The climatic changes caused by deforestation, accidents and health problems caused by the use of chemicals in food and the cemeteries for electronic scrap in developing countries in Africa are partly examples of bad business decisions that have been dragged from decades.
Towards the end of the century, emerges what’s known as sustainable development, a concept developed as an alternative to the concept of common development, with emphasis on the reconciliation between economic growth, natural resources and society, avoiding compromising the possibility of life on the planet or the quality of life of the human species. Over time some companies began to develop sustainable brands, which are basically products or services created or modified to generate added value in terms of environmental and social benefits for consumers. While the big brands are now investing in this type of development (I will comment on some examples below) there’s still some fear of the so called Marketers about the impact that such investment has on consumers. You can hear phrases like “We run the risk of affecting the brand” “What would our return on investment?”
Some good practices: 3M, a brand that has been creating paper products for more than 70 countries, which after six years of litigation with the activist group ForestEthics, has pledged to work with renewable resources and sustainable wood to produce its products. Starbucks has announced that is moving its source and product manufacturing area for the product Ethos Water out of California because of water conservation efforts being made by the state. And some brands have already been working since some years ago creating sustainable products. Johnson & Johnson sees sustainability as an evolution in sequence and with its plan “Healthy Future 2015” it increases efficiency spreading sustainability through its entire supply chain, reducing the impact of packaging and waste. The most notable effort in terms of sustainability for Danone happened in 2012: to meet the commitment of reducing in five years carbon intensity by 30%; goal that it surpassed with 35%. Its products rely on some form of natural ecosystems. Another goal in terms of sustainability (providing healthy food to as many people as possible), has stimulated its overall growth in sales by 50% from 2007 to 2012 and from 600 million to 900 million people. And the most paradigmatic example is that of Patagonia clothing brand that produces high durability outdoors clothing and offers lifetime warranty in its garments. The funny thing is that they’ve made Public Actions by mending the brands’ clothes and in their Ad campaign they’ve taken as initiative the phrase “If you don’t need it don’t buy it” referring to their own products and promoting to reduce the production and damage it produces in the ecosystem. The biggest example comes from the top of the pyramid, its owner, Yvon Chouinard uses in this photo a t-shirt of the brand he’s had for ten years now. His mottos are:
We make clothes that last long You don’t need to buy anything you don’t need.
We help repairing Patagonia clothing. You commit yourself to fix what’s torn.
We help you find a buyer for Patagonia clothing you no longer need. You sell or give away that clothing. They say that if you want to sell your product Patagonia on ebay, they can help you sell your clothing on the brand’s official website.
We will collect Patagonia garments that are not usable. You commit to keep your clothing far from incinerators or landfills.
Together we reinterpret a world where we take only what nature can replace. Finally, talking about consumers, major links in the chain of consumption of brands. The behaviors have evolved and citizens seek for brands not only to meet their needs but to achieve contemplating and addressing social, human and environmental issues. Consumers are penalizing through social networks and digital tools brands that are not committed to the environment and they serve as citizen power amplifiers. With this said, brand’s social networks are a key point to “listen” and interact with its audience and potential customers. Nowadays, the so called “relevant brands” are gaining strength by putting people in the center and are designed to improve the well-being while generating returns for the business.