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[ ESG – Is It Really The Future Of Marketing? ]

#ConfidentInsight, EN 06.10.2021

In 1989, off the coast of Alaska, an oil tanker en route to California hit a reef in shallow waters. What happened next is still considered to be the worst oil spill in history, in terms of the damage done to the environment. The remoteness of the area made emergency response efforts difficult, and the spill ended up covering approximately 1,300 miles of coastline, destroying a large part of the wildlife ecosystem. The Exxon Valdez disaster was the trigger for awakening the effects of human impact on our surroundings, Just three years earlier, across the globe in what is now Ukraine, a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl exploded, eventually affecting more than 500,000 civilians, contaminating the environment for decades, the effects of which can still be seen today.

CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) was not a new issue then, and actually dates all the way back to the Industrial Revolution in the U.S, following concerns about employees’ welfare. Howard Bowen, the so-named  “Father of CSR” published a definition of the philosophy in 1953, which has stuck to this day. CSR was becoming an important issue within boardrooms across the globe in the 1980s. Fast forward forty years, and the next step in CSR has entered corporate diction, in part following other man-made disasters during this period, like Deepwater, the financial crisis of 2008, Black Lives Matter, regular sexual harassment stories within the walls of male-dominated companies, so introducing us to ESG.

What is ESG?

ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) is a phrase that has been bandied around since 2006, and takes CSR to a new level. Where CSR is considered to be the theory, ESG is the measurement rod. In recent years, it has held high value in boardrooms and investor circles, validating corporate accountability. However, the increased importance of this has translated now into the consumer space, meaning that it is now a key part of a marketing department’s remit.  

A company now has to be fully aware of its commitment to responsibility to its community, and entails four main pillars:

1/ Corporate Citizenship

2/ Environmental responsibility

3/ Ethical Management 

4/ Treatment of Employees

A company’s ESG strategy, if positioned correctly, is vital to corporate credibility, leading to trust and consumer loyalty. With each passing generation, consumers are less sold by advertising, and more about what a company stands for. Loyalty to these brands has changed the way that marketers have to consider their strategies now. 60% of millennials globally are more likely to integrate sustainability into their consumer behaviour, and 86% are interested in sustainable investing, so a company’s strategy to this end can create real loyalty. 

How ESG affects Marketing

Marketing leaders are increasingly having to think how to incorporate ESG into their messaging, both internally to a company’s employees, and to the wider consumer market, in order to protect and enhance the brand. Since the rise of social media, every area of business nowadays is a marketing touchpoint 24/7. Gen Zs, digital natives who are wedded to their digital footprint, and who have information available to them every second of the day, are constantly fed different consumer options, so tolerance for mistakes from companies is paper thin. The narrative and integrity around a company’s ESG strategy is essential in building brand awareness and reputation. A company’s inability to follow through and deliver on it’s ESG policy, called “greenwashing”, can permanently harm a company’s reputation and brand.  

The care with which a company must ensure that its marketing strategy meets all these various touchpoints is critical to success. A marketing team has to be careful and considered in order to ensure the messaging builds trust and credibility. The importance of this to an organisation is so critical that boardrooms are hiring Marketing Directors just for ESG. 

What to consider with ESG in Marketing

  1. Start from within – With any successful company, it is vital that its employees are all pulling in the same direction, that they have a deep-seated belief in the vision, the mission and direction of the company. The integrity, credibility and loyalty of an organisation has to start from within. Empowering employees involves getting them actively involved and supporting local community projects. Employees becoming fully engaged into the company philosophy.  
  2. Develop a clear PR strategy/message – Performance and products are still the key drivers behind any business, however ensuring that the message behind a company’s ESG is ingrained into everything that a company divulges is essential. All messaging should show value and returns to its investors and consumers. 
  3. Explore brand values – Values are at the centre of any brand, and essential when defining and communicating. policy
  4. Redefine your mission statement
  5. Set strategic goals – develop a vision and strategic plan. Set and communicate goals to help define your communication narrative
  6. Producing intelligent and relevant content marketing will ensure that the brand is seen to be abreast of relevant issues
  7. Identify key differentiators for every touchpoint (consumers, investors, employees) to maintain a unified message

Summary

ESG is the corporate responsibility measurement stick that relates to the planet and people – there is currently no bigger issue in the world. Business is no longer just about performance and revenues. A company’s reputation and success is founded on the non-financial indicators that are equally tangible. Transparency and simplicity of a clearly-defined marketing strategy which breathes a company’s beliefs and ability to deliver on those beliefs is paramount. Marketers have risen within the boardroom to be a core asset and critical to company success. Consumers, with less time, 24/7 social media, where loyalty to a brand can be turned off like a tap due to the slightest slip, are more informed, more aware, and more likely to turn elsewhere should they lose belief in a brand. How marketers adapt to this will be critical to an organisation’s success.

Companies will not succeed without the transparency, and simplicity of a clearly-defined ESG vision, mission, and message, and this needs to be intrinsically bound within a marketing strategy

Business is there to “serve” the community, not just to make money, and marketing must adapt to the new normal.

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