Dentsu, brands and industry bods discuss sustainability at Cannes Lions

cannes lions dentsu sustainability with heinz, heineken

As the industry comes together for the first time in two years at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, dentsu International brought together leading marketers to discuss how to harness the power of the industry to change consumer behaviours for more sustainable futures.

Dentsu Beach House

Cristina Kenz, Chief Growth & Sustainability Officer, The Kraft Heinz Company, Stephen Woodford, Chief Executive, Advertising Association and Michael Gillane, Marketing Director, Heineken UK all joined Anna Lungley, Chief Sustainability Officer for dentsu International on stage at the dentsu beach house to explore what’s needed to change behaviours globally to meet the pernicious challenge posed by the global climate emergency.

Consumer change in Cannes

Kicking off with a discussion on how consumer lifestyle changes can drive 70% of the emission cuts needed to meet climate targets, the panel examined the opportunities for positive change, including innovations in products and services; such as Sustainability as a Service; the requirement for cross-industry collaboration; the commitment to measurable, science-based targets and the urgent need to upskill across the industry to avoid greenwashing claims. 

This culminated in the agreement that sustainability is everyone’s responsibility, the panel provided hope and actionable advice to drive change through the power of collaboration and positive action.

Demanding perfection

Consumers are driving the demand for more sustainable products. However, consumers still have high expectations for products and services, and sustainable credentials will not make up for a drop in quality. 

This was brought to life by Kraft Heinz’ Cristina Kenz, who said “Consumers care about the planet, but in FMCG they care about taste and nutrition too. If it doesn’t taste good, it won’t sell”.

Gillane agreed, and argued that sustainability should be used to improve products or services – Heineken’s sustainable dispenser gives customers the best pint of Heineken available due to its high-quality beer storage.

Sustainability as a Service

In addition to a wider discussion around innovations in packaging to help consumers use less and recycle more, one interesting idea to arise from the discussions is the potential for ‘sustainability as a service’. 

Gillane said: “Offering sustainability as a service really is key. Heineken provides a dispenser on subscription to pubs with technology that reduces carbon consumption by 50% and water usage by 30%. 

“We get revenue from this while creating a superior experience for the user, and a reduced impact on the environment.”

“There are of course pain points, but we have to get on the front foot and play a proactive role in providing circularity.”

Greenwashing and the urgent need for upskilling

Greenwashing accusations are a huge concern for businesses and agencies alike, which can cloud the journey towards change.

Gillane suggested that greenwashing comes down to missing out on either intent or integrity: “Intent is about commitment – Heineken has made commitments to science-based targets in a timescale that doesn’t feel a million miles away. 

“The other piece is integrity: once you have made commitments, do you have the governance and discipline to make these changes happen.”

Woodford argued that greenwashing happens when marketers do not understand the rules of climate communications well enough. 

Nobody sets out to ‘greenwash’, the panel heard, but often businesses aren’t as rigorous as they should in checking guidelines. 

“We need to massively upskill the industry. We all need to become sustainability experts – not just the team leads but all of any business’ thousands of employees”, said Woodford.

Cross business collaboration 

The panel agreed that more collaboration will make the path to sustainability faster and more efficient, and concluded that this change needs to be driven primarily by businesses rather than governments, given the scale and complexity of the problem.

Gillane discussed the importance of investing in innovations and collaborative efforts that make a difference, particularly in the beer industry given its large carbon and global footprint.

Lungley agreed, pointing to multi-sector collaborations to help address common issues such as shipping: “One key collaboration is around the impact of media and advertising, which contributes to a business’ Scope Three emissions – but clients and agencies working together have the power to reduce these”, Lungley said.

Concurring, Woodford emphasised the need to measure the impact of campaigns: “Although these things are complex we are building the tools to take them, and make what was traditionally invisible, visible. 

“When you put the data into people’s hands, the day to day transactions will start to account for carbon. So alongside all planning, people will always be looking at carbon and how to make changes to minimise it.”

Kenz highlighted that sustainability is a complex issue, not a complicated one. The difference between complex and complicated is the intention: “We have a complex issue with supply chains, it’s not complicated if you have the intention to change it. 

“I hate when people tell me it’s complicated – that’s the politics of not wanting to do it.