When does a sales pitch transform into a promise to enact positive change in the world?
Real, tangible impact begins with a shared purpose and a plan to collaborate through communal, proactive initiatives. Each customer’s purchase should help serve communities near or far and share the story of the change they’d like to see. Purchase to give your recipient something to smile about.
Every effective marketing strategy starts by crafting a pitch-perfect value proposition. More than a sales pitch, your brand’s value proposition is a promise to current customers, prospects, and stakeholders. It serves as a mission statement that elevates your company above the competition and an outline of the benefits your business relationship can provide. But business leaders need to embed purpose internally and authentically to engage with their customers fully; chasing ESG metrics and certifications won’t be enough.
Of course, consumer trends are never static, and brand value propositions are constantly evolving. Lately, consumers have clearly preferred brands and products that reflect a broader social or environmental commitment. You may need to redefine your brand’s value proposition to unlock your actual ROI and impact potential.
In the crowded internet marketplace, consumers expect more from businesses than transactions. A 2021 study by Price Waterhouse-Cooper found that 83 percent of consumers think companies should be actively shaping environmental, social, and governance (ESG) best practices. That same study revealed that 86 percent of employees prefer to support or work for companies that care about the same issues they do.
In 2020 alone, businesses invested more than $51 billion in ESG initiatives, more than double the previous year’s amount. According to Morningstar, ESG funds accounted for almost a quarter of the total money invested in all U.S. stock and bond mutual funds last year, setting a new record for the fifth consecutive year.
The question isn’t whether or not you should pivot your brand towards ESG investments and initiatives. The question is, How can you re-envision your business’s existing value proposition to draw ESG-conscious consumers through direct, impactful action?
Identifying Your Impact Potential
No two businesses are alike. Every brand occupies a unique space in its given industry, infusing its daily operations with market-specific insights that help to make an outsized impression on customers, prospects, business partners, shareholders, and others.
But your brand’s full impact potential extends well beyond its products. You’ll need to reassess every expense, opportunity, and initiative to show your customers, employees, and investors the full scale of your company’s value. Think about the unique niche that your business fills, and work your way through your supply chain, manufacturing practices, or internal policies to better align with your chosen ESG commitments.
- Businesses dependent on fleets of transport vehicles can reduce their carbon footprint by using electric vehicles, lowering their dependence on fossil fuels, and kickstarting local infrastructure initiatives to promote EV use in their communities. Recent state and federal tax credits and rebates have further incentivized personal and professional EV use, giving companies extra financial breathing room to embrace emission-free transportation options.
- With retail e-commerce sales increasing yearly, shipping and packaging materials have become an inflection point for measuring ESG impact. Brands have increasingly sought sustainable, recyclable, or biodegradable packaging materials to meet consumer demands.
- Inclusive and responsible hiring, compensation, and governance practices ensure that companies put their ESG values into practice internally and externally. With average CEO compensation up 29 percent since 2019 and the average employee paying down 2 percent in that same period, the pandemic has only exacerbated income inequality between executives and their employees. Putting more equitable employment, pay, and leadership standards into practice goes a long way toward giving your employees the representation and resources they deserve.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters has taken an especially ESG-focused approach with their business practices, including recyclable coffee pods, ethical bean sourcing, compost-using coffee grounds, and providing over 2,500 farmers in Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador with training in water-saving agricultural practices and technologies. GMCR recognizes its role in its industry and has mobilized its resources to make its ESG goals a reality.
If your brand is uniquely positioned to make an outsized impact on your customers and community, pick an area to focus on and leverage your resources accordingly.
Choosing Your Impact Partners Wisely
Identifying your preferred avenue of impact is the first step toward realizing your brand’s true potential for meaningful change, but it generally isn’t something you can achieve alone. Picking the right business partners to help set your impact goals in motion will require a comprehensive understanding of each partner’s values, capabilities, and ESG plans.
Explore opportunities to crystalize your impact potential by looking for companies with one percent for the Planet or B-Corp certifications. You can narrow down your search and prioritize brands that overlap with your ESG vision with the following resources:
- The Engage for Good business directory can be invaluable as you search for companies that share your environmental, social, or governance-focused values, giving you an aggregated list of potential partners based on their applied ESG practices.
- Platforms such as Good is the New Cool highlight purpose-driven industry leaders and connect like-minded brands looking to maximize their impact potential.
Do Good, Then Do Better
Determining your ESG goals and finding the right partners to maximize your impact are prerequisites for putting your large-scale vision into action. Once your company’s initiatives are underway, create an internal framework to measure your impact and hold your brand accountable. Work with your partners to set specific goals and quantify the change you’ve put into motion.
Regarding ESG initiatives, there are few things more important than living your mission. Show your customers and stakeholders that your goals aren’t just talked by keeping your initiatives transparent. By facilitating authentic conversations around the progress of your ESG efforts, you allow yourself to showcase your successes and pave the way for more ambitious actions in the future.
As businesses move into the next era of commerce, stakeholders will look for more opportunities to support sustainable and responsible business initiatives that positively impact their communities. Through ESG-centric goals, meaningful business partnerships, and unique solutions to societal challenges, your brand can redefine its value and elevate its business model into a tool for positive, impactful change in the world.