Age of Sustainability Dawns
The cultural shift being driven by the onset of one of the worst global financial crises in recent history demands that major brands fundamentally reassess their point of view if they want to maintain their leadership positions in the years ahead.
This is the key learning emerging from the research undertaken by OgilvyEarth ahead of it developing a communications strategy and campaign for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP15, taking place in Copenhagen in December this year.
This research led OgilvyEarth to refer to 2009 as the ‘Dawn of the Age of Sustainability’, and to publish a white paper highlighting critical findings.
The authors summarised: ‘What we learned was striking: 2009 is giving rise to a new world order with the concept of sustainability at its very core. And, how we understand and frame sustainability is changing radically. Forget the well-worn tropes of charity for the planet, apocalyptic threat or moral obligation. In the Age of Sustainability, sustainability is an economic issue, opportunity and imperative. Sustainability drives shared prosperity, and offers brands the opportunity to go far beyond a green marketing campaign. As a new world order emerges, with sustainability at its very core, there is a huge opportunity for brand reinvigoration and reinvention.’
OgilvyEarth’s Seth Farbman will be in South Africa in October this year and will address delegates at the Brands & Branding for Good (www.brandsandbrandingconference.co.za) conference taking place in Gauteng. This is the first time sustainability will receive top billing at a local conference addressing brands and branding issues. Other international speakers include Andrew Welch, executive director in the London office of Landor Associates; Paris-based director of Responsible Marketing Practice at Added Value Europe, Lesley Pascaud; and Justin Hollis, Senior Brand Communications Manager (EMEA) at BlackBerry.
The conference will not, according to convenor Ken Preston, dwell on ‘green’ brands but rather tie in to the very real concept of sustainability. “As OgilvyEarth discovered during its information gathering, consumers are quick to point out that ‘green is a very different idea – about the environment, not people. They are interested in the sustainable economy, not the green economy.’
“However, the two are not mutually exclusive: US President Barack Obama phrased it so well when he said: ‘The choice we face is not about saving our environment and saving our economy. The choice we face is between prosperity and decline.’” he quoted.
Evidence in support of OgilvyEarth’s Age of Sustainability can be found in financial stimulus packages, legislation and mainstream consumer acceptance – as well as in new wealth creation, as these example show:
- The renewable energy sector of China has a value of nearly US$17-billion (UNEP)
- The global carbon market value could expand to US$3-trillion by 2020, the current value of the oil market (New Energy Finance)
- The market for sustainable energy products will be worth US$500-billion a year by 2050 (The Stern Review)
- In the US, the renewable energy sector now employs more people than the coal industry (Sierra Club)
Preston said that thinking like OgilvyEarth’s had been the catalyst for him putting up South Africa’s first ever conference to focus on brands and their relationship with socially and environmentally ‘aware’ consumers. And to carry the theme over to this year’s Brands & Branding Encyclopaedia as well.
“After reading this and other reports, there was no doubt in my mind that responsible brands are more attractive to consumers, and are able to build more comfortable relationships with regulators, local communities, investors and the media,” he said.
“This prompted the question how focused are South Africa’s brands and what in this regard can we do to assist them to remain relevant to consumers whose values and behaviours are shifting to align with the goals of the sustainability agenda.
“The Brands & Branding for Good conference is our answer as it will provide brand owners and their agencies with the opportunity to understand and appreciate the prevailing consumer shift and how to align their brands with sustainable values.”