The CMO and Sustainability Leadership

Branding Sustainability
CMO and Sustainability

Abstract: Can the CMO become a Sustainability Leader?

  • Edmund  Bradford says they are delighted to be joined by Stephen Mangham, a branding expert at Master of Scale international. Edmund says they will get down to more of the human level and talk about the person at the center of this, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).
  • Stephen says the CMO must define the sustainability conversation in terms of the customer and the brand in terms of its inherent usefulness. Stephen says the CMO must have an organizing idea that inspires and guides the brand behavior and the brand action.
  • Edmund and Stephen discuss the key challenges they will face, including getting educated about the subject.
  • Stephen says consumers prefer products with a social purpose agenda, and that doing good is good for business. Edmund says the risk of doing nothing is more dangerous than the risk of doing something.
  • Stephen says brand growth depends on memorability and relevance.


Transcript How can the CMO become a sustainability leader?

[00:00:09 –> 00:01:51] EdmundI’m Edmund Bradford. I’m a director of the Good Growth Academy and in this series of short videos on marketing and sustainability, I’m delighted as ever, to be joined by Stephen Mangham, who’s a branding expert, much more of a brand expert than I will ever be, and also a Master at Masters of Scale International. Now, in the previous video, we’ve talked about sustainability and how it fits into the broad concept of good growth. We also talked about how it can be a real differentiator in the marketplace. But in this particular one, we’re going to get down to more of the human level and talk about the poor person at the center of this (from my perspective in many ways) which is the Chief Marketing Officer. So I think what’s interesting is that I’ve been in marketing for 25, 30 years or something, and I’m fairly new to sustainability in comparison. And I think what I found interesting is how very little in most companies, marketing seems to be involved in the whole sustainability conversation. They just don’t seem to be at the party. They’re sometimes at the end doing the brochures and the messaging about all the changes that the company is doing. But they seem to be like an add-on at the end rather than central to the whole journey. So, I’d be interested from your perspective, Stephen, how can a CMO, (a chief marketing officer), how can they get involved and how can they start driving and leading some of this change, if they can at all?
[00:01:51 –> 00:04:27] Stephen:  Good to be on-again, I think it does start with – if you like – with the Board, the C suite, they need to have defined the sustainability conversation in terms of the customer, and that’s when the CMO can help. So if their sustainability agenda is inherently customer focussed, customer-centric: “What is the purpose of our business, our brand, what is its usefulness?” That has to be a customer-facing conversation. If you start there, then the CMO has a chance of success and the CMO is engaged. What the CMO themselves have to do is, there’s a number of things, but perhaps the three most important things: First of all, I think it’s important that the CMO need to define the brand in terms of the brand’s usefulness or inherent usefulness. So they need to – as I mentioned in an earlier video -they need to put sustainability at the heart of the brand strategy. And to do that, they may need to look up various disruptive approaches where they look to re-frame the business they’re in or their role in it. So, for example, Tesla famously says, they’re not in the car business, they’re in the renewable energy business. They just happen to be…. cars are the particular way which they can make a contribution to that agenda. So number one is they need to re-frame the brand in terms of its inherent usefulness to consumers. What is its social purpose? Secondly, I think it’s important, then that there’s an organizing concept or organizing idea that inspires and guides the brand behavior and the brand action so that the integrated marketing communications is consistent with that. And then I guess the third thing is, is that they should have a plan. They should have a plan that says, “Okay, measurable objectives, and what’s our plan of action to get there?”. So I’d say that that’s what CMOs can do, from their perspective, to drive good growth.
[00:04:27 –> 00:04:59] EdmundAnd I think we just pick up maybe one or two of the key challenges that they’re going to face. For me, an obvious one is their understanding of the subject. We don’t expect the CMO’s to be sustainability experts. So what do you think could be the first steps that they take in just getting their heads around the subject, getting educated in this area? Any thoughts on that?
[00:05:07 –> 00:05:40] StephenWell, listen and learn. There’s a lot of expertise out there. There’s a lot of informed opinions. I recently read a book (I am not looking to plug it particularly) called Greener Marketing, which is a fantastic place to start in terms of helping someone reassess the role of marketing in promoting the sustainability agenda and creating that good growth.
[00:05:41 –> 00:07:05] EdmundExcellent. And if we’re doing book plugs, I think the one I really like is Rethinking Capitalism by Rebecca Henderson. It’s not about marketing, but it’s a very good business book. I completely agree, Stephen. I think what we should do as marketers – in a way – is just get educated a little bit about the subject and picking up a good book and getting better and looking for short courses and attending events. I’ll give a little plug for some of them: the Economist runs really good events. There are some really good speakers, like Unilever by the way that we mentioned, who talk at some of these events. So without much of an outlay and without committing yourself to a whole year of a Master’s on sustainability, you can actually get yourself up to speed with some of the key concepts. So there’s definitely an education challenge, I think, but they don’t need to become experts. They just need to know the basics. I would say. The other challenge, I suppose, Stephen, what about, let’s say some of the real challenges where you’ve got maybe a Board that isn’t that receptive to the green agenda. Any thoughts about how marketing or the Chief Marketing Officer (or the marketing official) can use the power of the customer?
[00:07:05 –> 00:07:57] Stephen: I think the answer lies in your question, the power of the customer. If I was a CMO, I’d be showing, as I said in an earlier video, there’s a wealth of evidence out there that consumers prefer products that have an articulated social purpose agenda. So there’s some very strong business arguments to be made to the Board to say, “We can grow our business, we can protect our business by pursuing this agenda.” So it’s not simply a nice to have or some form of do-gooding CSR exercise. It can be very hard-headed. Doing good is good for the business agenda.
[00:07:57 –> 00:08:24] EdmundYeah. Absolutely. I think it’s one thing I like about the examples of Rebecca Henderson talked about is that actually what we get to the point of doing is saying, actually, the risk of doing nothing is more dangerous than the risk of doing something. And the status quo, the “do nothing” option is no longer on the table. These changes are happening and we need to respond to them. 
[00:08:24 –> 00:08:43] Stephen: Absolutely. I mean, it’s an old saying: if you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing. And there are plenty of disruptors in business today who will eat your lunch if you take the soft approach and do nothing.
[00:08:43 –> 00:09:11] EdmundYeah. So, of course, that’s a whole area, isn’t it, of competitiveness? I mean, we talked about the power of the customer, but the other area the CMO should be very attuned with is the competitor activity, and there’s a danger in any industry I think that the organization that’s the least is left behind in the marketplace. And it suffers accordingly.
[00:09:11 –> 00:09:25] StephenI mean, brands grow or don’t on memorability and relevance. And if you’re not memorable because you’ve got nothing particularly strong to save, you’re not relevant. You’re going to wither on the vine.
[00:09:26 –> 00:09:48] EdmundThat’s excellent, Stephen. That’s all we have time for now but in the final little video in this series, we’re going to just pick up on this subject a little bit more and talk about the tricky issue of implementation. So thank you very again, Stephen, for your support on this and I look forward to our next video together.
[00:09:48 –> 00:09:48] StephenMy pleasure.

How can sustainability be a real differentiator for companies?

Good Growth Sustainability
Sustainable brand

In this video:

  • Edmund Bradford and Stephen Mangham discuss how “sustainability” and “good growth” can be real differentiators for customers and other stakeholders
  • Stephen explains that consumers are more attracted to brands who have a social purpose.  There is far more interest, awareness and expectations from consumers that companies are making a positive difference to the world, or at least mitigating any damage they may be causing.  “Sustainability” therefore, must be a strategic imperative.


The timings are shown to help you jump in to the video at the right point if needed.

[00:00:09 –> 00:01:10] EdmundHello, everyone. I’m Edmund Branford. I’m a Director of the Good Growth Academy, and I’m delighted to have Steven Mangham with us today, who’s a branding expert and a master at Masters of Scale International. Now, in the previous video, we talked a little bit about sustainability, good growth, and marketing, and just getting our heads around the concept a little bit. Whereas in this video, I think it’d be really nice to talk about how sustainability and good growth can be a real differentiator for customers and perhaps other stakeholders in the marketplace. So, Steven, thank you again for joining us. What are your thoughts on how sustainability can be not just a box-ticking exercise for suppliers when filling in tender documents, etcetera, but more of a real differentiator, either in B2B or B2C? 
[00:01:10 –> 00:02:22] StephenWell, it’s not new news that consumers are more attracted to brands with an attractive point of view on the world who are promoting a sense of usefulness. I remember when I worked on Coca-Cola Live Positively back in 2010 (so it was a long time ago now,) and there was a lot of day-after recall research evidence that said that the advertising that had the most impact in terms of memorability and persuasiveness were the ads that carried social purpose messages. And there’s a wealth of evidence out there in the last few years that – all other things being equal – consumers would prefer to buy a brand that has an attractive social purpose over one that doesn’t. There’s absolutely a strong consumer reward if you can communicate and articulate a strong set social purpose for your brand.
[00:02:22 –> 00:02:31] EdmundAnd do you see that both changing and getting stronger in B2C and B2B situations?
[00:02:36 –> 00:04:06] StephenBroadly, yes. Certainly from a B2C point of view, there’s far more interest, awareness and, frankly, expectations from consumers that they expect that companies and brands are doing something positive for the world or at least mitigating any damage they may be causing. And that’s getting stronger and stronger. And of course, with a social media-driven world, there are constant conversations all the time about how well brands perform in this way or not. So you can’t ignore this as a brand today. From a B2B point of view, I think, to be frank, every customer and every stakeholder now has an interest and an expectation when it comes to these matters. For example, if you look at the growth of ESG-driven investors, it’s a common question today in analyst meetings, “What’s your ESG strategy?” If you don’t have one, those investors may think twice about investing in you.
[00:04:07 –> 00:04:39] EdmundAnd there are very interesting stats now on ESG investment. I think it’s interesting, isn’t it, that a lot of this change is being driven both from the customer side, as you talked about, but also from the investor side and from the government side as well. And it’s almost like this perfect storm now of a force pushing companies towards more of an ESG compliant future, whether it be B2B, B2C or other situations.
[00:04:39 –> 00:04:42] StephenAbsolutely. Because of all of these stakeholders.
[00:04:45 –> 00:05:07] Stephen: They are both very aware of the wider expectations of the people they serve. And then as individuals themselves, there’s an awful lot of them are thinking it’s important that we do this anyway. So I think, as you say, it’s something of a perfect storm. You certainly can’t ignore that today.
[00:05:07 –> 00:05:57] EdmundI think from my perspective, maybe more than the B2B space than the B2C space. I think it used to be an old tick box exercise. I have one client I’ve been working with for over 15 years, and their client is Unilever. And so in the past, Unilever has kind of just said “Tell us what you are doing doing on sustainability” and fill in this space on the form.  You’ll get the tick in that bit and then it’s on to the other aspects of the service. But now you can’t do that anymore. It’s about “I want to know what you’re doing. What metrics are you going to be using for measuring the change? When is it all going to happen? I want concrete plans. And by the way, if I’m not happy about it, you’re not a supplier anymore.” So it’s much more of an order qualifier now than just a little bit of icing on the cake.
[00:05:57 –> 00:06:31] StephenAbsolutely. And also, as we said in the previous interview, it’s not about being looking at sustainability as a useful add-on, or it’s some additional measures that you’re taking. Is it at the heart of everything you’re doing? Is it a central part of your strategy? And I think that’s a major shift. And I think companies like Unilever, for example, I know, are expecting from their suppliers that they want to see that sustainability is a strategic imperative for their suppliers as well as for themselves.
[00:06:32 –> 00:06:49] EdmundThat’s excellent. And, of course, the heart of all this, we have this Chief Marketing Officer trying to get their head around it. Trying to make it all work. And in the next video, we’ll talk a bit more about the marketing function and the Chief Marketing Officer. Steven, again, thanks very much for your time.
[00:06:50 –> 00:06:50] StephenMy pleasure.
[00:06:50 –> 00:06:53] EdmundI look forward to our next short video in the series.
[00:06:53 –> 00:06:54] StephenThank you.

What is a Sustainable Brand?

Marketing Sustainability
Sustainable brand

An interview with Stephen Mangham

The marketing function is often seen as the greenwasher of sustainability. Some would say that the other functions do all the hard work of making real progress and the marketers simply share the stories!

Yet, marketing and sustainability actually have a strong connection.   In this interview, we explore the subject of sustainable brands with Stephen Mangham.


The timings are there to help you dive into the video at the right point if needed.

[00:00:05 –> 00:01:02] EdmundHello, everyone. I’m Edmund Bradford. I’m a Director of the Good Growth Academy and today we’re going to be talking about sustainability and marketing, which I think is a really interesting area.  I’m delighted to have with me Stephen Mangham, who is a branding expert and also a Master at Masters of Scale International. You and I, Steven, have chatted a little bit in the past about branding, sustainability and another concept that we’re kicking around called “good growth.” It’d be really interesting to get your thoughts on what we mean by Good Growth, a good growth brand, and how that is different to other brands that are out there. So any thoughts are very well received!
[00:01:02 –> 00:01:29] StephenOkay. Thanks. Well, the purpose of marketing has always been to produce growth. So in today’s world, I’d argue that the role of CMOs is to produce good growth, where sustainability is a strategic imperative at the core of their brand strategy.
[00:01:31 –> 00:01:40] Edmund: When we talk about good growth, do we mean sustainability? Is that something different to sustainability?
[00:01:40 –> 00:02:29] StephenWe do mean sustainability. But I’d say two things about it. First of all, that it is where sustainability is at the core of the brand strategy. It’s defining the brand in terms of its social purpose rather than being an add-on or an addendum or a part of the brand, it’s core to the brand. Arguably, it goes further than simple damage limitation or mitigation. It’s about the idea of being that good that you put in more than you take out.  When you define a brand in terms of its social purpose, ultimately it’s putting more into the ecosystem than it takes out.
[00:02:29 –> 00:03:02] Edmund: That reminds me of something that I saw a couple of weeks ago from Professor Steve Kempster, who’s a Professor at Lancaster University. He was telling me about the fact that we now talk about a regenerative company as being a higher goal. You’re thinking there about being “net good”. Is that a higher goal than just being sustainable? 
[00:03:02 –> 00:04:12] StephenYes, I think it is. Net-zero is a very laudable target, don’t get me wrong. But it’s about a different way of looking at your business as your brand. It’s about the idea that it isn’t looking at sustainability in terms of damage limitation or defining it in terms of mitigation or what steps can we take to mitigate the impact we have on our world. It’s looking at it in terms of what is the inherent usefulness of our brand or our business? Where is it actually a promoter of good things in some way? And it’s about looking in terms of the brand as saying, on balance, that it has a strong social purpose that is inherently useful to society in some way. It’s taking all the right steps in terms of its impact on our world, both in positive terms as well as negative terms. But at the end of the day, it’s actually about being net good.
[00:04:13 –> 00:04:24] Edmund:  Which companies would you put down as at least attempting to do this in a proper fashion?
[00:04:24 –> 00:05:00] StephenThere are so many companies that are doing that at the moment, and obviously, there are some companies that were created from scratch with a sense of social purpose. Who Gives a Crap, for example? But actually, there’s also a large number of the larger companies who are taking significant steps. So if you think of Unilever, for example, Alan Jope has famously gone on record as saying that if a brand in their stable of brands doesn’t have a social purpose that they can define, they’ll sell it.
[00:05:01 –> 00:05:04] EdmundYes, that’s right.
[00:05:05 –> 00:05:19] StephenThey’re taking major steps in terms of giving all of their brands a defined social purpose and measuring the impact and the success – or otherwise – of that purpose.
[00:05:20 –> 00:05:38] EdmundExcellent. And I think when we’re talking about a kind of good growth brand, it’s a brand that can be applied at a company level or could be applied at a product or service level. Do you see that? Or is it only a corporate level where this works?
[00:05:38 –> 00:06:52] StephenIt can work at a corporate level. Of course, it can. It must because you have to look at the way you do business as an organization. But I guess what we’re talking about here more specifically, is defining your brands in these terms. By doing that, you are looking at your brands. At the end of the day, you define your brand in terms of consumer appeal, and a brand lives or dies. Of course, in terms of how strongly it resonates with customers and how it persuades more consumers to buy it more often. So when you’re looking at sustainable brands as opposed to sustainable companies, you’re defining it in customer-facing terms. How is the brand inherently useful for its customers and defining it in terms of social purpose? How will a brand, as a result, be more relevant to consumers, drive talk-ability, even protect its price elasticity, for example? So with brands, we’re talking about a customer orientated centric conversation.
[00:06:53 –> 00:07:06] EdmundExcellent. And that, by the way, is a great teeing up for our next video, which is going to be all about differentiation. So many thanks, Steven. And I look forward to another conversation with you shortly.
[00:07:06 –> 00:07:08] StephenThank you very much. Great to talk to you. Ed.

ESG is the GPS to Sustainable Development

ESG Sustainability

SDG and ESG sustainable goals

ESG and Sustainable Development

When we speak about economic growth, it is an incomplete concept. I agree that we need economic growth but we also need improvements in the quality of life and living standards. Growth without contributing to improvements in life is incomplete and selfish.  It is economic development that has been always preferred over just growth.

The Economic development so far

Since industrialization, there has been more focus on corporate revenues, profits, and returns. There has been a lot of attention towards balance sheet indicators, financial reporting, and achievements by investors that can be measured and scaled by financial bookkeepers. Popular global stock indices such as S&P 500 have experienced annual double-digit returns for the last decade. In the year 2020 itself, there has been triple-digit gains for some individual stocks. Tesla stock has surged 665%, and shares of solar energy company SunPower have risen about 500%.

There is no denial that as far as global corporations are concerned the story of growth is powerful. However, this is an incomplete story when we see its impact from the development point of view.

The amount of carbon dioxide piling up in Earth’s atmosphere set a record last month, reaching the highest levels in human history. By the way, speaking of carbon budgets, it is worth noting that the world only has 8% of its carbon budget left, which will be exhausted in the coming decade at current emission rates, according to the Global Carbon Budget report 2020.

Further, there have been repeated issues such as corruption, negligence, fraud and lack of accountability from leading global corporations. Issues such as false product claims, unethical accounting, poor working conditions, sexual harassment, trade secret misappropriation, and selling customer data have been identified and questioned. Such issues are detrimental to the quality of social and governance ethics and the value system of life.

Some examples here are the major data breach in the Facebook – Cambridge Analytical scandal, the Wells Fargo 2000 phony accounts , Abercrombie & Fitch’s modern slavery conditionsNike and Adidas and child labor.  Indeed, there are very many corporate examples where social and governance values have been compromised to maximize financial and accounting growth.

Why ESG (Environmental Social Governance) and Sustainability have become so important.

We have to go beyond narrow growth and focus on broader development.  This is where there is a direct alignment between the financial factsheet and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) structures that globally raise the quality of life of all stakeholders. Investors, consumers, producers – and especially regulators – should seriously consider ESG factors connected to sustainable development.

“We have to connect the dots between authority, responsibility and accountability.”

In the past, there has been a lot of emphasis on financial growth and authority. This has been very expensive, unjust and detrimental to the environment and some sections of society. Now, with the evolution of better data, knowledge and information on non-financial factors, it is time to raise the standards of responsibility and accountability by adding a mandatory ESG factsheet along with a financial factsheet.

Considering ESG investing looks at “extra-financial” variables (or factors) that measure development and quality.

Environmental factors qualitatively and quantitatively measure a company’s stewardship of the environment by focusing on how companies are impacting the environment by measuring waste and pollution, resource depletion, greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. These factors also consider how companies will be impacted by both physical and transition climate change risk.

Social factors consider how companies treat people and focus on employee relations and diversity, working conditions, local communities, health and safety, and conflict.

Governance factors check corporate policies and corporate governance structures. This includes tax strategy, executive remuneration, donations and political lobbying, corruption and bribery, board diversity and structure.

The Sustainable Development Goals

At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, global leaders defined the path of sustainable development by stabilizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The purpose of this was to produce a set of universal goals that would help combat the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges. These goals are the ideal development destinations that we want to progress towards.

However, we need a GPS to ensure we are on track with these goals. Enriching and enforcing ESG standards will ensure just, sustainable and inclusive corporate development which is much more than just corporate growth.


Today I see the G7 countries and major OECD countries like the UK, Canada and New Zealand supporting a move towards mandatory climate-related financial disclosures. The United States SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) already has broad authority to require climate and other ESG disclosures.

The EU Taxonomy and the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) is hugely significant in requiring asset managers to disclose the sustainability value of their financial products. In Asia Pacific, countries like Thailand, Australia, Japan, and Malaysia, among many others, have implemented various kinds of sustainability disclosure policies or rules, with various levels of focus on climate risks.

In Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa the climate discourse is less developed and still fundamentally centered on climate impacts and pockets of climate risk disclosure.

This is only the beginning. With more reporting and stronger mandates from investors and regulators to include ESG considerations, many companies will find that they do not have an option to ignore it. The rise in ESG will both drive us and track us on the path to sustainable development. Development is growth powered by measurable improvements in quality of life.

Why a Sustainable Marketing Plan is Essential

Marketing Sustainability
Marketing Planning Sustainable

In brief:

  • Sustainability is a rising business issue that needs to be included in your marketing plan
  • Customers are demanding more transparent sustainability in choosing their provider
  • We explain why and how including it will help you and your brands to grow

The rise and rise of sustainability 

Global investment in sustainable companies (also known as ESG)  has risen dramatically over the past seven years.  In 2014, less than $20 trillion was held as assets under management. In 2020, this had risen to over $30 trillion.

There are now more funds being invested in sustainable companies than in other companies. This rise in investor interest in sustainability shows no sign of stopping. This is a major driver to work on a sustainable marketing plan.

By 2025, Bloomberg estimates that over $50 trillion will be invested, which is about one-third of forecasted total global assets under management (see ESG assets may hit $53 trillion by 2025, a third of global AUM by Adeline Diab and Gina Martin Adams).  The rise of ESG as an accepted measurement system for sustainability has been a key driver in the rise of investor confidence.

At a Government level, there are trillions of dollars being invested in sustainability. For example, in December 2020, the European Union agreed a €1.82 trillion Green Deal to support a green recovery. In February 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a $2 trillion Green New Deal.  The UK Government has committed itself to legally binding targets in its 2008 Climate Change Act and will showcase its efforts at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland this November.  There is also rare cooperation between Western Governments and China on sustainability.

Consumers are also forcing change. A recent report by GfK has shown how environmental awareness and eco-activism are rising across global consumers.  For example, 24% of consumers are now taking prompt measures to cut their plastic waste (see “Eco-activism in FMCG is rising” image below from research done by Growth From Knowledge Moreover, the Covid pandemic has driven an increase in environmental awareness as people breathe cleaner air and rediscover nature.

Eco-Activism-marketing sustainability

These changes are driving more sustainable practices throughout supply chains. In the B2B area, work is being done by procurement teams on how to measure supply chain sustainability. Unilever is one company driving its supply chain to become more sustainable and amongst many activities has recently announced that it will be asking its suppliers to add their carbon footprint to their invoices.  Joint programs are underway in many industries to reduce total waste. For B2C consumers and B2B customers, sustainability is becoming a key need alongside needs like cost and brand experience.

Why sustainability needs to be taken seriously by marketers in their plan

Sustainability is reshaping the marketing landscape.

Changing customer needs

Firstly, it is changing customer needs.  Research by GfK (Crisis as Catalyst report, 28 Apr 2021, by Growth From Knowledge ) suggests that consumer needs such as lower waste, preserving nature and more energy efficiency are rising in importance.  In the B2B space, customers like Unilever are demanding better marketing plans and more accurate measurements from suppliers about how they will become more sustainable.  Failure to produce viable plans and track implementation progress could lead to deselection as a supplier.

Sustainability is changing customer demand

The most obvious example of this is in the Electric Vehicle (EV) market where the IEA expects a 13 fold increase in the number of EVs on the world’s roads by the end of this decade. But this is not just happening in the automotive market. According to a 2020 report by Deloitte (Shifting sands: Are consumers still embracing sustainability?between 28-45% of consumers have already bought more locally produced goods, or actively chosen sustainable or ethical brands, or stopped purchasing brands because of sustainable or ethical concerns.  The change in demand is already happening.

These changes are driving the appearance of new segments, new products/services and new competitors.

So where is sustainability in the marketer’s world? Change is being driven by CEOs, by CFOs, by procurement, the supply chain function and new Chief Sustainability Officers, but rarely by marketing.  For the worst companies, marketing is tasked with talking up the meager investment being put into sustainability as a mere tick-box or greenwashing exercise. For the average company, marketing is left with the role of communicating to customers (and other stakeholders) the work being done by others. But for the best companies, like Unilever and Pepsi, marketing plays a key role in re-shaping the sustainable market strategy of the firm and its entire supply chain.

Stephen Mangham, a branding expert and Master at Masters of Scale International, summarizes this well when he says, “The purpose of marketing has always been to produce growth. The role of CMOs today is to produce ‘good growth’ where sustainability is a measurable, customer-driven strategic imperative.”

Why we need sustainable marketing plans

After all your communication efforts over the years, how trusted is your brand on sustainability?  Very trusted? Somewhat trusted? How about not trusted at all! Sadly, according to the GfK report, only 25% of consumers trust businesses to tell them the truth.  This compares to 64% who trust academics, 34% who trust the media and is only two percentage points above celebrities!

It’s time for marketers to stop being the brand spin doctors and to become the brave sustainability do-ers.  Marketers need to help their firm find the best green segments, introduce and grow new greener products and services, change its purpose and reap the rewards from customers, from investors and from available government incentives. The brand will then reflect the true work being done.

The experience of leading companies like Unilever and Pepsi is that being truly sustainable is not a trade-off between profits and planet, it is a mutually inclusive journey that drives stronger growth.

Dr. Pooja Khosla, Vice President of Client Development at Entelligent Smart Climate Investing reinforces this point: “Many businesses are struggling to define the real and measurable impact of their offerings on the environment and society.  Marketers can help achieve this and empower sustainability.”

Sustainable thinking needs to be in most areas of the marketing plan: the mission statement, the financial projections, the market overview, the SWOT, the competitor analysis, the objectives, the strategies, the value propositions, the digital marketing tactics, the resources, the actions, the measurement, and the assumptions.

Doing this develops a better growth path for the company to follow. That is better for the customer, the company, the brands, the supply chain, and the planet.

Developing skills in sustainability is better for marketers as well.  The demand for people with sustainability skills is skyrocketing. I have personal knowledge of a recent master’s graduate in sustainability who was recruited by an international engineering firm and is now working with the United Nations on developing better measurement standards.


Going green is not just for the eco-warriors.  It makes good business sense. Marketers can play a massive role in making this happen. They need to stop being seen as the greenwashers of the past and act more like the leaders of real sustainable change. Marketers need to move from the edge to center-stage in building real sustainable companies built on “good growth brands.” A key tool to do this is a sustainable marketing plan.

We are currently developing such a tool.

3 Simple Words to Sustainability

ESG Sustainability

An interview with Pooja Khosla of Entelligent


Many leaders would like their organization to be more sustainable. However, the path is not easy and one major challenge is dealing with the short-term demands of investors. In this article, Pooja Khosla, VP Client Development at Entelligent answers the following key questions:

  • What are the key challenges to organizations becoming more sustainable?
  • What are the answers?
  • What are the key lessons for anyone wanting to help their organization become greener?

The key lessons lie in three keywords: Education, Engagement, and Momentum.

Some background of Dr. Pooja

Dr. Pooja Khosla is an economist and mathematician with a deep interest in sustainability and the financial effects of climate change. She has nearly 20 years of experience in predictive modeling, microfinance and designing climate impact tools for investors, banks, corporations and other organizations like the United Nations. She has been working with Entelligent since 2016 developing its data science team, its Smart Climate system and its climate risk related products.

Entelligent ( is one of the most respected brands in climate risk assessment. It recently announced a partnership with Société Générale to launch an index to score companies in the S&P 500 on their exposure to environmental issues.

What are the key challenges to organizations becoming more sustainable?

I began the conversation by asking her what the key issues are holding back firms from becoming more sustainable, more quickly.
Pooja: “There is certainly a lack of understanding of the issues. For example, some organizations sign up for a Net Zero commitment without understanding what they have signed up for. They do not realize that the scope of the commitment could include their whole value chain from suppliers down to their end consumers.
There is also certainly a problem with greenwashing. It is easy for firms to aim for minimum acceptable performance, like complying with environmental regulations, and then beefing up their messaging to make it appear that they are committed to sustainability.
90% of S&P 500 Index Companies published Sustainability Reports in 2019, however, less than 11% of the organizations were meeting qualified reporting standards.“

What are the answers?

We then turned to her thoughts about the answers to these challenges.

Pooja: “One thing to bear in mind is that 20 companies in the world contribute to one-third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. That means that whatever improvements we can make in these few companies and their value chains will have a significant impact on global emissions. Of course, most of these companies are in the fossil fuel business and it is not easy to turn them around. However, we have seen a flurry of recent announcements (for example at ExxonMobil) about a much stronger commitment to sustainability which gives me hope that this sector is now turning.

A key to delivering real change is education. Investors are now much more knowledgeable about climate risk and its financial impacts. More investors understand that sustainability can affect valuations in the short term as well as the long term. They have seen the dire effects of sudden extreme weather events on agriculture, hospitality, and transport and the rapid damage that a consumer revolt can do to the brand of a polluting company.

We should note though that the actual levels of pollution or climate exposure in a firm is not the key metric. What is more important than actual levels is the rate of change. A firm that is maintaining its rate of progress towards sustainability can be more attractive to an investor than one where progress is slowing, possibly because all the easy actions have now been done.

We also need more engagement. First of all, we need more engagement from leaders. There is no doubt in my mind that some firms really are committed to becoming sustainable and are sustainability leaders in their sector. I would put firms like Ingersoll Rand and Volkswagen in this category. They are led by visionary leaders who are engaged with the issue and are driving it passionately. They do a better cost-benefit analysis of sustainability options. They also have a better understanding of the three types of climate risk. These are:

  • Climate transition risk. This is the risk that the organization does not change sufficiently in the desired time period
  • Climate physical risk. This is the risk to the organization from climate change including rising sea levels, hurricanes, floods etc.
  • Climate reputational risk. This is the risk to the organization’s brand reputation from its contribution to global warming.

Then there is the next category of firms that are the sustainability followers. They are keen to progress but lack the understanding and engagement of the sector leaders. Finally, there are the sustainability laggards. These are the slowest to change and see sustainability as a business distraction.

More engagement is also needed from investors. Things are moving in the right direction and we have seen great examples of good investor engagement recently, for example, in the latest annual letter to CEOs from Larry Fink at BlackRock where he makes it clear that he is looking to invest more in sustainable companies and less in unsustainable ones.

We also need more engagement from customers. Consumers and businesses need to tell their suppliers what is expected of them and move their spend to the most sustainable suppliers.”

What are the key lessons for anyone wanting to help their organization become greener?

To conclude, I asked her what key messages she would like to offer any green change agents out there.

Pooja: “I would summarize my advice in three simple words: education, engagement and momentum. By momentum, I mean both the direction of travel and the speed of change. It is no good traveling fast in the wrong direction. Nor is it useful to have high aspirations which are unattainable in our lifetime. It is better to keep moving in a good direction. This will build confidence and experience and is itself more sustainable.”

The journey to sustainability is not easy. However, focusing on these three words will help to ensure your efforts are well invested.

3 Vital Steps to make the Transition to a Good Growth Company

Good Growth Sustainability
Good Growth


  • Making the transition to a sustainable  Good Growth Company requires significant change. Yet people often fear and resist change when it is driven by other people.
  • However, there are 3 core steps that will help you make an effective transition. They work because they recognize the importance of involving people in the change.
  • The steps are: create a clear need for change, share a compelling sustainable vision of the future, and create opportunities for involvement in the transition.

Introduction: what to do first?

So, you have decided to transition your organization to becoming a Good Growth Company (GGC) by focussing on delivering sustainable profits through sustainable and ethical growth in line with the Sustainable Development Goals defined by the United Nations. But this type of change is never easy. We all fear the unknown and especially change which is controlled by other people. We also have to push ourselves to break our old practices and embed new and more helpful ones.

How can you achieve a transition to good growth through good sensible leadership practices, in a way that values your people and their contribution to your company?

Three common change leadership mistakes to avoid

There are 3 mistakes which many leaders make when driving change in their companies:

  1. They do not explain why the change is necessary. They are obviously familiar with the reasons for the change and might even think that the explanation will demotivate people (and this is a danger) but more commonly, demotivation comes because people feel alienated from what is being proposed.
  2. They explain what will change but not what the change will deliver. This means that the members of staff in the company do not understand how the company or they themselves will benefit from what is happening.
  3. They drive change at pace because they know what needs to happen and this makes them feel comfortable. Sadly, the staff feels uninformed, uninvolved, and untrusted.

However, there are three change leadership steps that good leaders can use to create direction and momentum in major change initiatives:

Step 1: Create a clear ’need for change’ picture.

Step 2: Share a compelling vision of the future.

Step 3: Create widespread opportunities for involvement

Step 1: Create a ‘need for change’ picture

In thinking about the transition to a GGC, you as the leader of the organization will have thought a lot about the destination you want to reach. However, if this is the starting point of your engagement with your employees or colleagues, there is a danger of this seeming to be a personal crusade. If you have ever heard anyone describe a change as “change for change’s sake” then the leader has not answered the vital question of why the change is necessary.

The starting point for communicating the change needs to be why change? The more your staff can understand and feel the need, the more they will be driven to make the journey.

The ‘need for change’ might already be clear for your organization. There might be a clear outcome if you do not change – you might lose customers, costs might escalate, or you might become an also-ran in your market. This will make a need for change picture easy to create and easy to communicate to your teams. The only danger will be if you oversell it and make people feel as though you are threatening them.

On the other hand, your wish to become a GGC might be driven by a conviction that there must be a better way rather than the “writing being on the wall”. In this situation, it might be that your organization could successfully continue as it is, but you all agree that it would not be the place of which you are proud, allowing you to adhere to your values and convictions and stand out from the mediocre crowd.

You should not miss good opportunities to involve your team in developing the need for change. You might share your observations and some of your conclusions and ask them what they make of your observations, how they read them, whether they see indicators which say the same thing or even show a contrasting picture. Avoid asking ‘closed questions’ to which the answer is yes or no, for example, “Do you agree with me?” These questions are unlikely to promote openness.

You will know that it is time to move onto the vision when the questions and comments begin to ask, “What is to be done about it?” Be prepared to explain the next steps clearly.

Step 2: Share a compelling sustainable vision of the future

Having convinced your team that change is necessary, it is important to describe to them what you intend the future organization to be like. This vision should link to the need for change by showing that if the vision is achieved, the issues raised in the need for change will have been addressed.

It is also important to note that the vision might be a stretch in both imagination and practice for those who see it. Therefore, it needs to be clear to everyone that it is consistent with the past successes and capabilities of the organization.

The best visions are the ones that show the proposed future is a logical next step in the organization fulfilling its original purpose and values.

Above all else, the vision of the future should excite those who hear it. The vision should describe an organization in which they can see their values, that is, those of which they are proud. It should propose a challenge but also it should be achievable even if success is some way down the line.

The vision should be tangible and not an unrealistic pipe dream.

As discussed in the previous step, encourage discussion about the vision of the future. You may present a developed vision and ask for structured feedback using questions like, “How do you see the organization in the future? How does the vision make you feel about the future?” As before, avoid asking closed questions and “leading the witness.”

It might be that having shared the need for change in Step 1, you can then, in this step, involve your team in co-creating the vision of the future. My experience is that this is best done in small groups rather than one large group.

It might be that having shared the need for change in Step 1, you can then, in this step, involve your team in co-creating the vision of the future. My experience is that this is best done in small groups rather than one large group.

It is also essential that you discuss how the organization of the future might serve its external audiences like its customers, partners, and investors. It is always tempting to devote much time to talk about “our values” and what we can expect for ourselves, but introspective organizations can easily become self-absorbed and in the end, they can lack a driving purpose.

Once you have shared the vision be prepared to explain what will come next and what opportunities there will be for your team to be involved in the transition.

Step 3: Create widespread opportunities for involvement

We all know that when someone else makes a change that impacts us, it frequently induces fear because of the loss of control and the unknown future. However, when we make changes for ourselves or when we are involved in a change in our company, the involvement creates more of a sense of control and an understanding of the future. Both of these reduce the feelings of fear.

Great leadership is not achieved by pushing your ideas about the future onto your fellow leaders and all your team members. This will make you feel better, but it will make everyone else’s change more challenging. It may also lead others to question your espoused values.

One way to manage this dilemma is to “give up control to gain control”.

By creating opportunities for your team members to be involved in shaping the decisions and the implementation of change, you will support their change journey. After all, if they can see what you see about the world and the organization, will they not be able to draw the same conclusions?

In any discussion of change leadership, most practitioners place a high emphasis on the criticality of communication. It is true that communication is a vital component – our teams have to know what is happening. However, communication can be quite passive. The speaker does not have to relate to the audience or engage personally with the listeners, and the listeners in turn do not have to engage with the speaker or the content.

As leaders, we cannot (and would not) want to compel involvement, but most people will accept the opportunity to contribute provided they believe the opportunity to be a real one. The most important groups to involve are those who already have leadership responsibility in the organisation, and these are often the hardest to involve.

Any wise leader will involve the leadership team in shaping decisions. Merely consigning them to a role of making a Go / No-Go decision on a fully developed proposal wastes an opportunity to include their experience at best – and at worst it will alienate them.

Other groups should also be involved, both for the good of the program and for the good of them as individuals.

Examples of involvement opportunities include:

  1. Educational workshops at the start of the programme to share the principles to be used.
  2. Programme launch.
  3. Proposal / solution development.
  4. Implementation planning.
  5. Specific implementation issues and tasks.

Any involvement opportunity should be well facilitated as this will ensure that the involvement opportunity is seen as genuine. A time of open questions is always essential at these events as it reinforces the value you place on involvement.


As a leader wanting to transition your organization to become a GGC, you have already decided that you want to build your organization around the value you place on your people. By following these 3 vital steps you will demonstrate this value in your transition process.


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