Ahead of Earth Day 2021, I welcomed five marketing leaders from BlackRock, The Nature Conservancy, DuPont Water Solutions, Corning Gorilla Glass and Kerry to explore the relationship between environmental sustainability and brand growth at a time when COVID-19 has only accelerated the dialogue around sustainability and the planet.
Our roundtable conversation touched on the many ways brands can embrace and promote sustainability effectively—from relating sustainability to purpose, recasting sustainability as a business strategy and harnessing storytelling’s power to simplify complex problems.
In closing, I posed the questions: What gives you the most optimism regarding achieving meaningful progress in environmental sustainability, your brand’s commitment to driving the sustainability agenda, and as a marketing leader, your commitment to progress on sustainability? Here’s what they had to say.
I’m encouraged by the conversations on social media about sustainability and social justice. As crazy as those platforms can be, you’re witnessing acts of collective resilience. When I look at partnerships, there’s a realization that no one can do this alone. We’re partnering with Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy; we partner with The Nature Conservancy. We have a $600 million fund to invest in innovative technologies around decarbonization. It’s the realization that we need each other, and we can’t do it alone. That sense of collective resilience is what gives me optimism.
First and foremost, BlackRock committed that sustainability will be our new standard for investing. Secondly, we’re committed to changing our investment approach to have an accelerated transition to net zero. Third, we are prioritizing and making the default investment and many of our funds lean towards sustainability.
I’m most interested in the notion that climate action is absolutely necessary. However, we should also keep an eye on the impact it has on communities; there should be an inclusive transition, a just transition so that the communities that contributed the least to the problem don’t suffer the most. We have the capability of doing both things. So, my personal commitment is to ensure that we have a just transition as we move toward a greener economy.
—Frank Cooper, Chief Marketing Officer, BlackRock
What gives me great optimism is that consumers are demanding and asking for what we call sustainable nutrition. In other words, great-tasting products that have less impact on the environment. In the past, when you had great-tasting products, you pretty much knew it wasn’t that good for you. But when you had a product with the right nutritional profile, it didn’t taste that great. But now, science and innovation have caught up. Now we can produce great-tasting products that are good for you and don’t have negative impacts on the environment. The fact that our consumers are demanding this, that our industry can produce this and that our employees are expecting and asking us to deliver on this gives me a great sense of optimism.
We have several targets laid out in Kerry’s Beyond the Horizon sustainability strategy. But our real commitments and the real impact continues to be working with our customers to help them deliver on their sustainability objectives. That’s where we can have the most impact and reach the most consumers with sustainable nutrition around the world.
In terms of my own personal commitment, working within an organization that is very committed to sustainability, I’m inspired to use this platform to continue to advocate for the importance of sustainable nutrition, continue to work with groups like the World Food Programme and Project Concern International, and work towards ensuring that sustainable nutrition is available for all.
—Catherine Keogh, Chief Corporate Affairs & Brand Officer, Kerry
One of the most powerful things about the advent of mobile devices is you now have an entire generation growing up without barriers. In terms of climate change, we’re a few years away from the point of no return. Yet you’ve got technology that’s binding us together; you’ve got technological innovation that’s coming to life on a variety of different fronts, from carbon capture to recycling technologies to the way we’re looking at food sourcing. The question is, how are we going to get there, which is why I’ll go back to the terms mindfulness and collective consciousness. Because once you overcome that threshold, the human spirit is always there. We can definitely move this initiative forward quickly, and that’s the power of what we’re facing today.
The focus for our brand this year is with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. It’s not just about the animals. It’s about the environment, the ecosystem and everything around it. It’s crucial for us because we’ve got to be very selective and focused on where we go with this. The work we’re doing with them is important, and the work they’re doing is critical, and it’s tremendously inspiring.
My personal commitment goes back to the fact that I look at the most potent force we have against this is the aggregation of human capability. There are seven billion of us. So 20 years ago, when I first got into living systems and started studying it, I pledged to be part of the environment, not be away from it. What actions am I taking every single day to reduce my footprint on the planet? And along the journey of conscious awareness, what am I doing to influence people at work, at home and at play? So that’s been a journey for the last two decades, and it’s a mission I want to continue.
—Akshay Gupta, Director Strategic Brand Marketing, Corning Gorilla Glass ·
What gives me optimism is the mindset shift which is driving behavior changes. There’s been an awakening, an awareness; there’s been so much more emphasis on driving our sustainability vision at DuPont, too. So, it’s incredibly encouraging.
Sustainability is intrinsic to our brand and purpose; it’s tied together for DuPont. Our purpose statement is “we make the essential innovations to help the world thrive.” But how do we innovate? How do we do a better job with lightweight and cars or getting us more deployment of 5G? What technologies are needed to get over some of those barriers? Then water as well, how do we open up access to more people? How do we make things more optimized for our industrial customers? It is a world of ands. Where do we have that business benefits, efficiency benefits and sustainability benefits? They all line up together.
A whole portion of DuPont’s sustainability commitment is around diversity and inclusion. I’m very proud of that. Our goal is to be one of the world’s most inclusive companies. It’s inspiring to see that connection and how it all fits together. If we don’t have diversity and diversity of thought, we’re not going to make it.
My personal commitment is reflecting on what’s essential. All we have is our time, so what’s the most important thing I can be doing? What is uniquely something I can contribute versus maybe somebody else can? It’s about constantly resetting, continually asking that question and trying not to let the noise pull me in the wrong direction.
—Kimberly Kupiecki, Global Leader Sustainability, Advocacy, Communications, DuPont Water Solutions
The fact that my teenage daughter is tuning in to this event gives me a tremendous amount of optimism because it’s that age group that we need to unite with to advance the sustainability agenda. 71% of people in the age group 13 to 39 believe that climate change is an immediate threat to human life. That’s a massive change. The good news is that 72% of them feel like hashtag movements have the power to make a difference.
The people suffering the most from climate change are the most vulnerable communities. Such as people from countries who have to consider migrating with dignity because they no longer have an inhabitable homeland. That’s happening right now. It’s those vulnerable populations that we all need to act for. The fact that we have so much activism from our youth and from others to help us gives me a tremendous amount of positivity around what we’re trying to do.
The Nature Conservancy is committed to working hard, putting our force between science and pushing forward on very ambitious goals, and collaborating with others to move towards a place where in 2030, we are no longer in an emergency situation.
My personal goal is to tell those stories of people from those vulnerable communities, to lift them up, to make them personal, to reach the hearts of those we might not have reached before about how important this is, and speak up for those people who haven’t had a chance to speak up for themselves, invite them in, and personally make sure that they’re heard.
—Meg Galloway Goldthwaite, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, The Nature Conservancy