Unilever, Tesla, Adidas Among Brands Proving Sustainability Makes Commercial Sense

Adidas ocean plastic shoe

by | Feb 20, 2017

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Adidas ocean plastic shoeUnilever, Tesla, Adidas and Energizer are among the brands proving that sustainability makes commercial sense, according to a column by Jake Dubbins, chief executive officer of Media Bounty, on The Drum Network.

Last year Tesla generated $10 billion of presales for its electric Model 3 car in just two days, Dubbins writes.

And as Environmental Leader has reported, Unilever, which generated sales of €53.3 billion ($56.5 billion) in 2015, reported 30 percent faster growth for its “Sustainable Living” brands, compared to the rest of its business, with these brand nearly half of the firm’s total growth in 2015. The company defines its Sustainable Living Brands as those that integrate sustainability not only into their marketing platform but also their products.

Unilever also released research last month that found a third of consumers (33 percent) are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. Unilever says this represents a potential untapped opportunity of $1,024 billion out of a $2.7 trillion total market for sustainable goods.

Last year Energizer made the world’s first AA batteries that contained 4 percent recycled battery materials. The company also committed to increase these levels to 40 percent in the future. It looks to be paying off: Energizer is the fastest growing brand in the battery market, Dubbins says.

But, he cautions, know your facts and your brand’s story before launching a sustainability strategy, on social media or elsewhere.

Brands who are not obviously sustainable but want to take steps to move into this area need to tread carefully before jumping in. It is a risky strategy to start eulogizing about how sustainable you are if you are buying unsustainable palm oil. The key point here is to be honest and take your audience with you on the journey to sustainability. Consumers know that miracles cannot happen overnight but a brand will get respect if it is committed to progress and communicates in a warts and all way.

The column also offers tips for success. These include looking at what sustainable brands that are growing are doing.

At least 10 global companies generating a billion dollars or more in revenue annually from sustainable products or services. These include Whole Foods, Target, General Electric, Tesla, Chipotle, Nike, Toyota and Natura. As Forbes reports, “these multi-nationals are only too happy to have their support for all-things-sustainable made public, including their investments and target metrics,” and this makes it easier for other companies to follow their example — and learn from their mistakes.

Another tip: inspire and/or solve a problem. Dobbins points to Adidas, which is working to solve the problem of plastic pollution in oceans by turning this waste stream into new material for its shoes.

“Effectively positioning your brand as sustainable now, means that not only will you speak to consumers in the local market willing to spend extra money on brands making a positive difference in the world,” Dobbins writes. “You’ll also be well placed to tap into the emerging markets across the globe who are now leading the way in sustainability, having witnessed first-hand the effects of climate change and water scarcity.”

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