It’s a fast changing world—especially for marketers. So, how do you get it all done and deliver on your goals? The answer might just be to take on even more than marketing in order to show your customers you are aligned with their values.
The numbers make the case for placing sustainability front and center—87% of global consumers think business should place equal weight on society’s interests as on the bottom line, according to Edelman’s annual good purpose study, which explores consumer attitudes around social purpose. However, only 20% of brands are seen to positively impact consumers lives, according to a Havas study.
“Separating marketing from sustainability, and limiting sustainability to the environment, are two symptoms of leadership that has not recognized the larger role that customers expect business to play,” writes social branding firm We First’s Simon Mainwaring in Forbes.
In a July 21 interview with Harvard Business Review, Unilever CMO Keith Weed, who runs marketing for one of the world’s largest and most complex consumer goods companies, talks about his plans to transform his marketing department and how those plans could transform the company at large—all while doubling revenue and halving their environmental impact.
While some might question the decision to combine sustainability initiatives, which have traditionally been the rubric of corporate social responsibility (CSR) teams and marketing, Unilever sees them as hand in glove, according to Weed, who used to run the laundry and water businesses around the globe before assuming the CMO post. In emerging markets where consumers need to spend time weighing things like how much time and money go toward water, how much water you need to wash your clothes was a critical factor for the customer.
But Weed also had to address tensions inherent in running aspects of the business that used to operate in silos.
Weed developed Unilver’s Sustainable Living Plan and a new strategy called Crafting Brands for Life, which asked each brand to rethink its position statement and clearly define its social purpose and how that fits in within the overall strategy. He also changed the CSR department and took the reins of the communications function as well.
“The real tension you have in companies is when marketing is in one silo, identifying what consumers need and driving demand, while sustainability is in another trying to reduce environmental impact, while Corporate Social Responsibility is in another working on the company’s social contribution while communications is telling its own, possibly different, story,” Weed said.
Because he saw this internal disconnect as one of the main problems, Weed closed the CSR department and integrated it into various businesses.
For Unilever, sustainability provides a strong path for growth and it’s the logical choice, he says.
We First’s Mainwaring seems to concur, writing in Forbes. “As long as marketing and sustainability efforts remain siloed on the basis of outdated organizational, budget, and marketing practices, these brands continue to run the risk of failing to meet marketplace, business, and customer demands that are the key to their survival.”