ESG in marketing: Doing the Right Thing

ESG in marketing: Doing the Right Thing

It wasn’t that long ago that a company’s environmental and social performance was something focused on by only certain brands for whom it was a key USP. Similarly, governance was mainly mentioned in the context of financial services. Fast forward to today and every company needs to demonstrate that it’s doing the right thing. That its ESG is in good shape.

I’m not surprised that this is the case. After all our Brand Love study found that having values that are in sync with us is the biggest determinant of whether we love a business or brand. Indeed, 55% of marketers felt it was crucial.

For most of us, our values have shifted; we’re much more environmentally and socially aware and expect the businesses we favour to do so too.

A propensity to have the right social and environmental values and behave according to them is also important to employees. In our Employer Brand study almost half of employees want to work for an employer with good ethics and values. As many as 26% said an organisation’s activity in the local community impacted on whether they took a job with them and 23% said environmental performance mattered.

Identifying and communicating

So doing the right thing matters and by that I mean doing the thing that’s right for your business and your audiences.

However, values aren’t something you simply ‘try on’. To work, your combination of values and the way they’re expressed, need to sound unique to you. They need to shape and inform your behaviour and be consistently applied.

Values-led businesses

Ben & Jerry’s is good at this. While the company is focused on making a sustainable profit and fantastic ice cream, its values go beyond this. In addition to those two goals, Ben & Jerrys want to use the business to try to make the world a better place through charitable work. To this end the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, which funds community projects, was founded in 1985 and receives 7.5% of the company’s annual profits.

Office furniture manufacturer Herman Miller has values which centre on a desire to leverage the power of design to improve people's lives. It wants to leave the world a little better than it found it. As a result, it has clear environmental commitments to help customers, and sets annual goals for employee volunteer hours, with progress reported to the CEO.

Applying this to your company

A business of any size and sector can develop a values-led approach, but there are a few golden rules. You must be authentic. It’s no good adopting values just to appeal at a particular moment in time or fit with a trend. People will see through this.

You must also be wholehearted and joined-up. It’s no good the marketing team talking values but the rest of the organisation seeing them as a gimmick. The entire organisation – HR, management, marketing, and even the CEO – must get and operate in accordance with the values.

Lastly, at every touch point – online or face to face – the values need to be alive and demonstrated. Consistency is key.