Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, talks about Conscious Business, Sustainability and the Green trend.
The Origins of the Green Movement
This movement is a shift in the global economic and industrial system to a new era - sustainability. Like all such changes, it is happening gradually. There were many early signals, initially from scientists and pressure groups and more recently from investors, politicians and consumers. There are three underlying forces that are exerting an unavoidable pincer movement on our future prosperity. These are population growth, development and the resource limits of the planet. Rather slowly and with reluctance increasing numbers of people and organisations are realising that a serious response is required.
Sustainability is here to stay
Sustainability is more than a trend. It is a huge development, and in my opinion, it is here to stay. We are seeing increasing interest from our clients in this area; they are recognising the opportunities and looking for our help to get their sustainability message across. This also isn’t just in Western markets – it’s truly a global trend.
Consumers want it all
Consumers now want brand owners to solve the sustainability issue. They want excellent product performance and luxury at competitive prices without damaging the planet. Leading brand owners, such as Unilever and P&G, have already embarked on this self-evaluation and are developing sustainability strategies. There are multiple challenges for brands and brand owners. Changes to products and product portfolios are inevitable. For brands that get this right there are huge opportunities. In a crowded marketplace, sustainability is a powerful way for brands to differentiate themselves and connect with consumers.
The role of Advertising in the sustainability movement
The first thing we can do is to help our clients assess the impact of the sustainability shift on their business and to plan for the change. The second thing is to provide wise counsel on how to develop a relationship with consumers in which they are trusted on environmental and social issues. It takes a long time to acquire trust and only one slip to destroy it. Beyond this, advertising has an important role to play in changing perceptions and gaining public support for global action on climate change.
How WPP is dealing with the shift to Green
We know that sustainability will impact our business and we have been relatively quick to prepare for it. We were the first major marketing group to publish a Corporate Responsibility policy. We are now in a phase of building our skills in different sustainability disciplines and developing our service offering to clients. This includes specialist offerings within our agencies as well as cross agency networks of sustainability experts, such as our P&G S-Team, which is helping Proctor & Gamble connect with consumers on sustainability.
We are looking at an era of unprecedented business innovation. Brands that resist this change will be shunned by consumers and left out in the cold by investors.