New York, April 10, 2013. The majority of firms that invest in sustainability communications strategies do not achieve tangible business benefits because they fail to integrate sustainability into the corporate brand, according to a new report from independent analyst firm Verdantix. Based on an analysis of how 80 firms link sustainability with corporate branding the study identifies five alternative communications strategies: Purists, Explorers, Advocates, Reactionists and Nothingists.
“Sustainability communications professionals confess that they can’t demonstrate the value of their activities with hard financial metrics” stated Abbie Curtis, Verdantix Industry Analyst and author of the report. “By investing in bolt-on communications to employees and the green ghetto, firms don’t increase brand equity or drive revenue growth. To move from a tactical to a strategic approach heads of sustainability need to persuade Chief Marketing Officers to integrate sustainability into the corporate brand. Too often this conversation never happens.”
The Verdantix report, “Rethinking Sustainability: Brand Risks & Opportunities” provides executives with a framework to benchmark their sustainability communications strategy. The multi-industry assessment identified five strategies for Chief Marketing Officers to choose from:
- Purists place sustainability at the core of the corporate brand as well as in their product marketing, often reflecting a sustainable business model or a commitment to sustainable products. Firms such as Ecover, Interface and Natura benefit from increased revenues and reputational benefits without spending more on marketing.
- Explorers integrate sustainability into both their corporate brand and corporate communications as a key attribute. Firms such as Kingfisher, Novo Nordisk and Vedanta Resources achieve return on investment via the marketing benefits of increased customer loyalty, sustainable products and improved reputation.
- Advocates actively communicate on sustainability issues, but keep these communications separate from the corporate brand. They focus on two key audiences: employees and sustainability opinion leaders and use the sustainability report as a central tool. For firms such as FEMSA, Huawei and Tesco the business benefit is enhanced reputation management.
- Reactionists invest in a basic sustainability report and respond to crises triggered by NGO campaigns and compliance failures. Reactionists such as Altria and Inditex use sustainability communications as a crisis management tool to protect the corporate brand without incurring significant costs.
- Nothingists do not invest time or money in a sustainability communications strategy and benefit from a zero cost approach. Firms in this category such as Electronic Arts and Yanzhou Coal Mining Company face heightened reputational risks and may be pushed into taking a more active approach by market events.
“Sustainability leaders have inherited tactical CSR communications strategies focused on reports, ratings, opinion formers and not for profits. This bolt-on approach is broken” commented David Metcalfe, Verdantix CEO. “Chief Marketing Officers can add strategic value by integrating sustainability values and messages into the corporate brand. By embedding sustainability into branding and corporate communications, firms benefit from revenue uplift and reputational benefits without significant additional spend.”
To find out more join the Verdantix webinar ‘Rethinking Sustainability Communications: Brand Strategies, Risks and Opportunities‘ on Thursday 25 April 2013.
Note To Editors
Verdantix is an independent analyst firm. We provide authoritative data, analysis and advice to help our clients resolve their energy, environment and sustainability challenges. Through our global primary research and deep domain expertise we provide our clients with strategic advice, revenue generating services, best practice frameworks, industry connections and competitive advantage.
For further information, please visit www.verdantix.com.
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