My frustration is beginning to subside… only a little but it’s a start.
I’ve been involved with the marketing of brands, both big and small, for over 25 years. For the last 10 years or so I have been intensely aware of the impact consumerism is having on our climate and the sustainability of the Earth’s resources. Some small companies and start-ups have made significant attempts to develop a business model that lessens any impact but the big brands, the ones that can most afford it, have been woefully conspicuous by their inaction. That is beginning to change.
Marks & Spencer blazed the trail 12 years ago with its Plan A but, despite substantially reducing its carbon footprint and making operational savings of over £750m, few have followed their lead. Finally, the M&S baton appears to have been picked up.
Easyjet has recently announced that its going to offset carbon emissions from all its flights. It doesn’t stop people flying but it is encouraging that a massive carbon emitter is beginning to take its responsibility for the climate crisis seriously.
The Lidl’s marketing director, Clair Farrant, declared a couple of months ago “we feel that we have a responsibility to make sustainability accessible to everyone.” Lidl have reported on their sustainability initiatives since 2016 and published a list of ongoing commitments in areas such as sustainable sourcing, health and wellbeing. It shows that even a discounter can make significant strides towards sustainability in a commercially viable way.
The pop-up shop that GiffGaff has just opened in London is telling people that you don’t have to buy new, a refurbished smartphone is fine. If you have to use the world’s valuable resources make sure they are used well ie re-used, one of the main tenets of the circular economy.
The launch of its vegan sausage was Gregg’s response to the growing number of people taking up a vegan diet. From a marketing point of view it was a brilliant initiative as it received a huge amount of media coverage and is claimed to be one of the factors in Gregg’s recent success. It helped take veganism mainstream and even, allegedly, convinced Roger Whiteside, the Chief Executive, to adopt a vegan diet.
And then there’s the arch company for consumerism, Gucci, which now has a carbon P&L.
All these initiatives are great for the environment but do they go far enough? No, of course not but they are a step in the right direction.
It’s up to us marketers to drive our organisations to be more environmentally aware. We are the ones who are most in touch with our consumers and more and more of them are demanding that companies do more to help our planet.
It’s going to take a lot of corporate environmental action to stop me being frustrated but let’s hope in 10 years time I will be content.