Sustainability is an ever-changing and evolving issue that is becoming increasingly sophisticated in the demands it places on businesses and brands. For example, several decades ago it was considered a competitive advantage to be called a “green” company. Yet once more and more brands started to adopt and use this message, it somehow seemed to lose it meaning and true gravitas. Today, with so many large corporations and the financial and banking sector making significant commitments, it is simply not enough to “be sustainable” and limiting sustainability to encompass only environmental issues is a symptom of leadership that has not recognized the larger role customers now expect business to play. Leadership must now embrace an expanded definition of sustainability that includes social, economic, moral, ethical, and environmental sustainability and reframe business leadership in terms of global stewardship for positive social change.
A recent article in the FT by Andrew Parry, Head of Equities at Hermes Investment Management, serves to highlight this by stressing the fact that sustainability is now an imperative. (However not only for Asian markets Mr Parry, but globally!).
And the sustainability imperative evolves and expands so will its success metrics and this presents yet another opportunity for companies to demonstrate leadership, accountability, and innovation. Whether it’s contributing to a new set of industry standards, taking steps to quantify and improve yearly environmental impact like Apple or redefining how a company can show bottom-line benefits to shareholders, now is the time for corporates to step up and not only ensure their own success but also to provide lessons for the corporate world at large.
It is clear that brands cannot survive in societies that fail, and the most iconic and sustainable brands of the future will be those that drive the most meaningful and holistic change to achieve success for both their own brand as well as the planet.