Most sustainability initiatives are focused on improving the triple bottom line, but what about growing the business top line?
In Creating a Sustainable Brand: A Guide to Growing the Sustainability Top Line, Henk Campher, SVP of Business+Social Purpose & Managing Director of Sustainability at Edelman, applies tried and true marketing strategies such as line extension and brand extension to demonstrate how brands can wrangle the “elusive, pesky green consumer.” He challenges some commonly accepted sustainability ideas and introduces a simple Sustainable Brand Model that brands can use to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
Like other books in the DōShorts Sustainable Business Collection, Campher’s book is written for the busy sustainability professional. It clocks in at just 80 pages, but packs dozens of relevant examples and useful diagrams in succinct prose.
The first myth Campher debunks: Consumers aren’t ready. More and more sources have written about the “elusive green consumer” and cited market research showing that, though consumers say they want more sustainable products, their purchasing behavior often doesn’t follow suit.
Campher writes, “We are wrong when we think consumers aren’t buying into sustainability and aren’t buying products and brands they believe add to a more sustainable lifestyle and world. They are, but not the way we want it. And that is our problem, not theirs.”
In addition, Edelman’s Trust Barometer shows that Millennials don’t trust companies or the information they see in the same way as their parents: “64 percent of them need to hear information three to five times before they believe it. And another 12 percent need to hear it 10 or more times! Not only do they need to hear it many times but they need to hear and see it from many sources, places and people.”
Citing the success of Whole Foods and The Body Shop – who aren’t “small niche little brands anymore” — and the transformative power of Prius and Tesla, Campher warns: “Look out, world of mainstream brands — be ready to be challenged.“
Campher also exposes the limitations of existing rankings and ratings in determining whether a product is sustainable. Most notably, he explains the need for differentiating between process and product (i.e. whether a product was produced sustainably and whether the product itself is sustainable) and the need for measuring shared value. Campher’s alternative is a Sustainable Brand Model built on product sustainability and branding sustainability, with product sustainability defined by the impact a product has through its value chain and the inherent value of the product itself.
See below two of four well-known brands Campher maps in his Sustainable Brand Model framework. He is quick to note that the aim is not the perfect diamond, because “the truth is, not all brands or products are born equal.” Instead, the purpose is to help brands identify and strengthen their unique brand offering.