Apr 22, 2020
In 2019, “Our Planet” an eight-part documentary series that followed up “Planet Earth”, was released on Netflix.
At its premiere, its veteran BBC nature filmmaker David Attenborough, gave an urgent and stirring speech. He spoke of how “Our Planet” is different from past series, as it places global climate catastrophe and the more practical values of nature at center stage.
As Attenborough says during his gripping opening, which has already hit over 25,000 views on YouTube:
“Nature once determined how we survive. Now we determine how nature survives. One of the things Darwin’s work has taught us is that we break nature’s connections at our peril. Yet, break them we do, at ever greater speed.” David Attenborough
However, what’s also happening at an impressive speed is the global response to this disconnection from nature and its repercussions.
Each year, on Earth Day (April 22), it’s worth spotlighting how our business relationships are becoming affected and how we must make changes to stay ahead, in more ways than one.
“Our Planet” was, appropriately, released in the same month as Earth Day, a global event in which an estimated 1 billion people over 192 countries take part in acting towards the greater protection and rehabilitation of our natural world.
This year Earth Day holds significantly more weight than it has in recent years.
Along with the release of a number of groundbreaking environmental documentaries, we also recently experienced a worldwide youth-led climate strike which is a response to governments’ lack of compliance with the COP21 Paris Agreement, an international agreement to undertake efforts in combating climate change.
This Earth Day is a chance for us, as business owners, parents, digital marketers, and stewards of the earth to pause and consider what really matters and how to implement actions that must be met.
Because, as we’re about to see, it not only solidifies a stable future for our children but for our businesses and working relationships as well.
No business client, customer or partner enjoys working with someone who only meets expectations halfway.
According to a recent report by Salesforce, less than half of marketing leaders (49%) across B2B and B2C brands believe they’re offering experiences that align completely with their customer’s expectations.
However, these days, your customers are expecting more than excellent customer service. They’re looking for environmental responsibility actions as well.
In fact, according to a study by Cone Communications based on 10,000 citizens from nine of the largest countries in the world, 90 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to trust companies that back causes.
Take Ben and Jerry’s for example.
By 1987, founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield had a $30 million empire. Now, the company is worth $150 million, largely due to its sustainability and wellness initiatives which were developed early on.
This is exactly why business’ true-hearted participation in Earth Day can be so powerful. It allows businesses to become brand leaders, meeting customer expectations head-on while inspiring customers to understand how their purchase creates a positive chain reaction.
So, how do you become an industry leader and a trustworthy source for a loyal customer base?
We’ve compiled the steps to get there.
A recent report for the United Nations Global Compact showed that out of 1,000 global CEOs, 84% agreed that businesses “should lead efforts to define and deliver new goals on global priority issues,” however only a third said that businesses are doing enough to address these global sustainability challenges.
On top of that, 88% of business school students believe social and environmental issues are priorities in business.
But how does one start on a journey that maintains social and environmental initiatives?
The problem most companies face is that of focus.
According to McKinsey and Company, most companies have 10 different sustainability focus topics, which is arguably too many to start with and bound to make it difficult to maintain a sustainability agenda while ensuring the necessary buy-in is successful as well. This decentralized starting point diminishes the ability of the initiative to succeed.
Pick one sustainability focus and stick to it.
Once you know what you’re focusing on, the next step is to create specific and measurable goals to work towards externally.
Before you integrate these goals into your yearly business strategy, make sure your intent is sharp and detailed. Use specifics in terms of amounts and timelines. For instance, if you choose to focus on eliminating emissions, outline how much and when you plan to reach that goal.
While, “what gets measured gets managed,” stresses the need for creating measurable, detailed goals, taking a page from Forbes, you should also define the difference between outcome metric and performance metric for your goal.
Need ideas? Try these to start:
Diageo, the British multinational beverage company, exemplifies this singular and concrete sustainability goal by reducing their plastic footprint in a simple yet effective way.
As part of a £16m initiative, the enterprise plans to replace plastic ring carriers and shrink-wrap on all multipacks of beer with recyclable and biodegradable cardboard– a straightforward yet massively influential move.
By creating a position like Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) in your company, you’ll be able to implement and manage sustainability goals on an ongoing basis.
These year-round sustainability initiatives not only help lower your company costs, but can result in increasing profit. According to a study by Deutsche Bank, companies with high ratings in environmental, social and governance (ESG), outperform the market on a long-term basis.
On top of engaging with stakeholders, assessing the company’s sustainability perception, and creating a culture of corporate responsibility, a CSO can also integrate new ideas that may help the company expand in other ways.
According to a study by UL Environment, 44% of business executives agree sustainability is a source of innovation – a figure that is sure to rise as CSO positions become increasingly in-demand.
According to Nielsen’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability report, 66% of consumers are willing to spend more on products from sustainable brands.
So, if you’ve decided to make a sustainability change in your business strategy, make sure everyone knows.
According to a LabelInsight survey, 94% of customers are more loyal to transparent brands.
Communicate the process of your sustainability goal with full transparency and reinforce these reports with fully costed financial data and you’ll have satisfied coworkers and stakeholders to carry the initiatives into the future.
Earth Day means doing something big – not for a single day, but to implement and build upon, for life.
From Apple’s “Apps for Earth” an initiative to send proceeds of 27 apps in the App Store to the World Wildlife Foundation, to the global youth-generated policy-focused movements such as Zero Hour, aimed at offering resources and training for young activists, people are answering their calls to action.
While the facts show that transitioning towards a more environmentally and socially responsible business strategy is financially beneficial, the core of these efforts shouldn’t come from marketing success.
They must come from the heart.
Without a human response, ambitions fall short – a result of both the customer’s relationship to the brand and the business owner’s commitment to the goal.
While the “Our Planet” series focuses on the numbers as well (the scientific evidence and facts) it is Attenborough’s heartfelt words that draw listeners in with curiosity and a sense of intrinsic resonation.
(This article was first published in April 2019)
“What really makes our planet stand out is the clear, driving story that runs through the entire series and the wider communications project: The natural world isn’t just nice to have. It fundamentally matters to each and every one of us.” David Attenborough