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Brand Purpose and Sustainability


As the effects of climate change threaten society in more and more ways, a growing number of companies are working to integrate sustainability initiatives into their brand purposes. Efforts to do so, however, can often be beset with questions and uncertainty. To bring added clarity to the matter, consider three tips shared by guests on the ANA Center for Brand Purpose's Beyond Profit podcast.

Look at sustainability as a business opportunity. "[With the advent of the digital revolution, we] saw the dying out of large companies like Blockbuster, like Kodak, that had all the right in the world to build that digital future. Kodak should have created Instagram and Blockbuster should have created YouTube, but they didn't. It just wasn't in the culture, it wasn't in the leadership's minds, and they were doing well. So, they didn't really see it as a threat, but they were overtaken really quickly by competitors. I think what's happening today is pretty similar. Instead of a digital transformation, it's a sustainability transformation. Everything from the materials that we use, to the food that we eat, to the transportation that we take, to the energy that powers our cities, and a number of other things, they're all transforming into sustainable alternatives. So, as a business executive, as a brand leader, be thinking about those things and about how you can lead your company, your customers, your employees, and your ecosystem in that direction."
Justin Bean, author of What Could Go Right?: Designing Our Ideal Future to Emerge from Continual Crises into a Thriving World

Consider the synergy of sustainability and purpose. "If purpose is the reason why the brand exists, why you exist in the world, and sustainability is really how you exist, purpose is absolutely stronger when it has that 'how,' that comes to life with the brand connected to it. And, similarly, I think sustainability or ESG efforts are so much stronger within the organization when they're connected to the 'why' [for which] the business or the organization or the brand exist at all."
Lindsey DeWitte, president of public relations and EVP of purpose and sustainability at Barkley

Attend to the growing push toward a circular economy. "Companies have to be more transparent; they have to be more accountable. Consumers are increasingly wanting to know more and more about where their products are made, how they're being made, who made them, and how they're being recycled and returned. The biggest existential challenge for many companies now is, of course, circularity. So how do we reduce waste and how do we keep items and products and materials in circulation for longer so they can be repurposed and reused and then monetized? So, if you think about that as the new economy, I don't understand how you could not operate within that context without thinking about sustainability, on the one hand, just from a functional material point of view or social impact, and, on the other, from a human point of view."
Phil White, co-founder of Grounded World

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Morgan Strawn is a director of editorial and content development at ANA.