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Can denstu and Nestlé tip sustainability into the mainstream?

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented disruption to business operations and exposed the fragility of our global ecosystem. During a recent panel with dentsu and Nestlé, we dived into how marketers can create sustainability initiatives that are mindful of people and the planet in a discussion moderated by Campaign Asia’s Robert Sawatzky and Facebook’s Leigh Thomas.

We are at a tipping point for sustainability. The global aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, in tandem with the effects of global warming and climate change, has accelerated the trend toward sustainable investing. Yet there’s a still widespread belief that there is much more to be done. Indeed, consumers are demanding products and services that are sustainable, readily available and offer outstanding end-to-end value. Given that customers want more done for the environment, brands have a clear opportunity to champion sustainability initiatives, improve their competitive advantage and build customer loyalty. 

To help understand how sustainability might soon be at the core of every business, here are a few highlights from the third installment of Pioneers | Conversations on our Industry’s Future — When Will Sustainability Go Mainstream?, featuring Anna Lungley, global chief sustainability officer at dentsu international and Emma Cofer, global corporate marketing initiatives lead at Nestlé, moderated by Robert Sawatzky, editorial director, Campaign Asia-Pacific and Leigh Thomas, global client and category director, EMEA at Facebook.

Change needs to come from all levels of society
As the world begings to take environmental issues more seriously, they want the private sector to do the same. However, tipping sustainability into the mainstream will take considerable effort at every level. “At Nestlé,” says Cofer, “sustainability is not about sustaining things the way they are; it’s not about doing no harm and leaving no footprint. Rather it’s about galvanising people to restore, replenish and renew our natural resources.” dentsu’s Lungley agrees. “Our research shows that by 2030 consumers won’t buy from companies that they believe have a negative impact on the environment. Brands and businesses will have to pick up their business models to survive and thrive.” 

Actions speak louder than words
A recent report from environmental NGO WWF in Singapore revealed that despite many corporate claims of investing heavily in sustainability, consumers remain sceptical — they want action not words.To translate public inclination into operation, corporations can, and should, step up. Cofer says Nestlé has taken up the call to arms with, for example, its net zero roadmap, which sets ambitious targets: achieving a 20 percent reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, halving them by 2030 and achieving net zero by 2050. “Sustainability as an ambition has to be shared across the organisation,” she says. “At the same time, marketers have a role to play because we can help everyone understand the vision and their role in achieving our goals. With the net zero roadmap — and all our sustainability initiatives — the numbers are big, but our job as marketers is to tell the story of how the efforts and commitments of our local employees and stakeholders can add up to make big impacts.”

Sustainability at the cost of commercial success?
For many, there is still the belief that sustainability will come at the cost of production, progress & profits. Lungley says this doesn’t necessarily need to be the case. “dentsu has a significant role to play in re-establishing the equilibrium of our planet. Business travel, for example, is one of our key focus areas. With COVID-19, flying was not an option so we accelerated the use of new technology when pitching clients. I’m happy to say we had our most successful year for winning new businesses ever. However, there is a risk that once the pandemic is under control, there will be an explosion in business travel. As such, our CEO announced a 65 percent reduction in business travel, linked to our bonuses, by 2030.” 

Learn how you can use Facebook apps to promote social good through your business.


Pioneers | Conversations on our Industry’s Future is a thought leadership series, brought to you by Campaign and Facebook, exploring emerging trends and cutting edge insights on the changes that will shape the future of the marketing and advertising industry for years to come.  

Never miss a Pioneers conversation. Register your interest in the series here.

Catch up on the previous Pioneers conversations:
- What's next for our industry? with Benedict evans.
- Asian Unicorns: the rise of the billion dollar startup – and what we can learn from them.

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