From ESG to ESDG: why to add a “D” and why ESDG Matters for Sustainable Brands

ESG Sustainability
ESG Digital

Transcript for ESG to ESDG: Why Add a “D” and why ESDG Matters for Sustainable Brands

Hello, everyone. I’m Edmund Bradford. And in this video, we’re going to be talking about the hot and tricky subject of ESG.

And to help me with that, we have Yelena Novikova, who is a G20 young global changer and an independent expert on ESG and sustainability.

So thank you very much, Yelena, and welcome.

Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure, Edmund.

Now, one thing that you told me about, which I thought was very interesting, is that you and some of your colleagues, I’ve actually changed ESG and you’ve added D into it.  So you are often referred to it as ESDG. Do you want to explain what that D is all about on ESDG?

D is for digital. And I would say that we didn’t change the ESG. We just gave more importance and attention to the very important D factors that were always there but were becoming more apparent because of the work that we started doing on Public Value Principles for which this ESDG term is kind of very central front and center would say.

It started right during the time when we were all globally. Pretty much all the countries went into lockdown.

And as we know, even right now, one in four Americans are working from home, 16% of companies globally are fully remote, and 62% of people are reporting that they still work from home at least some of the time.

And it’s now when many countries are already getting vaccines. So right at the time when we studied this work, it was even more apparent digital kind of took over our life.

And even before that, laymen would think about digital factors because

they are given data to digital platforms like Facebook or even like regular

sites that ask you to give permission for cookies, for example. But as we went into the pandemic, it kind of became more apparent that it’s much more a nuanced topic of companies, our digital data, and us and how we communicate through digital means.

For example, one example I would give is productivity software because a lot of companies started to install productivity software on laptops for working from home employees. And no one actually knows how much data a certain software might receive.

There is a known kind of concept of mission creep the developers are talking about. So right now, for example, this software is used for productivity software strictly. But no one is to say if the company may be less responsible and they might use it for extracting more data about the place and stuff like that.

So it’s a big topic right now where some companies want to use this productivity software, others maybe don’t want to use this productivity software. And then there are other companies that say we might use it, but we will have a strict mandate what we are using this for.

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.

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.

Transcript

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.
home-icon-silhouette remove-button twitter-social-logotype instagram youtube twitter facebook twitter linkedin plus