Source Unsplash Credit Danist Soh

Actions, and then Words

How to build a brand synonymous with sustainability 

There is no denying that sustainability is a huge focus for brands across the globe. With growing concerns around rising temperatures and runaway carbon emissions, companies face grassroots and governmental pressure to deliver on sustainability goals. Bidisha Nagaraj, Global Vice President Marketing, Home and Distribution at Schneider Electric shares her thoughts on how to build a brand synonymous with sustainability.

Recently we have witnessed the rise of an ‘Anti-Greenwashing’ movement. If we look at the genesis of this, it has been the conflict between claim versus action by brands. Reacting to this, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink now refuses to use the word 'ESG' any longer, stating that “it's been misused by the far left and the far right.” As marketers, we need to think about how sustainability action relates to credible marketing. 

Building a sustainable and inclusive brand is not a marketing exercise 

Good marketing cannot make brands sustainable or inclusive unless there is a strong business purpose behind it. In fact, if you try to lead sustainability through marketing, you bring significant risk to your brand equity and trust. 

Leading by example 

PwC research found that nine in ten business leaders believe their company has a responsibility to address ESG issues and eight in ten consumers think companies should actively shape ESG best practices. Organizations today have no choice but to address this sentiment. Consumers today are scrutinizing brands who market green campaigns or pledges, meaning they must be more robust than ever.  

To effectively communicate credible claims, sustainability needs to be at the core of your business practices, impacting the complete value chain. As an example, Schneider Electric’s purpose is to empower all to make the most of their energy and resources, bridging progress and sustainability for all, we call this Life Is On. We have been focusing on action first, with marketing following as a supporting strategic pillar. With a dedication to sustainability for over 20 years we have ambitious targets in place for 2025, focused on six long-term goals that are aligned to the UN SDG goals.  

To reach our climate change goals, we aim to generate 800 million tons of CO2 emissions savings for our customers, increase green material in products to 50% by 2025, and continue to make green investments with SE Ventures, a global VC fund backed by Schneider Electric, with a €500 million fund to accelerate climate and industrial tech start-ups. In recognition of our progress, we've been listed in the Time100 Most Influential Companies 2023 for cutting corporate emissions. 

How marketing can act as a catalyst for positive change 

Marketing plays a vital role in communicating positive and informative messages to consumers. For example, Schneider Electric partners with customers and the wider industry through technology-led solutions, empowering them to meet their sustainability goals. To create a strong call to action linked to its brand purpose, Schneider Electric India launched the Green Yodha (Green warrior) initiative. The aim of this movement was to get corporate citizens to motivate key decision makers to set sustainability goals, act on them and communicate the results. Building on our unique position as an ESG practitioner and digital partner, we have successfully reached over 10 million individuals and organisations through since launching in 2018.  

This campaign was successful because it inspired and galvanized audiences to take action to help leave the planet in a better place for the next generation. It inspired our teams internally too, meaning we ‘walked the talk’. As marketers this should be our endeavour for any successful and credible campaign. It is possible to inspire a behaviour change whilst building synonymity with sustainability without fear of greenwashing.   

You can follow our "where to start with ESG" thread in our member only social media platform The Coffeehouse to add your thoughts about this think piece and wider sustainability an marketing discusssions


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