Building the Sustainable Brands of Tomorrow.

With Greta Thunberg being named ‘Person of the Year 2019’ by Time’s Magazine, ‘climate strike’ being recognised as ‘word of the year’, and large corporations like Unilever, Néstle, Danone and Carlsberg taking genuine sustainable action, it seems like we’ve finally reached the tipping point in getting consumer brands to consider their potential to drive positive impact.

As an agency working with some of the world’s most demanding brand owners, we see it as our duty to help them think, plan and act for the long run. Because sustainability is a journey, not a destination. And being more “green” isn’t the full story when using business to inspire change.

Over the past years, we’ve seen numerous progressive brands challenge their industries and use their influence as a force for good. Brands like Carcel, whose clothes are made by women in prison in Peru. Tony’s Chocolonely, who seeks to make chocolate production slave-free. Pret a Manger, the British fast-food chain looking to alleviate homelessness. Or Swedish Oatly, who demonstrated the power of a brand when they relaunched as a conscious and modern-day alternative to the traditional dairy industry.

With new disruptive competition across sectors and growing demand from increasingly reflective consumers, brands are facing a world completely unlike yesterday. Yet too many companies still seem to drive their own agenda before that of their consumers. The story often revolves around what companies do rather than what they might help people achieve. That’s why we have started to ask our clients two simple, yet demanding questions, “What impactful difference do you seek to make?” and, “why should tomorrow’s consumers care about you?”

Because, if brand owners want people to care about their brand, their brand needs to care about people first. This is our definition of sustainable brand building. Brands who prioritise the positive impact they can have – be that socially, culturally or environmentally.

“88% of consumers would like brands to help them be more environmentally friendly and ethical in their daily lives.”
— Futerra, 2018

Design for Circularity.

Beyond helping to define the greater vision and promise of our client’s brands, designing for circularity is one area of specific interest for many FMCG companies. Arguably, sustainability and circularity are somewhat interchangeable, but where the former is a strategy, the latter is a method as to how to go about it. Designing products and packaging for circularity is thus one step in the “sustainability journey”.

This requires brand owners to consider the entire value chain and not just focus on the immediately visible. What goes into the product and what happens after? This way of thinking also affects where a brand might spend marketing money most wisely. Pre- or post-purchase?

We are still to crack to code to 100% circularity, but a break from the linear consumerism is winning in. Through light-weighting and increased usage of mono-materials in both product and packaging, we’re currently seeing new products changing our presumptions and challenging the status quo.

To get started, these eight rules of thumb have helped many of our clients reconsider how they design and plan for increased circularity.


Better Together.

An African proverb goes, that if you want to walk far, you have to walk together. The same goes for sustainable brand building. What you cannot achieve alone, you might be able to do with others.

Long gone are the days of the superhero brands who can do everything on their own. We believe collaborating and sharing knowledge and solutions are an essential part of using your business to drive progress. As consumers are looking to brands to inspire real change, identifying the right people to go with you on that journey is crucial.

Until recently, our client Paralenz merely captured dives with their underwater camera. But their love of diving moved them to explore how they can also protect the great aquatic playground. Now, their cameras allow divers to share diving data with organisations like the American scientific organisation National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The collaboration helps to inform science to preserve our oceans and shows how Paralenz puts community before ego, and responsibility and sustainability before individual adrenaline kicks.

Ultimately it is also good business. Because who needs a diving camera, if there’s nothing worth exploring under the surface?

Shifting Mindset

Companies of the future don’t have a corporate sustainability strategy parallel to their business plan. They need to have a sustainable corporate strategy. This is easier said than done, but nobody requires you to solve the whole puzzle by tomorrow. Quite the contrary.

As sustainability is a continuous journey and not a destination, you first and foremost need to make sure you’re on the right path.

You might want to start by asking ourselves:

– What difference are we looking to make as a brand?
– What difference will we help consumers make?
– How can we turn opinions into actions?
– Who can we support? Who can we partner with?
– How might we reduce, reuse or rethink the materials we use?
– What is the smallest improvement? What is the biggest?
– What goes into our product? What happens after consumption?