Sustainability ‘imperative’ for business leadership
Sustainability and growth are no longer at odds and are now very much in sync, says OgilvyEarth's president Kim Slicklein.
Speaking at the Sustainable Brands Conference in London this week, Slicklein said a new era of sustainability has emerged, “one in which sustainability is not a separate strategic initiative but something fully integrated into the strategy and operations of a company”.
Talking about the role of a company’s brand in driving a sustainability agenda, Slicklein pointed out that the lack of understanding around sustainability is restricting the “movement” from growing.
“Sustainability is no longer just about the environment – a lot of people that we work with think that what we are talking about is just environmental sustainability. What we’re doing is so much more and that intersection of people, planet and profit is really where we see the biggest impact”.
“Sustainability is a complex word, it’s confusing to a lot of people – but purpose driven brands are the direction that we’re headed in, with social engagement, corporate citizenship, CSR etc. It’s a vast space”.
OgilvyEarth, a global sustainability practice, recently surveyed people across the world and found that most people have good intentions around sustainability with 82% of those surveyed wanting to live a more sustainable life.
“But what we’re seeing is the majority fall into a mainstream gap that we call the ‘green middle'”, said Slicklein.
“And that is our target and that is the mainstream consumer that we should be focusing on. There are so many barriers to sustainability; there are so many things that make it not convenient and too difficult to do, so we have to close that gap”.
According to Slicklein, consumers respect brands whose missions go beyond profit margins.
“They believe in businesses that have a higher purpose and they think about these things when they make an actual buying decision and this is even more relevant as the years go on”.
The sustainability ‘movement’ is surging through the corporate world as more and more businesses understand the relevance it has to their financial, not just the environment impact.
“There has been a tipping point in the direction of responsible business – in the last few years good corporate citizenship is on the rise and sustainability in particular is becoming imperative for business leadership in the 21st century because it’s the right thing to do but most importantly because it’s just good business,” said Slicklein.
She added that embedding sustainability and good corporate citizenship at the heart of business and brands gives rise to great innovation and opens the doors to a new generation of marketing leaders.
“Arguably the debate about sustainability as a business case is over, business can and must be at the centre of this movement and as a result their collective good deeds will be rewarded”.