Generation Z is the most diverse and egalitarian group of Americans we
have ever seen. Many established marketing strategies will have to be adjusted
accordingly. Companies need to decide whether they take a stand on social and
environmental issues, because this generation has lost trust in the political
process and is therefore eager to vote with their wallet.
Donations do matter. Sponsoring
events for those who suffer is the social good people want to see. Corporate
social responsibility is beneficial to your community, but how exactly does
your business affect the wide range of stakeholders they serve? Providing value
to your community beyond fantastic products and great service is how you can
differentiate yourself from the competition. This may include social and
environmental initiatives that go way beyond donations and sponsorships.
Storytelling is becoming an effective strategy to reach Gen Z, because
they are often doubtful of abstract and vague messages like healthy or natural.
They want to know where and how is your product made. Are you monitoring your
supply chain for ethical wrongdoing and, if it exists, how do you react? Transparency
will create trusted relationships with your consumers for years to come.
You may say Gillette using a controversial video is risky. They may
have lost consumers, but they have also attracted new consumer segments who
value their public stance against toxic masculinity – an issue bouncing around
our education system and has been in politics for decades. This new generation
wants to see change and since politics aren’t trusted to provide that change,
they’re looking at the next most influential group in the Country: Corporate
Walking the talk is crucial, though. Figuring out whether your pledged
support truly materialized is simple, so businesses engaging in white washing
will be called out publicly. There are plenty of certifications and alternative
business models to consider. Focus on the triple bottom line, become a
certified B Corp or support one of hundreds of social and environmental
Scientists observe effects like natural disasters and decreasing grain yields caused by unsustainable business practices. According to Maslow, mankind’s basic physiological needs are being threatened – needs that must be satisfied before all else. Businesses actively working against these hazards can help consumers satisfy these threatened needs and, by doing so, create a competitive advantage. This new value stems from sustainable operations, which need to be communicated appropriately.
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is an excellent success story. It points out monetary benefits of corporate sustainability, primarily when it comes to avoiding physical, regulatory and reputation risks. The CDP uses a monetary vehicle and communicates it to their corporate audience using buzzwords like “benchmark performance,” “stranded assets,” “fiduciary duties,” and even quoting support from the Bank of England. Why would the same system not work for the consumer goods market?
The answer is simple: the system requires an educated audience and/or superior communications. Sustainable Reporting Guidelines encouraging transparency, accountability, SMART approaches and even the disclosure of any lobbying efforts and publications with related content are merely a means to an end. They expose the truth, but which end can consumers reasonably analyze a 30-page corporate report and understand topics like the different scopes of carbon accounting?
The solution is simple: corporate sustainability and its positive impacts could be communicated through an educational framework. Consumers need to be informed about threats to their basic needs, how they contribute to them, and why choosing goods/services of sustainably managed businesses can potentially avoid threats similar to avoiding an investor’s risks. By enabling consumers to expose negative impacts, businesses will react to level the playing field, meaning that the early adopter catches the worm. Pointing out whitewashing is crucial as well; some sustainability efforts are more effective and relevant than others and this needs to be understood.
The 16 UN Sustainability Goals provide information on relevant areas. They allow managers to identify relevant sustainability focus areas for their industry, and their communications experts can conveniently “borrow” from the site’s professional content and visuals to serve their audience.
Long story short, marketing departments play crucial roles in fostering informed consumers and establishing corporate sustainability as an accepted competitive advantage.