Accelerating Your Brand’s Sustainability Journey

In a Nutshell:

How should brands be driving consumer behavior change at scale? How can they seamlessly embed sustainability messages into their marketing? Can sustainability be harnessed to confer a competitive advantage in the marketplace? Darren Beck from media think tank Sustainable Brands offered case studies of the transformative journeys of Clorox, P&G, and other leading brands, providing insight into the best practices and tools available today to help brands accelerate their journeys toward true sustainability.

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Words of Wisdom:

"The accountability isn't in the Sustainability team. It's with the individual business owners...If I'm successful at my job, I'll be out of it in a year or two. Instead of me being the CSO, at Clorox we'll have 8,800 CSOs." — Ed Huber, Chief Sustainability Officer at The Clorox Company

Key Takeaways:

A Sustainable Brands For Good Core Survey (August 2020) indicated 96 percent of U.S. consumers said they try to live sustainable lifestyles at least some of the time. In another study by U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol 2021, sourced from Porter Novelli, 61 percent of brands and retailers say consumer demand has increased for environmentally sustainable business practices and goods/services. While they only constitute 16 percent of the total market, sustainably marketed products represent a 55 percent share of market growth, according to the NYU Center for Sustainable Business.

Sustainability is enabling business and society to thrive in harmony with nature. Brands can become sustainable by building a more holistic perspective and practice.

The tenets of a sustainable brand are that it:

  • Operates from a purpose beyond profit
  • Leverages its influence
  • Operates regeneratively
  • Delivers net positive products and services
  • Aligns culture and governance with a sustainable future

Case Study: The Clorox Company

Clorox established positive purpose at the corporate level, with the credo, "Champion people to be well and thrive every single day." The marketing team sought to bring that purpose to life within each category and purpose-led brands but needed to jumpstart the process by helping the business understand what sustainability really means and how to pursue it.

The marketing team engaged in evaluating more than a dozen brands through the Transformation Roadmap tool offered by Sustainable Brands, along with each brand's cross-functional teams.

This process helped each brand team:

  • Establish a baseline for its performance
  • Determine actions that can be taken to build on that baseline
  • Identify its ambitions and aspirations
  • Provide mentoring across brands

The Roadmap is now integrated into the sustainability strategy planning sessions annually to track progress and prompt innovation.

Action Steps:

A systematic approach is needed for meaningful change — an ongoing cycle that begins with a brand benchmarking its strengths and weaknesses, followed by:

  • Discovering its brand purpose
  • Testing the creative
  • Engaging employees and customers
  • Tracking consumer perception
  • Measuring sales uplift

To become sustainable, a brand needs to find its focus: "the sweet spot" that resides at the cross-section between what the brand uniquely offers, what the world needs, and what people want. Additionally, brands should do a self-assessment of its impacts, strengths, and weaknesses before going to market with a sustainability plan, so as not to get called out for "greenwashing" or "purpose-washing" (deceptive practices that mislead consumers into believing a brand is sustainable or eco-friendly).

The brand and insights teams at Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Visa, and Nestlé Waters helped Sustainable Brands co-create the Ad Sustainability Awareness Platform (ASAP) tool, designed to measure the power of a campaign's ability to drive action, influence, credibility, and talkability against the nine most effective sustainable behaviors.

It's also important for brands to keep their finger on the pulse of consumer perceptions. Sometimes it can be hard for people to live up to their intentions when it comes to living in ways that protect the planet, its people, and its resources. For example, in a Sustainable Brands survey in December 2020 about the barriers to sustainability, 36 percent of respondents said that "people don't know where to start" while 29 percent said "problems are too big or complex to be solved by any one person."


"Accelerating Your Brand's Sustainability Journey." Darren Beck, VP of Membership & International at Sustainable Brands. 2021 ANA Masters of Marketing Conference, 10/8/21.

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