It’s no secret that the audience at any Sustainable Brands conference lives and breathes social impact. From CSR strategists to climate change experts to sustainability technicians, our careers are devoted to integrating business and social purpose to make the world a better place.
Ricardo Caceres, Global Marketing Director of Sustainability at The Coca-Cola Company, knows he is preaching to the choir. When he says, “We must shift sustainability from a technical to a humanizing conversation to unlock marketing value,” heads around the room nod in agreement. He’s speaking our language – the challenge of connecting the dots between sustainability imperatives, and marketing and business goals.
On the first day of #SB16sd, Caceres and his former Coca-Cola colleague Omar Rodriguez-Vila, now an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Georgia Tech, led an invigorating discussion about bridging the gaps between sustainability and marketing departments. Over the course of three hours, they provided practical guidance of how CSR and sustainability teams can guide marketers to make key decisions about amplifying social impact priorities, programs, and goals.
The conversation focused on one key insight: We must leverage sustainability’s assets to meet marketing’s priorities. For example, the more consumers are aware of a brand’s sustainability programs, the more trust they have in the brand. Therefore, sustainability teams can use this awareness to their advantage to work with marketing teams and their budgets to tell the sustainability story.
Caceres outlined why marketing managers tend to resist integrating sustainability into brand marketing, despite that up to 70 percent of marketing pros (!!) are aware of their company’s plans for and commitment to sustainability. In short, marketers may feel disinclined to prioritize sustainability strategies, because of their:
Rodriguez-Vila then focused in detail on the intersection of business adjacencies, consumer associations, stakeholder acceptance and brand attributes to successfully valuate societal benefits from a pure marketing point of view. He recommends conducting a materiality analysis so that brands can best align sustainability programs with the product and consumer expectations, citing SunChips and plastic bags as an example.
Additionally, he reminds us to check the attributes of key products**.** Organic baby shampoo makes sense – consumers perceive organic as gentle and natural, perfect qualities for baby. But organic car tires? Organic bathroom cleaner? Consumers want to know that those products are effective, more than organic or sustainable; ensure that marketing speaks to these attributes and reinforce key points (cleaning efficacy, strength, etc.).
Sustainability must build a bridge to marketing to achieve communications goals. Purpose professionals should leverage data and assets to create a strong business case for why social impact matters on the front-end of consumer communications. As Caceres and Rodriguez-Vila demonstrate, building bridges can be done. The end result is sustainability communications that break free from technicalities and tell a human story of impact to an even wider audience.