5 Ways Brands Can Play A Central Role In The Fight To Save The Planet

By Guy Hayward, F&B Global CEO

With the pandemic fading from headlines in much of the U.S., many consumers are turning their attention to another crisis: climate change. According to a recent survey of more than 3,000 people in the U.S., the U.K. and China, more than 80% of consumers now expect businesses to “play their part” in solving client and social issues.

Addressing climate change is one of the basic human needs that successful businesses of the future will find a way to address. We already see it happening with electric vehicle brands like Tesla and Polestar, food brands like Oatly and Impossible Foods, and renewable energy forms like Vattenfall in Europe and Ecotricity in the U.K.

The world needs sustainable businesses to succeed — and for that to happen, they must have the most successful brands. Simply coming up with environmentally friendly products isn’t enough. You have to make consumers feel as if, by buying what you sell, they’re a part of the solution, too. Here’s how to make that happen.

Lead with brand, not with sustainability

Having a powerful brand inspires the emotional connection that helps people make the leap to new choices and behaviors. Once consumers trust your brand, they’re more likely to value what you say about your plant-based product or electronic vehicle. For many people, that’s the case with Tesla.

That said, even if you have a great brand, it’s important to understand that the sustainability message has more layers than just, “This car is electric.” Consumers are increasingly sophisticated and want to know how you’ll dispose of the battery and other materials used in production, what energy is required to produce it and how you’re handling carbon emissions.

Amplify the cool factor to drive home the message

Planet-friendly brands can intertwine their product and mission in a symbiosis that’s hip, effortless, and attractive. Oat milk doesn’t have much of an intrinsic cool factor, but what if an athlete woke up, made his morning smoothie with Oatly and headed out into the world he’s hoping to save? A tone of voice and a daring mission can make for a whole different story.

Cut the guilt and be direct

Imagine a man or woman who might not look like the type to go meatless saying plainly, “I love burgers. I love the planet. IMPOSSIBLE? I think not.” A straightforward approach like this is always much more effective than one that makes consumers feel guilty about all of the carbon emissions they’ve generated since breakfast.

Show them it works in real life

Many consumers fear that using greener products will be inconvenient or make them stand out when they want to blend in. If you’re selling an electric vehicle, taking a similar approach to traditional car commercials—where an everyday person pulls up to the pump and chats with the attendant before continuing on their way—can go a long way to “normalize” the idea of driving one.

Let them meet the people behind the products

Consumers love seeing who’s making and selling what’s being advertised. Sustainable brands can gain a lot of credibility and likeability by putting their people out front. If you’re tempted to tell everyone you’re saving the world, take a page from electric truck maker Rivian (which is poised to compete with Ford’s electric F150s) and let your people say it for you instead. It’s a lot more credible—and it’ll help you achieve your mission faster.