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Sure, Actions Speak Louder - But Your Words Better Measure Up, Too

Corporate sustainability claims are becoming standard practice, and consumer expectations have risen in kind: A growing pool of data indicates that stakeholders across the globe now expect business to deliver greater value, beyond slicker products, quality services or higher profits. But the way companies communicate their efforts in this area could make or break their reputation in the minds of this increasingly savvy audience of customers, business partners and other stakeholders.

The recently released 2012 Sustainability Leadership Report from Brandlogic and CRD Analytics reveals that while more companies have increased their sustainability performance scores since 2011, overall consumer perception scores have dropped. As expectations have risen, it seems suspicions about empty or inflated claims have risen as well.

Havas Media's Meaningful Brands research reveals an interesting divergence in the power of sustainable branding between developed and the decidedly less cynical developing markets: 53% of Latin American consumers (compared to 8% in Europe and 5% in the US and UK) show a more trusting relationship with brands, with a larger proportion of brands (30%) considered to be actively improving our lives. Chile and China have the highest number of people claiming purchasing decisions are based on a brand’s environmental, social and ethical qualities, with the UK, Germany and the US bringing up the more jaded rear. As sustainability becomes part of the daily dialogue, are buyers in developed markets becoming more cynical as a result of eco-messaging fatigue? Or are they turned off by the quality of the messages, rather than the quantity?

“I believe that hyper-competition, coupled with extremely high levels of marketing in developed markets, has led to people's start point for corporate communication as cynicism,” says Kate Cox, Head of Strategy at Havas Media’s MPG Media Contacts. “If the company’s motivation is not clear, the message will be treated with suspicion. Transparency is key – [companies] need to put the short-term business reason for commencing any marketing activity around sustainability at the forefront of the messaging to combat cynicism.”

Similar to the Brandlogic report, Interbrand’s assessment of the 2012 Best Global Green Brands also highlights companies that excel in sustainability performance and stakeholder recognition of these efforts; these stand-outs consistently demonstrate and communicate sustainability in ways that are both retaining and attracting customer trust and loyalty.

The formula for Reducing the Gap between Sustainable Brand Perception and Performance is a topic of much discussion at our upcoming SB London Conference. A panel of media and market research experts will compare methodologies, examine case studies of best practice and offer three ways of approaching sustainable innovation initiatives that will ensure maximum impact and stakeholder appreciation.



Caroline Holme, Director of Corporate Affairs, Globescan

Kate Cox, Head of Strategy, MPG Media Contacts, Havas Media 

James Cerruti, Senior Partner of Strategy and Research, Brandlogic


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