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How Brands can fuel the Sustainability Movement and accelerate the achievement of Global Goals

Guest post by Anita Varshney, VP Strategy & Innovation at SAP Next-Gen, a Purpose Driven Innovation University (Edited by Tracy Tsang)

Leading businesses today have mastered building authentic and long-lasting emotional brand rapport with their customers. As businesses around the world join in the sustainability movement, they have the potential to empower communities and impact economies in an enormous way. By instilling a strong sense of purpose and building emotional connection with consumers, change makers are able to lead and fuel these global social movements with their brands.

With ten years remaining to fully realise the transformative 2030 agenda for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, policymakers’ unwavering attention and a laser-sharp focus on the implementation of these global goals are required now more than ever.

Global enterprise leaders can play a significant role in leading climate change initiatives and sustainable transformation. In order to make a difference at scale, every business must commit to putting communities ahead of profits, and incorporate social impact into their business above and beyond seeing it as a tick-box Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) exercise. Successful brands will be those that continue rising to the challenge to address the big picture issues humanity faces.

So how can brands help to fuel the sustainability movement? Three was businesses can incorporate sustainability into their brand strategy and inspire businesses to go beyond the traditional role that branding and marketing typically play for businesses.

  1. Redefining brand engagement:

    Shallow engagement driven by “likes” or “retweets” will give way to real engagement. Comments signify a deeper and more meaningful engagement in general, enabling brands to start a dialogue with their community.

    Impact marketing requires going beyond selling the value proposition to selling behavioral change. When it comes to movement building, inspiring people to take action proves most effective. When others amplify your message within their own communities, it leads to greater organic reach and credibility. Whether it’s the investors or investees, the community, or employees within organizations — the collective voice can help tell the story.
  2. Brands can redefine industry standards:

    Brands focused on authentic content and not just influencers will emerge as winners. Stories built on real-life experiences and implementable ideas promote deeper engagement and an opportunity for companies to innovate, develop their own business models, products and services based on real customer use cases.

    These interactions result in lifelong customers, who will engage, give feedback, and join the brand’s innovation community. The passionate, committed employees can then use this feedback as valuable input for the next prototype or idea. This process enables customers to redefine industry standards through crowdsourcing efforts from global community members who care more about the planet and want to lead sustainable lifestyles.
  3. Brands driven by partnerships:

    When sustainable brands come together, they develop alliances within ecosystems of organizations who want to see business as a force for good. They find ways to work together, share and amplify through their networks, and exponentially grow the movement to drive behavioural change.

    Partnerships can successfully amplify messaging for small teams with lower budgets and compressed timelines, as businesses collaborate in the movement to achieve the 2030 Global Goals.

It’s time for us to build purpose into the business model itself and to go beyond a mission-driven, do-no-harm approach to actually creating new value that leaves the world a better place than it found it. Given that the Experience economy is at all-time peak, let us use brands to help maintain wealth in communities, build an inclusive economic system that creates benefit for citizens and the environment.

You’re Invited: Innovate for Growth Podcast Launch Party + Live interview & Workshop with Tai Chi Master Chow Chin Ching

Master Chow Chin Ching, Founder of Chen Style Tai Chi Institute will be our special guest for a live interview to celebrate the launch of the Innovate for Growth Podcast on Thursday 29 August. He will also be giving a demo performance of “Sudden Thunder” style Tai Chi followed by a short class to try it out for yourself!

Book your tickets here

Master Chow was born into a Martial Arts family as well as the 1st Inheritor of Grandmaster Chen Qin Lei, famous for the “Sudden Thunder” style of Tai Chi. He is listed by Kung Fu Celebrity Archive of Beijing as a prestigious Kung Fu Master of China. Master Chow has previously been invited to collaborate with international brands including Chanel, HSBC, Audi Formula E World Champions, Tottenham Hotspurs Football Team .

The Innovate for Growth Podcast is a show where Tracy Tsang, Founder & CEO of Internet of Stories, meets world class creators/performers/artisans, mission driven entrepreneurs, and thought leaders in growth and innovation to chat about their life journeys, creative processes, and wisdom gained from building ventures out of doing what they love.

Our goal is to empower creators and mission driven entrepreneurs to develop in a holistic way, create scalable positive social impact, while enabling their personal and professional growth as a successful creative entrepreneur.

Book your tickets here

Previous guests in Season 1 of the Innovate for Growth Podcast include:

Surmayee Tetarbe & Sam Book, Creators of the Sassy Speaks Podcast;

Alexis Bautista, Founder of Kokonuzz Media Group;

Jaime Lau, Jack Storms and Antoine Gaussin, Gallery Director & Artists from The Spectacle Group;

Helen McEachern, CEO of Cherie Blair Foundation for Women

Malcolm Ong, Head of Product at South China Morning Post.

Natalie Chan, Founder & CEO of OWN Academy

Book your tickets here

Innovate for Growth – Scaling Sustainability with Innovation and Creator Partnerships

Having seen how Zero Waste and Less Plastic movements have grown in Hong Kong recently, I believe creators (artists, artisans, designers, musicians, content creators etc) and innovators have a big role to play when it comes to adding appeal and desirability for sustainable products/services/programmes, and huge potential for scaling positive environmental impact for brands who are committed to sustainability.

With environmental and climate change concerns reaching global epidemic level, there is a rapidly growing focus on sustainability in every industry. But are these efforts being scaled in an effective and relevant way for end consumers? And is it good business to be sustainable?

According to UN, should the global population reach 9.6 billion by 2050, the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles.

However, sustainability is proving to not only be a matter of branding and Corporate Social Responsibility. Incorporating sustainability makes an impact on the performance and valuation of companies, with the best of environmentally sustainable businesses attracting social impact investment. Consumers are increasingly taking it into consideration when making purchase decisions, e.g. Stella McCartney’s sales climbed in 2017 as it cut its environmental impact by 8%.

At Internet of Stories, we believe there is huge potential for brands to leverage innovation and creator partnerships to scale positive environmental impact, brand reach and engage customers in a culturally relevant way. For example,

  • Through licensing, brand partnerships between artists and IP owners with an existing fanbase and sustainable products manufacturers
  • Incorporating design thinking and service design to innovate around creating new service businesses that scales consumer behaviour that makes a positive impact on the environment e.g. Revolv enables reusable cups to be rented and returned at different locations
  • Leveraging new medium or technology to grow awareness of environmental issue/purpose for sustainable brands in a fun engaging way e.g. with AR lens campaigns, podcasts

It is the reason why we started Innovate for Growth, a platform and resource destination which bring together a community of world class creators/performers/artisans, mission driven entrepreneurs, and thought leaders in growth and innovation, with the goal of empowering creative entrepreneurs looking to make a difference.

How do brands get started with innovating around sustainability to create a successful eco-friendly business? What are some interesting ways brands have worked with creators in sustainable fashion? How can you create culturally relevant content for sustainability brands? What do responsible investors look for in a sustainable business?

Join us for a fun discussion as we look to simplify this complex topic for you at the Innovate for Growth: Sustainability Experts Panel + Q&A event on 7 August with an all stars panel from Fashion, Media, IT, Design led innovation and ESG consulting featuring Anita Varshney, VP Strategy & Innovation at SAP Next Gen, Kate Okrasinski, Director of Innovation at MAKE Studios, Michelle Lee, Marketing & e-commerce Director at The R Collective, Diana Chen, Sustainability Advisor at The Purpose Business and Host of Creative Mornings HK, Sonalie Figueiras, Founder & CEO at Green Queen, and Kate Padget-Koh, Founder of Fashionable Futures and eponymous fashion brand Kate Padget-Koh. The session will be moderated by Lauren Berning, Founder of TBC HK.

This event is organised in collaboration with Design for Impact series run by MAKE Studios.

Book your tickets here.

Love trying on makeup with Augmented Reality? Now there’s a new way to growth hack for your makeup brand.

Beauty tech has been making giant leaps in innovation in the last few years. From AR try-on apps and websites(L’Oreal/Modiface), smart mirrors(Sephora, Bourjois) for retail, to beauty advisor chatbots, top makeup brands are fast embracing new technologies to improve their consumer experience, engage potential customers and help them make their purchase decisions.

According to Parham Aarabi, founder and CEO of ModiFace, an AR makeup solution provider recently acquired by L’Oreal, conversions can increase by up to 84% when Augmented Reality is added directly in the path to purchase online.

But creating bespoke AR apps are expensive and often does not take into account of when makeup shoppers would benefit from being able to try on makeup products with AR. Getting the app in the hands of makeup sales people or using smart mirrors in retail stores may be helpful but benefits a limited number of store visitors.

The Snapchat AR Lens platform is an incredibly effective way to drive organic exponential growth and reach the 18-24 year old demographic who have Snapchat installed on their phone and are already regular users of the app.

There is an opportunity for makeup brands to tell better stories about new product collections and turn AR makeup try-on into a fun experience by adding some context, e.g. virtual scenes, accessories to set the scene for different styles. Here are some examples (Use Snapchat’s camera on Snapcode to unlock).

  • Eyeshadow try on with snow scene
  • Augmented contouring guide snapchat lens

From our own experiments, we created a lipstick try on lens with a virtual animated background that reached over 300K views organically and was shared over 10K times.

Another application for makeup brands and influencers would be to use it for augmenting makeup tutorials. There are plenty of makeup tutorial videos on Youtube, Instagram and Snapchat, but what’s currently missing is the ability to try the different looks on your own face or a convenient way to follow guided tutorials.

4 ways how Snapchat Lenses can benefit makeup brands

  1. Both user generated content and the AR experience can be shared without customers having to download an additional app in most cases and brand awareness grows exponentially
  2. With each lens having its own Snapcode and URL, it’s simple to promote across your marketing channels both offline and online
  3. Add value to your customer journey by helping with their purchase decision
  4. Ability to offer augmented makeup tutorials and enable consumers to try on makeup artists created looks

Are you a beauty influencer or make up brand looking to use AR to enable your customers to try on products, augment your tutorials and engage the Gen Z? Let me know your thoughts in the comments or email me at to find out more about how we can help.