What does it mean to have a sustainable brand?

This article is sponsored by BrandExtract.

What role does sustainability play in a brand?

Despite your best efforts, your brand is not just what you say it is. Your brand is an evolving relationship between your company and your customer. Whether that customer is a stakeholder, a consumer or a B2B relationship, it’s important to understand that a brand is squishy — it’s a dialogue and a conversation based on promises of quality for a service or product.

This is where sustainability branding, when done properly, can be a powerful asset to your company. Not only does it provide tangible value in your company’s viability to investors and customers, but it also encourages your company to self-reflect and align brand values with corporate values.

In other words, sustainable branding forces you to reconcile what your company is doing with what your company is saying about itself. When companies start branding themselves as sustainable, it’s crucial to start talking about the structural issues of the company’s value chain that may have social, environmental or governance impacts.

Your sustainability strategy can’t begin and end with a single ESG report — it requires an in-depth look at the inner workings of the corporate strategy. In what ways can that strategy be fundamentally altered to fit a sustainable market?

ESG reporting and sustainable brands

ESG reporting can be an invaluable tool for sustainable branding, as it presents an opportunity to collect and distribute meaningful data about your company’s impacts on the world and down to the local community. However, as mentioned above, while ESG reporting is a valuable component, it doesn’t necessarily encompass the entirety of your sustainable brand.

In many cases, ESG reporting may help your company measure and respond to structural environmental, social and governance issues in your corporate strategy. That’s a crucial first step towards building a brand around sustainability that speaks to customers with transparency.

Reporting can also help demonstrate to investors that your company is properly measuring and managing risks associated with climate change and social impacts. This can go a long way towards positioning your company as a forward-thinking industry leader.

Above all else, ESG reporting helps build brand integrity. It provides hard tangible data to back up the intangible concept that is your brand. Since brands are a constant conversation, ESG reporting is useful for opening up that conversation, and letting customers and stakeholders alike know that you are willing to transparently share your sustainability progress and goals. Sustainability, by its very nature, is an evergreen concept always in motion.

The sustainability ecosystem

As more companies market themselves as sustainable, they often have to reconcile questions about their brand strategy. The critical questions raised about sustainability often lead to bigger questions about the company as a whole: Who are we? Are our mission, vision and values aligned with our business goals?

To build a brand around sustainability in an authentic way, companies need to reflect on these questions, and determine where they can meaningfully contribute to the conversation around sustainability. There are three main places that companies can find their niche in a sustainable ecosystem:

  • Companies that can do what they do more sustainably and smarter.
  • Companies that can enable a transition to a better future.
  • Companies that can change their entire model to improve the future.

Some companies can make adjustments to their existing value chain to make sure they’re doing business responsibly and more efficiently. Others (often B2B companies) can enable other businesses to operate sustainably. Many other companies might find that an entire re-evaluation of their strategy is necessary to ensure that their values are aligned with ESG.

Taking a long, hard look at how exactly your brand can represent sustainable values will go a long way towards developing your brand’s perception and its social license to operate. In a world where the public is quick to judge whether a company meets their personal values, make sure to stand out with intentional thought about sustainability.

Interested in how to position your brand in the sustainability ecosystem? Contact BrandExtract to speak with expert strategists. ESG Reporting Partners, a division of BrandExtract, can also help create your ESG report through its Artisan platform. Contact us for a free demo.

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