Does your brand help people change the world for the better?
In Futerra’s new survey of over 1,000 consumers in the USA and UK, we discovered that 96% of people feel their own actions, such as donating, recycling or buying ethically, can make a difference. And over half believe that they personally can make a big difference.
This is great news. Because over the past years the need for ‘sustainable lifestyles’ has become an imperative. In their detailed scientific report on the state of climate change in October, the IPCC called for everyone to eat less meat, save energy and car-share. For the first time, the global public were given an official role in the huge political effort to solve climate change. And in September, at the United Nations General Assembly, I helped to launch the new Good Life Goals; a set of personal actions to help everyone contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
But the job isn’t done yet, and brands have a key role to play. Because, although people think they can make a difference, they want more help doing it. Our survey revealed an overwhelming demand for brands to step up on sustainable lifestyles. If your brand isn’t helping your consumers improve their environmental and social footprint, then you’re in danger of disappointing 88% of them:
Brands have become much more confident in trying to change the world themselves. Superbowl advert-breaks are awash with issue-based messages. Bold, brave and compelling campaigns abound across platforms, proving how aligned companies are with the new environmental and pro-social values of millennials. But consumers need you to do more than your own sustainability, social purpose or brand activism.
Because just talking about your own values isn’t enough, consumers want you to help them live theirs. And that’s the secret to true purpose – serving the consumer rather than talking about yourself. Too much of the cause-related-marketing, sustainability or CSR activities of brands promote what the company is doing, rather than helping the consumer to make their own difference. This isn’t only a problem for business brands. Governments and even many NGO’s take for themselves the role of ‘actor/hero/change-maker’ and relegate the public to mere ‘audience/beneficiary/cheerleader’.
Perhaps this is why today, consumers feel that companies are actually making it harder for them to make a difference in the world:
It’s not hard to see why. Brands use packaging that is desirable for the consumer at Point Of Sale, but guilt-inducing at Point Of Disposal. The industry is threaded with scandals about exploitation of workers, so consumers fear that what they buy was made by slaves, or children. Ethical options demand a premium ‘mark-up’, making good choices only accessible to those who can afford it. Labelling can be unclear, confusing or incomplete. There is a shocking lack of transparency on social standards in supply chains. Plastic cutlery comes as default with food deliveries. Candy is positioned at the perfect level for little hands beside supermarket check-outs. The consumer is right, we don’t make it easy for her to be good.
The Good Life Goals can bridge this gap between what consumers are asking you for, and what you’re delivering. They were shaped through a multi-stakeholder collaboration between Futerra, the 10 YFP Sustainable Lifestyles and Education program, co-led by the governments of Sweden and Japan represented by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), with UN Environment, UNESCO and WBCSD.
The 85 actions in the Good Life Goals remind us that people power matters as much as powerful people. And brands have a huge potential to unleash that positive impact. Brands influence our behaviours, our aspirations, our insecurities and even our definition of success and happiness. That creative power is potent.
So how can you use your brand power for good?
- Help people
With Ocean Rescue the broadcaster SKY is helping consumers cut their plastic pollution. Colgate wants you to save water whilst brushing. And Alexa is teaching kids politeness. Brands supporting behaviour change has a long history, from when Ariel started asking us to ‘turn to 30’. If you want to help your consumers, start with how they use your products. The simplest step is to promote the Good Life Goals through your marketing.
- Start at home
28.2 million people work for Fortune 500 brands worldwide. Each of those people are likely to feel the same way as the general public. Your people are the touchpoint between your brand and everyone else. Are you helping them live the life they want?
- Do something new
The real answer to this survey is to leverage your NPD, acquisition and entrepreneurial activity for the Good Life Goals. We need products and services that help consumers live a sustainable lifestyle: Electric cars, plastic free supermarket aisle, waterless cleanser, slave free chocolate, and even mass movements against consumerism.
But whatever you do, ask yourself the right question. Your consumer has the right to change the world for the better – how are you going to help her?