Birgit Baier is a Consulting Partner at Ogilvy – a New York City-based British advertising, marketing, and public relations agency. During Billo Summit 2021 Birgit Baier spoke about the importance of growth and sustainability.
Sustainability and Growth
The value of purpose, conscious consumption at scale, and purpose-driven ecosystems.
The purpose is the reason why something is done. Company purpose is the affirmation of being in business.
Sustainability is simply the ability to maintain. In business, sustainability is the long-term value when operating in an ecological, social, and economic environment. The emphasis is on the long term.
Purpose has increased in relevance and value for companies and consumers.
Over the last year, it has been amplified by covid-19. Purpose enriches corporate mission and vision. According to Harvard Business Manager, only 28% of employees feel connected to their company’s purpose. In Europe, some small and medium companies, as we as people believe that this is a real differentiator as it is embedded in their DNA that they are contributing to society and not just working for the shareholders. Other countries like Japan have a long history of doing this, and small and medium-sized countries in the US.
Sustainability links profit orientation to purpose.
At first, this was a concept that was seen as a PR activity. However, considering that we are running an economy that is using 1.5 times the regeneration capacity of our planet, we have to realize that this is not something that we may have to do, but that it is something that we must do. This is no longer a PR activity. From a problem arises an opportunity to differentiate our brand from others. Companies can position themselves as game-changers by becoming leaders in sustainability. Some companies already have plans for sustainability, and employers are making it visible to employees to feel comfortable and connected to their company’s purpose.
The 5 stages of Maturity for Sustainability are:
- One-Off Projects – a company does some one-off projects towards sustainability.
- Organizational Practice (90%) – this is when sustainability turns into an organizational practice. This is where 90% of companies fall.
- Business Innovation – This is where sustainability goes from being a problem to an opportunity.
- Organizational Culture – In this step, Sustainability is connecting to more than just one element of the business.
- Purpose Driven Ecosystem and Organization – In the final step, organizations focus on the company’s environmental impact. 16% of US brands are at this step.
Four 2021 trends towards sustainability:
- Ethical Brands – Brands that are sustainable and do not greenwash. They offer environmentally friendly products.
- Circular Economy – We produce 3.8 million tons of waste every day, and it is only growing. The number is expected to double by 2025. A circular economy allows for products to be recycled and reintroduced in the production cycle as raw material, effectively lowering waste.
- Ethical Consumption – This is our consumption, which means that we buy based on our moral considerations.
- Zero Waste – the goal of closing the loop where we do not create more waste.
The consumer response to these trends is the shift in expectations. We do buy more sustainably. The more knowledgeable we are, the we purchase differently. In the 60s, we were environmental and philanthropic consumers, and today we are conscious consumers. The goal is that we become aware of scale, which is currently not possible.
88% of consumers demand more in sustainability, 8 out of 10 consumers believe in living more environmentally friendly while 57% of French and 38% of UK consumers spend more time on climate change.
Brands are beginning to respond to this, yet there are still too many barriers to sustainability. Investors are also shifting their expectations regarding climate change, and companies must be ready to respond to their questions.
Companies are responding by changing their ecosystem to include sustainability in their corporate structure. Part of this ecosystem is partnerships. Companies are seeing the value in alliances and realizing that it is better to work together. Companies are making purpose-led alliances.
In conclusion, the purpose is the new narrative and a source of motivation. Companies should avoid cause washing and move towards a purpose-driven ecosystem.