Sustainability and Brands in an Important Period of Social Change
From Selina Donald, Global Sustainability Director at Momentum Worldwide
What brands have recently created sustainability campaigns that you believe resonated with consumers?
2022 is the year that the automotive industry has gone big on raising the profile of electric vehicles. Every major brand has released a noteworthy campaign, connecting with consumers through humor and well-known characters and celebrities. General Motors wins for pure comedy value, sending the cast of Austin Powers on a climate-saving mission, turning Dr Evil into Dr Good and promoting their line of electric vehicles with the tagline “Everybody in.” Likewise, BMW showcased their electric vehicle and the benefit of carpooling with four Major League Baseball stars.
Brands are also using advertising to acknowledge the negative impact their product can have. Coca-Cola recently partnered with science TV personality Bill Nye to release a video on plastic recycling to encourage consumers to responsibly dispose of their favorite drinks. Over the pond in Norway, McDonald’s used honest imagery to ask consumers to take away their take away” rather than throw it in the street.
Brands and agencies have faced challenges starting their sustainable journey. What are some of those challenges?
The biggest challenge faced by brands is authenticity and trust. Compare Ethics found that only 20% of consumers believe sustainability claims made by brands, and that six in 10 consumers are ready to change their purchasing habits to align with their personal values. In order to retain and build consumer loyalty, brands must be transparent about their sustainability journey and provide data and honest insights into both successes and failings. Not doing so will result in greenwashing accusations, but also a loss of favor in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
At Momentum, we recognized the need for authenticity and made the decision to certify our sustainability strategy, Make it Matter, to leading global standards in environmental management (ISO 14001 and ISO 20121). The independent certification adds weight to our strategy and holds us accountable for our actions. By putting the right framework in place, we have been able to reimagine our efforts in a more responsible way across both our internal operations and the work we execute for our clients. A recent example is the Coca-Cola Icehouse project where we worked to our client’s “World Without Waste” strategy by building an event space that will be reused for over five years, reducing the need to create more assets for future activations. By supporting our clients' targets, they perform better and, in turn, so do we.
Marketers with a clear stake in the purpose arena have long made sustainability a part of their messaging to the public. What are ways in which you can support sustainability through a brand’s narrative?
We’re in an important period of social change. Voices that have previously gone unheard are now taking center stage, from school girls igniting an environmental movement to social injustices and inequalities highlighted through demonstrations across the globe. It’s important for brands to use their voice to highlight what matters to them, what they value and authentically evidence this through action. It really is what brands do that matters.
Marketers have an opportunity to use the global reach of brands to connect with consumers on the topics they deeply care about. As an agency, we’ve long recognized the power of events to bring people together; to educate, empower and inspire through experience; and how we can harness content and connection to bring about change in the world. An example is our work with technology brand SAP and sailor Emily Penn, where we designed and built a consumer-facing mobile experience that provided users with everyday solutions to being more sustainable and make a difference. We reached 2 million people through this technology and hope to have influenced a ripple of small changes that could make a big difference in sustainable development.
How can brands capitalize on sustainability in our new remote world?
Pivoting to the virtual world was initially seen as a stopgap solution so brands could continue to engage their consumer base while retail and experiences were brought to a halt. However, the opportunity in the challenge soon became clear, and by focusing on the virtual, remote world, brands have been able to multiply their reach and connect with larger audiences in every possible location.
Using this platform, brands are able to drive innovative change on a larger scale than ever before. Across the world, companies are using data, cloud and AI to engineer faster, optimize operations and accelerate sustainability efforts. The growth of the metaverse is a prime example of replicating a real-world connection through immersive virtual environments to invite consumers to step inside companies. A great example of using the metaverse to further sustainability is TimsTrails by Timberland, which allows the audience to gain an understanding of the story behind the footwear. Consumers can explore their global sustainability programs and other elements of the brands, and the experience concludes with how Timberland will actively work toward a greener and more environmentally friendly future.
Whether it’s a digital or actual stage, it’s only through innovation, connection and education that we’re going to be able to collectively tackle the climate crisis, and it’s the role of big global brands to demonstrate leadership in this space.
Selina is the Global Sustainability Director at Momentum Worldwide, responsible for the development and implementation of our flagship sustainability strategy, Make it Matter. Selina’s epiphany moment came while working on the London 2012 Opening and Closing Ceremonies, which served as memorable bookends for the most sustainable Games to-date. As well as the Games, Selina has been part of high-profile projects including England’s 2018 World Cup Bid, COP23, the Rio Olympics 2016 and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. Selina founded The Bulb in 2015, providing consultancy to event organizers, brands and NGOs to help create events with environmental and social causes at their heart. Having studied both law and sustainable business leadership, Selina uses her expertise to champion sustainability and legacy within the industry, and is passionate about leading the business transition toward a more sustainable model.