, they should try to start acting on capacity asymmetries. Fourth, they should stay ahead of the curve because the stakeholders’ expectations are constantly changing. Last but not least, companies should not to be too ambitious about ESG and should attempt to achieve their goals one step at a time.
Ravi Dhar, a professor at the Yale School of Management, stated that marketing strategy is changing the stakeholder capitalism of today’s world. He put forward a strategic value creation process consisting of four major steps. First is to identify the value drivers for different stakeholder categories. Second, corporations need to distinguish the “must do” tasks that are required for compliance with laws or industry norms from the “choose to do” opportunities that create lasting competitive differentiation. Third, companies must try to jointly solve problems that concern not only one stakeholder category but stakeholders at all business levels. Finally, companies should enable new systems and metrics so that they can successfully measure the impacts and outcomes of their strategies.
Steve Woolgar, a professor at the University of Oxford and the chairman of the World Brand Lab, said, “Brands are the image of a nation and I hope that more people around the world can learn about the story of China through Chinese brands. In the past 15 years, I have witnessed the rapid growth of Chinese brands, some of which already have a strong global influence, for example, these brands include State Grid, China Life, Haier, Beidahuang, Wuliangye, Tsingtao Beer, Double Star, Zhuyeqing Tea, HBIS Group, Hengli, China Southern Power Grid, XuZhou Construction Machinery, Snow Beer, Jomoo, Air China, China FAW, China Resources, etc.Sustainable economic growth in China is closely linked to the growth in the value of China's brands, which influence production and consumption, and ultimately contribute to economic growth.”
William Mundell, the vice chairman of the World Brand Lab and a film producer, believes that brand awareness reflects, to a certain extent, national character and national spirit. Incorporating sustainable principles into brand strategy is essential for organizations to survive and thrive. Brand sustainability should benefit everyone involved at all business levels. By implementing sustainability measures for long-term returns, businesses can stay ahead of the curve and improve their brand visibility.