Sustainability has many benefits. These benefits have been long reported upon, but for some odd reason they aren’t fully utilized in every business. This could be because of how sustainability was rolled out: expensive, low (or no) business benefits, and a concept for the liberals and extremists. Luckily the facts show different than the rumors. This article is part of a series to discuss the benefits of what happens when organizations work with sustainability in their core operations.

Increased Brand Reputation

Brand reputation is an important factor when running any business. People want to work with ethical, honest, and trustworthy organizations. Reputation has become such an important issue that many organizations now have vetting processes to ensure the other brand isn’t operating illegally. But reputation isn’t the only thing that carries a brand reputation. What is found to be one of the most important factors to a brand reputation is sustainability and the actions which support it.

According to Sustainable Brands:
“Nielsen (a global measurement and data analytics company) polled 30,000 consumers in 60 countries and asked them to indicate what factors had the most influence on their purchasing habits of a wide range of products. … 66% of respondents say they’re willing to pay more for products and services that come from companies who are committed to positive social and environmental impact…”

And with this poll comes action. In 2018, Unilever announced that “its most sustainable brands grew 46% faster than the rest of their businesses and delivered 70% of its turnover growth.” In addition, their sustainable living brands increased to 26, up from 18 in 2016. These brands include Dove, Lipton, Hellmann’s, Knorr, and its B-Corp Certified brands Ben & Jerry’s and Seventh Generation.

So how you do you become a sustainable brand? 2018’s Sustainable Brands conference outlined five key elements: system-wide brand influence, net-positive products and services, purpose beyond profit, regenerative operations (recyclable materials and sustainable processes), and transparent and proactive governance.

“Now that 80% of consumers say that they would feel more loyal to brands that value community and environmental growth over money and status, sustainable branding has really hit its stride”. - Fabrik

One key example of an organization that is making huge strides in their work with sustainability is Patagonia. Patagonia is known for its luke-ellis-craven-301633-unsplashoutdoor clothing, specifically their jackets, many of which are made from recycled plastic bottles and reuse materials from old/used fleece jackets for new fleece jackets. Its clothing has become such a big name in the outdoors industry that they no longer focus on the basics - they’re on to a much stronger sustainability initiatives.

In 2011, Patagonia released an entire ad campaign titled “Don’t buy this jacket” in an effort to reduce consumerism during the holidays while increasing its transparency with the public.  “Underlying much of what challenges Patagonia is the modern commitment to growth and consumption. We’ve begun to look seriously at these twin conundrums and took out an ad on Black Friday in 2011 that read “Don’t Buy This Jacket.”” 

In December 2017, Patagonia blacked out their website, calling for consumers to act and protect public lands after the President of the United States sold protected lands. Seeing nature as part of their brand sales, they’ve kept an active campaign to track the impact being made. And their message is working. In an article by FastCompany, “Patagonia grows every time it amplifies its social mission”, its identified that Patagonia has definitely placed the dollar to the side of its purpose and mission. And it’s only growing: 

“Marcario (Patagonia CEO) has overseen a quadrupling of Patagonia’s revenue in her decade-long tenure with the company, pursuing investments in sustainable design and manufacturing and in startups allied with Patagonia’s mission. The company has built a righteous flywheel, like an Amazon for do-gooders: The more it invests in its beliefs and its products, the better Patagonia performs, develops creative solutions, and maps out a blueprint for other business, big and small, to follow.” - FastCompany

Building a sustainable and responsible brand isn’t easy work. But, as highlighted by Patagonia, when you do it right, your fan base will only grow, and you’ll find new ways of doing business. When sustainability is at your core and your actions match your mission, companies will receive increased brand reputation, hire top talent, and gain new customers organically.

“Companies that hope to make a big impression with consumers need to know that brand trust topped the list of purchase influencers for more than half (62%) of global respondents surveyed.” - Sustainable Brands