Shared value delivered simply: a reconnection with society

23 Feb 2011|Added Value


E.ON turning up the heat on fuel saving; SAB Miller whetting appetites for a responsible approach to bottom lines; and Sky reaching for more than the stars in the Brazilian rainforest. Sustainable marketing is directional now and the serious players are mapping the way forward for 2011 and beyond.

You may remember in our November issue of Branding for Good News, we cited several reasons why the Sustainable Express is heading to a community station near you. But why does it make good ‘branding’ sense? 

Professor Michael Porter – one of the most distinguished business thinkers in the world believes that capitalism needs to be redefined and most importantly, that companies need to re-connect with society to deliver what he calls ‘shared value’ where business and society both win. Re-thinking the product around societal needs he says will be the significant driver behind shared value. And it’s not about CSR, philanthropy or volunteering schemes; it’s about re-focusing your business so you create profits by solving societal needs.


We believe that to make a real impact in sustainability, Marketing Directors need to first think about the issues and simplify them down. Concentrate on the biggest issues relevant to the category, then develop initiatives specifically against these in a way that supports what the brand stands for. Success could command leadership in the category as a result and a boost for the brand too.

Coca Cola is a prime example with its considerable efforts on the subject of waste, from water usage through to packaging. A sustainability drive fizzes throughout the supply chain and this year sees the launch of a “plastic” soda bottle for the Odwalla brand made from molasses-based materials.

Others like IBM focus on changing the behavior of citizens. Its City One game strives to engage consumers around sustainability issues. Players are faced with the real life challenges of urbanisation and its impact on the planet, from traffic congestion and inefficient energy infrastructures to water shortages and supply chain problems.


These examples are raising awareness and an increasing percentage of consumers are now happy to accept some new sustainable rules. The big challenge though is how you make the involvement of your consumers and customers really easy and accessible. People don’t want to be overwhelmed with guilt so brands need to focus in on, and communicate about, the small things that make a difference.

It’s clear that the trend toward green products and services should never mean a reduction in quality, but an improvement in the consumer experience. Working within the constraints of sustainability to create something completely new is no mean feat.

“Successful brand communications in 2011 are not preachy,” says Trewin Restorick, CEO of Global Action Plan. “They are positive and a bit cheeky – they focus on a tangible consumer activity and deliver a tangible benefit.” Trewin identifies good campaigns as those that are clearly linked to the business message. Toyota used their ‘glass of water’ campaign in Sweden to drive their leadership in low-emission travel. Driving with a glass of water on the dashboard serves to change technique: less acceleration, less breaking and a consequent ten percent reduction in fuel use. Toyota got its message across by handing out sixty thousand biodegradable glasses of water and a glass of water app, which you try not to spill as you drive.

Brands should choose something that really matters to their category and to consumers – and do it in a fresh and interesting way. “Businesses will need to reach beyond traditional bolt on CSR approaches and adopt more forward-looking embedded sustainability plans,” comments Dax Lovegrove, Head of Business Relations at WWF. “The dual aim is to drive receptiveness for new alternative business models, and produce innovative ‘feel good’ products that contribute to greener living.”

We agree. Brands have little option but to be honest about where they can have the greatest impact. At the end of the day, your sustainable strategy should be aligned with your brand strategy, activated in fresh and inspiring way that  is ownable, unqiue and reflects (or even credits) the character of your brand. It’s often the mall steps which communicated well, can really mean something big. This year we’ll see a lot more collaboration as likeminded partners work together to take even greater steps in addressing these bigger issues to prompt consumer action.

So how can the brands of tomorrow create profits by solving societal needs? We took the question to several influential brand players for their view.  Click here to read what rainforests mean to Sky, why E.ON encourages it’s customers to use less energy, and why water means everything to SAB Miller’s bottom line.

By Marie Ridgley, Managing Director & Cate Hunt, Director, Added Value UK

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