March 14, 2024

Brand Sustainability

YOUR BRAND’S FUTURE REQUIRES THE S WORD

No, it’s not sex, or sizzle, or even sssssudio. It’s sustainability. And like it or not, you’re going to have to make your brand’s sustainability promise, even processes, clear to people.

Sustainability ignites two things brands try not to steer right into: fiery opinions and cynicism. From doom-and-gloom conjectures, to climate denial, to anti-capitalist upheaval and yielding maybe the worst case scenario: Apathy.  The way you navigate that landscape is going to have a significant impact on your relevance to consumers, employees, partners, and potentially your business.

But like most things, when we dial down the polarizing rhetoric and look at things strategically – the S word doesn’t feel so daunting. In this clarity, we can see our suitable position on the sustainability spectrum.

We could debate the nuanced definitions, practices, and outcomes under the banner of sustainability. For sake of simplicity, we’re going to suggest it means this: adopting practices that bode well for human and ecological flourishing, while also working to improve upon and/or wean ourselves from practices that harm the planet.

How you choose to define and act upon sustainability becomes your unique strategy. That strategy, when combined with the specific steps and actions your organization will take to achieve it, becomes your Corporate Sustainability Plan. And when enfolded into the larger picture of how your company operates and the rules that guide your action, it becomes part of your comprehensive Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) efforts.  

                             

The days when a successful company could avoid having a defined Sustainability Strategy are over. Customers, stakeholders, and even regulatory agencies are increasingly demanding transparency on corporate sustainability goals and actions. A sustainability plan was once a “nice-to-have,”  — the icing on your organization’s feel-good cake. Today, sustainability is an unavoidable part of your company’s core brand narrative, which means it’s an unavoidable part of your company.

Whether you’ve been reluctant to embrace sustainability strategies or need encouragement to lean in and keep moving forward, here are three easy-to-grasp reasons why embracing sustainability makes strategic business sense regardless of your company or industry:

  1. Regulations are making sustainable practices mandatory (“We have to”)

This one is, well, mandatory. Every industry has its own compliance and regulatory issues. Sustainability adherence and reporting is already the law in California, Europe and other global markets. Failure to meet regulations harms your business and signals to suppliers, partners, and competitors, let alone consumers, that you’re behind the eight ball.

  1. Brands that deploy sustainability practices are listening to customers – and responding accordingly (“We need to”)

“Surprising and delighting” customers has always been a brand’s aspiration and in many ways, an imperative. But what surprises and delights customers today looks different. Sustainability matters to your customers, so it needs to matter to you as well. Sustainably sourced, made or disposed of products is becoming prominent in today’s purchasing behavior. Meeting regulations is a necessary cost of doing business. Adopting practices that align with consumers’ preference for sustainable brands is a necessity for staying in business. This also consciously expands your sustainability framework in practical ways. What was once solely about compliance becomes customer-centric and in lockstep with their delight and respect for your brand’s practices. This will be key to maintaining and increasing customer loyalty.  Sustainability may be a polarizing media topic, but consumer behavior is less split on the issue. To stay relevant is to be sustainable.

  1. Brands with sustainability at their core are more successful (“We get to”)

In February 2023, McKinsey & Co. unpacked consumer sentiment about sustainability. Pulling from its 2020 survey, 60 percent of U.S. consumers said they were willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. Additionally, in a 2023 NielsenIQ study, 78 percent of U.S. consumers said a sustainable lifestyle is important to them. Over the past five years, products making ESG-related claims accounted for 56 percent of all growth. And while we’d like to say that altruism is a goal of every entity on earth, we’re certain growth is. Sustainability is the rare business challenge offering you the chance to do both.

Glean customer insights. Define a competitive advantage. Build a sound strategy. Execute with excellence. This is Business 101. Today, sustainability is part of the standard curriculum.

Brands still have the option of choosing a sustainability path. You can reluctantly accept, lean in, or embrace and run forward. No option will be frictionless, just as no aspect of business is without friction. The greatest mistake at this point is to assume your action can wait.

At Hyperquake, we’re actively walking a path of sustainability by running toward what we want to be. Not perfectly, but it doesn’t have to be. We’re okay with learning as we go because frankly, we all are. We’re also committed to helping brands as they embark on their sustainability path. For some brands it’s about helping them take their first steps. For others it involves helping them tell their sustainability story, why it matters, and why it has to actually be evident across the business activities for it to be a part of that story. Because two things are becoming undeniable: Sustainability resonates with customers, and chances are, it’s already impacting your bottom line.

Yes – some will continue to resist and delay or shutter sustainability to a marketing tactic. Others will recognize this as a significant moment where the business challenge and the business opportunity aligned. For the former, we wish you luck. For the latter, how can we help you?

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