#trendMARK: Sustainability — more of a truth than a trend
a trendMARK feature by Shauneen Procter (@procter101) For the longest time the starting point of most businesses has been: “How much money can I make?” There’s nothing wrong with making a healthy profit, but capitalism that placed too much emphasis on shareholders and not enough of an obsession with customers, employees or the environment can be blamed for the horse-meat scandals and price-fixing collusions of 2013.
The tragedy is that business doesn’t have to be like this. It’s possible to make money and to be ethical. In fact in the future the two are going to go hand in hand. If you want to know how sustainability will play out– take a look at our food chain, and at how consumers feel about what they put in their mouths.
Food is one of the most intimate products available on the marketplace because we literally ingest it, and rely on it for our survival. “When surveyed, most shoppers say that, on key ethical food issues, they want their supermarket to make those choices for them, before the product even reaches the shelf,” says Kath Dalmeny speaking on behalf of Sustain, a global alliance of organisations that work together to promote the health and welfare of people, animals and the environment.
This makes sense because when one walks into Woolworths or Pick ‘n Pay there’s the expectation that these retail brands will make the right choices for us. That they are taking care of the world while putting food on our plates.“The more responsible of the major supermarkets are now making principled and cost-effective moves to ensure the sustainability of all of the fish they sell, to reduce the environmental footprint of products, and to pay fair prices to farmers in poor countries,” says Dalmeny.
Sustainability is a complex issue. Let’s take fishing as an example. The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation report indicates that marine life is being seriously overexploited. The report states that some 87% of the world’s fish stocks are overfished, and this is already showing in stores in the rapidly escalating cost of fish.
While most local food retailers look at sustainability from a generic or broad-ranging perspective, Woolworths has [alongside other programmes] instituted a sustainable fisheries practice since about 2008.
This has seen it procure all its seafood from responsible farming operations, and from sustainable fisheries, and its operations are certified by independent organisations like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the WWF-SA’s Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (WWF-SASSI). For time-sensitive consumers what this means is that Woolworths is underscoring its position of trust by doing the right thing, an d then elegantly communicating this in store, and through an innovative campaign with Masterchef Australia finalist Hayden Quinn, who is a Fishing for the Future Ambassador.
If you buy fish at Woolworths you’ll know that it doesn’t come cheap – the cost is a definite premium over sea food you’ll buy at other retail stores. But consumers who can afford it will buy it because they want a guilt-free purchase. These shoppers want the comfort and kudos of being indirect environmentalists. It’s their new comfort food.
What’s smart about the Woolworths campaign is that aside from being sustainable, it integrates neatly into the retailer’s Masterchef sponsorship, and its drive to deliver premium, quality produce that’s fresh.
This is in keeping with global brand trends – The Guardian reports that both Sainsbury and Unilever have integrated sustainability as the strategic axle of their operations. “Environmental sustainability is starting to be seen as more than an optional extra,” Duncan Williamson,a food policy manager for the World Wildlife Fund told The Guardian.“There are increasing numbers of businesses who are seeing the environment as core to their future business models.”
Back in South Africa, Bean There Coffee Company has made sustainability its key differentiator, and the narrative for its brand. South Africa’s first roaster of Certified Fairtrade Coffee, Bean There’s founder – Jonathan Robinson – discovered the ‘fair trade’ model over ten years ago. This set Robinson on a journey through Africa to source coffee that tastes brilliant, but more importantly offers producers a fair payment for their effort.
The focus for Robinson is personally sourcing single origin coffee and encouragin gsustainability, empowerment and community development. Bean There brings the coffee back home, and roasts it at artisanal coffee houses in Jozi and Cape Town.
What this means is that when you drink a cup of the coffee, you’re not just savouring an exclusive taste experience, but supporting fairly traded, small batch farming of single origin coffee in places in Africa like Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya.
Trend Watch talks about this big trend for 2014 as guilt-free consumption. “Growing numbers of consumers can no longer escape an awareness of the damage done by their consumption: to the planet,society, or themselves,” states Trend Watch in its report for 2014. The trend watchers say that consumers will seek status, but that the ‘Guilt-Free Status’ will be the “ultimate indulgence in 2014.”
I’d like to think of sustainability as more of a truth than a trend. Doing good business where you grow with your producers and reward them well; looking after your employees; delivering the best products and services to your customers; whilst simultaneously protecting the environment – isn’t that just good business sense?
— Shauneen Procter is a founder member of Idea Engineers, a brand, advertising, social media and reputation management agency that engineers bespoke marketing solutions for companies in a complex, socially networked world. Procter is an advertising veteran who started her career at Grey Phillips in the ‘80s. She was the founder of Sorcery Advertising, voted by clients as the “Best Local Advertising Agency”. A champion of sustainability, Procter is an investor in smart new businesses, a mentor to emerging brand talent, and an iconoclast who eschews awards but believes in building value and respect.
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