THURSDAY 11 MAR 2021 3:25 PM


A decade ago 91% of consumers thought the way a company behaves towards its customers and communities is influential when considering a purchase. Ten years later, that percentages has only increased. A panel fronted by Keith Weed, Unilever’s former CMO, and Stephen Woodford, CEO of the Advertising Association, explored the different steps brand should undertake to stay true to CSR while avoid ‘greenwashing’ and accusations of being inauthentic.

With Sustainability more important than, consumers are increasingly looking for organisations to contribute real change to communities, society and the environment through their products and initiatives In the latest ‘Do. Feel Think Purpose’ virtual roundtable hosted by creative agency 23red explored how brands can mainstream sustainability and keep up with consumer expectations now, and in the next decade.

While Weed  said it can be daunting for businesses to start addressing society’s concerns from zero, he assures it be done, and the important part is not comparing oneself to other brands.

“On a scale of 0-100 on building your brand with purpose – if you can move your five or ten to 15 or 20 you are making a meaningful impact on society and environment. Brands need to understand the dynamics and then jump in,” he said.

Doing so will also help brands on a business level. There is a business case for adopting sustainability measures and making them the heart of a brand while at the same time focusing on the benefits consumers one and gaining profit. Unilever, for example, made it work. Weed shut down Unilever’s CSR department when he realised the rest of the company was going ahead with ‘business as usual’ and was completely detached from what the brand was trying to convey.

“I think there shouldn’t be a CSR department in the corner, doing the good stuff while the rest of the company does their side of things. Organisations as a whole should take responsibility and be aware of the CSR norms,” he says.

Covid-19 was a central theme when discussing the future of sustainability. The two speakers highlighted the parallel between it and climate change, both of which are phenomenon’s that are impacting the world at an unprecedented rate on both a global and local scale.

“We are not going back to how things were before. That realisation has changed the way with how we see things from global to local. Covid-19 impact on the economy is the impact climate change will have on the world every year,” said Woodford.

“The climate crisis is like Covid-19 on steroids,” Weed added.

 The webinar not only confirmed that there is not better time to start embracing social responsibility and sustainability concerns now, but also that it is possible to do it starting from the very bottom, with Covid-19 acting as a strong drive to make the first step.