What Is A Sustainable Brand?

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Where To Start

It can be a daunting task to implement sustainable practices across the multiple areas of a company. A practical example of how to build a sustainable brand is brought to us by Unilever and its Brand Imprint Process. The Brand Imprint Process provides a structured framework for brand teams to understand and assess how sustainability issues impact – and are impacted – by their products. The process and its metrics help integrate sustainability considerations into the everyday business processes of the categories and brands. This holistic architecture helps organizations integrate social and environmental sustainability into the corporate business strategy.

What Is A Sustainable Brand?

Taking Sustainability To The Next Level

Nowadays, sustainable organizations can no longer afford to implement eco and socially responsible practices only within their business – organizations must now look upstream and downstream, and assess if these practices are being put to work by the company’s partners, the partner’s partners and even by the organization’s clients. A company today isn’t just responsible for the product it sells anymore; it’s also accountable for all the components that go into that product, and how the product is managed across its lifecycle, including when the product becomes obsolete. 

For instance, Nestlé was heavily criticized for doing business with Sinar Mas, the largest producer of palm oil in Indonesia. Sinar Mas supplies many food, drink, cosmetic and biofuel companies worldwide, and is breaking Indonesian law by clearing protected forests for its palm oil plantations.  

What Is A Sustainable Brand?

When Nestlé went under fire for doing business with such an unsustainable company, the famous food company cancelled all its contracts with Sinar Mas. But despite the contract cancellations, palm oil from destroyed forests still remains in Nestlé’s supply chain: the other Nestlé suppliers still buy from Sinar Mas. The result: stronger criticism.

Another example of how demanding customers and communities are nowadays is the increase of legislation demanding companies to implement take-back programs. Businesses now are legally bound to implement processes to repossess products at the end of their lifecycle, hence decreasing the amount of waste that end up in landfills. We’ve seen this trend especially in the electronics markets, with Nokia and HP leading the way.

The Bottom-Line

In order to build a sustainable brand, businesses must develop a brand that is positioned to grow, consistently integrating environmentally and socially responsible values across everything the company does, from operations and its supply chain to its products and services, clients, partners and even investors.

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