How to build a sustainable brand

woman holding tree, building a sustainable brand

Article provided by Marga Hoek

Brands need to evolve faster than ever to stay relevant.

It’s no longer enough to have good customer service or a killer product. Brands must also be a force for good. Millennials and generation Z are continually moving the needle. Companies still behaving as faceless corporate machines will be left behind. The brands that will thrive over the next decade will be those that successfully demonstrate they have a heart, personality, values and authenticity. Consumers want to be able to trust the brands they buy from, believe they’re driven by purpose not profits and see them doing good – not because it looks good, but because they really mean it. Consumers are buying into brands because they have a positive social impact, not just because they love their products. Consumers want to know that their purchasing habits are contributing to good. They want to buy from brands with a purpose.

Brands as a force for good

Being a sustainable brand is key to this. And it now pays to be sustainable. In the US 87 per cent of millennial internet users are willing to pay more for sustainable products. Brands can be a tremendous force for good, yet they must demonstrate this with action rather than words. In the digital era, transparency is essential, whether you like it or not. Brands build consumer trust by ensuring end-to-end transparency and being upfront about information concerning production, pricing and policies. And, most importantly, by taking actions that are a clear result of a sustainable brand personality.

Moving the needle: brands that give and share

Sustainability is becoming increasingly mainstream and we’re seeing frontrunner entrepreneurs and companies exploring the way forward. They’re aware that evolving their brand personality and its actions is good business. They represent the next generation of brand personalities that give as well as take. They are aware their brands need to be trusted and liked to be successful. To love a brand and its products, consumers and business clients need to understand this personality and what it stands for, and to see proof of societal engagement.

Building a sustainable brand

So how can companies transform into sustainable brands? Here are six key ways to do this:

  1. Sustainable business plan

Where is your business having a negative impact on the planet and how can you change this? Create a sustainable business plan, set sustainability targets to reach by 2030 and drive change within your organisation.

  1. CO2 emissions

Transport goods via ships not planes, run trucks on renewable fuel, swap international business trips for video meetings…what can you do to reduce CO2 emissions?

  1. Plastic-free

Anti-plastic sentiment is growing rapidly. Recycled packaging, sustainable supply chains and a no waste policy must be implemented.

  1. Sustainably sourced materials

Move towards a circular economy and a more efficient business model – source all your raw materials from more sustainable sources and reuse these materials.

  1. Energy usage

Simple changes add up. Cut energy use by ensuring all office lights and computers are turned off overnight, pick more energy-efficient office tech, install solar panels. But also think widely – can you cut down the amount of energy it takes to your manufacture products?

  1. Product lifecycle

Take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of your products – from designing and packaging to shipping to minimising the impact a product has on the environment while it is in use, to how it can be recycled after use.

The future of all of us and thus of business relies on our joint ability to transform. The 2020s will be the decade of the sustainable brand.

Marga HoekAbout the author

Marga Hoek is a global thought-leader on sustainable business and the author of The Trillion Dollar Shift, a new book revealing the business opportunities provided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Trillion Dollar Shift is published by Routledge, priced at £30.99 in hardback and free in e-book. For more information go to

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