Why sustainability and business decision-making must go hand-in-hand

sustainability in business deals

One thing the global coronavirus pandemic has taught us is how important sustainability is – for everyone from high ranking executives at the world’s corporate giants to the individual consumer.

There’s been a huge change in the world and sustainability needs to be right up there now with diversity, brand values and ethics. 

Consumers are demanding change, and Veronica Arteaga, Associate Account Director at UM London, says we need to do more to weave sustainability into the fabric of the business decision-making process… 

sustainability - veronica arteaga
Veronica Arteaga, UM London

2020 started with many disruptions. But this year, brands are ready to kick start with a new vision for a better future. Some embraced the disruption of 2020, whilst others had to learn to adapt to the change – quickly. 

What is certain is that we are now witnessing the beginning of a new change for brands and businesses; and this time it’s a positive one.

Companies are more and more regularly taking a more sustainable approach to their business model, and this is no longer down to just one department, rather it is now the responsibility of high ranking executives to ensure that sustainability sits at the core of their business-decision making process, and that they are embracing this new attitude and future-proofing their business.

Consumer expectations

As consumers consistently expect more from brands: to take action and adapt to new working models to create more successful, innovative and responsible businesses, we can see a big wave of stakeholders demanding more efforts within their own companies. 

As well as from the media, creative and PR agencies they work with.

At UM, we launched a campaign back in October 2020 for one of our biggest B2B accounts, where the brand asked their target audience to embrace change after a disruptive year, whilst conveying how this tech brand itself can support your company and employees on the path to “change”. 

Strategically transforming this campaign into a great global execution and embracing the disruption of 2020 with open arms.

wfh - amid covid19
Home working – new challenges presented themselves, but the climate heaved a sigh of relief.

The resulting change from 2020 has not only translated into working from home, the so called “new normal,” but also into how brands will embrace, adapt and build a sustainable business model for the future of the company and the employees. 

Key pillars

All this impacted three key pillars: environment, social and ethics & governance efforts. 

In terms of the environment, the positives that have emerged as a result of a year working from home in this regard are evident. 

They included the decrease of the daily commute leading to lower carbon energy emissions, and reducing the footprint of IT, cloud and software. Clearly an important part of creating a better and more sustainable business.

From a social perspective, we have witnessed a number of cultural movements across the past year, that have accelerated so many aspects of this pillar; including cultural equality, having open and honest conversations about mental health, unlocking opportunities for talented people, and many more. 

As a result, companies have the opportunity to contribute to these conversations in a positive way, and show their worth as an inclusive and trustworthy brand in the eyes of consumers.

The final pillar of ethics and governance is arguably the most important. Consumers are continually demanding transparent business models, and evidence of how a brand’s values are reflected in their day-to-day operations. 

corporate values and consumers
Consumer planet: The world wants to see brands show their values in every day activities.

Without the trust of your consumer base, where does a brand’s future lie? To be truly sustainable in your business model you need to be able to rely on the future loyalty of your customer. 

The message is clear – consumers are looking to brands to communicate how they are adapting to rapid changes in society and in particular how they are addressing sustainability. 

This relies on a synergetic ecosystem of sustainability within a business, which as mentioned is not down to one department anymore, but rather depends on the entire company to function. 

Marketing rethink

We are now looking towards a full restructure of how we marketers see and live the brief. How can we as media experts be a part of the message that our clients communicate and really live by it? 

This is what brands are now looking to us to do, in order to come full circle in creating a fully transparent and ethical business.

Aside from understanding the client business and goals, we need to get into the same mind-set and be a part of the conversation. 

We should be asking ourselves what else is our company doing? How can we support our clients on their path towards a more sustainable and responsible business? 

As media experts, when we first receive a brief our response should be to ensure we are very selective of the media opportunities we push for. 

Partnering with sustainability in mind

For example, partnering only with publishers that are committed to being on the path to net-zero; that print OOH on recycled materials; publishers that are committed to social growth and bringing equal and diverse opportunities to their talent; and those that operate with transparency and integrity.

marketing and recycling
Ad industry litter: The marketing industry must commit to change or lose out on future partnerships.

This movement towards accelerated change is only just beginning. Consumers are demanding better of brands, faster than ever before. 

It’s time to embrace transparency, and for business leaders to ensure that what they are doing in terms of the environment, social and ethics & governance remains a continual topic of conversation, in order to create a truly sustainable business.