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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 ways 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.

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