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SUSTAINABILITY: Sustainability a Powerful Tool to Grow Market Share


Recent Gauteng Business News

Sustainability is not just something we do as responsible companies; it is a powerful tool to grow our market share, improve our profitability and leap-frog our competition.

This was the upbeat take-out from the final day of Brands and Branding for Good 2, a conference that took place in Johannesburg this month and got to grips with the real issues facing brands and branding in a shifting world.

Driving home the business case for sustainability on Day 2 were international speakers Mitchell Faigan, president of Citizen Brand in Toronto, Mindy Goldstein, partner and programme director at Ogilvy and Mather New York and a member of the agency’s OgilvyEarth initiative; and Stefan Borbe, general manager BMW Product Communication, EfficiencyDynamics and ConnectedDrive.

They were joined on the podium by local thought leaders Mike Schalit, chief creative director Net#work BBDO South Africa, Deon Robbertze, executive creative director of Zoom Advertising and creative director OgilvyEarth at Zoom Advertising; Melissa Attree, founder of GetOn eMarketing, Nicholas Maweni, marketing and communications executive sub-Sahara Africa for IBM; and Barbara Jensen, head of Communications for Gautrain Rapid Rail Link.

In a day of lively discussion and pertinent questioning led by facilitator, Moonchild founder Sizakele Marutlulle, Robbertze suggested that a sustainable planet for 6 billion people is not as sustainable for 9 billion people, and that there has to be a dramatic mind shift towards sustainability and the huge opportunities it heralds. These opportunities were highlighted by the BMW, IBM, Dell, Gautrain, Nike and McDonald’s case studies over the two days.

However, Robbertze also cautioned against making sustainability claims that are untrue, as this would have a negative impact on a company’s – or brand’s – credibility.

In 2009, he said, a phenomenal 98% of all ‘green’ claims made by companies and brands in America alone were guilty of one or more of the ‘Seven Sins of Green-washing’1. The term apparently emerged from the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and it entered the Concise Oxford Dictionary in 1999. It refers to the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.

“Unfortunately, as the consumer becomes more environmentally and socially brand sensitive, the number of brands making ‘green’ claims has increased tenfold. The majority of these claims end up being more fiction and a lot less about fact.

“It seems most greenwashing is the result of marketers rushing to respond to consumers’ desire for more sustainable goods and services and, in the process, falling prey to the overwhelming complexity of achieving corporate sustainability.

“And, it is an extremely serious matter as it erodes hard-earned consumer trust and contaminates the credibility of all sustainability-related marketing going forward. Smart marketers, therefore, will plan accordingly and avoid green-washing,” he said.

Closing the conference, convenor Ken Preston, praised speakers and delegates for their insightful contributions and questions.
“After the success of the inaugural conference last year, we are again extremely proud to have given brand owners and their agencies another opportunity to understand and appreciate the prevailing consumer shift, and align their brands with sustainable values.

“The quality of speakers and content has been, again, excellent and served to highlight the importance of social and environmental sustainability as a business imperative for the coming decade and beyond. Well done to everyone for their considered opinions,” he said.

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