WEDNESDAY 10 FEB 2021 2:06 PM


Jonathan Hall, Kantar’s head of sustainability practice, speaks to Communicate magazine about the steps brands can take to ensure they are meeting sustainable goals, expected sustainability trends in the future and the benefits of making sustainability part of brands' business objectives and communication.

Why does packaging need to become a product in itself in order to best engage customers?

We have increasingly moved into a world where experience is king. We have gone past peak stuff and the very concept of ‘consumption’ is loaded with negative connotations of wastefulness. In this brave new world, packaging is no longer an extraneous outer layer – it has become increasingly valuable to the consumer’s relationship with a given brand and the journey they go through – get it right, and they will buy into your brand repeatedly; get it wrong, and you’ve lost a customer for life.

What steps can brands take to ensure they are meeting sustainable goals?

Many companies have started the sustainability journey, be it for reasons of compliance, because the R&D and Tech teams find social and environmental issues fuel innovation, or simply because they believe it’s the right thing to do. Where most businesses struggle is understanding how to engage with consumers and other stakeholders in order to land their products and communications in a way that drives commercial value. If they don’t learn to do that, then they will miss out on the next wave of economic opportunity.

What are the benefits of brands making sustainability part of their business objectives, particularly in terms of communication?

The governors of the Banks of France and England said publicly that ‘if some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist.’ So, there’s going to be enormous change to address and huge risk to manage, but it’s also about trillions of dollars of opportunity. Data from Kantar shows that the most sustainably engaged people (the so-called Eco-Actives) have some $382B of potential spending power in the FMCG sector alone: Unilever puts the value for all FMCG consumers at $2.5 trillion. They have a new annual sales target globally of $1bn from plant-based meat & dairy alternatives within the next 5-7 years. What is so important about this analysis is that it helps reposition sustainable development from a historical position in the minds of many business people as a compliance issue or a drag factor on growth by highlighting its potential to unleash innovation, economic growth, and development at an unprecedented scale. Therefore companies need to get onto this right away and frame the benefits of their sustainability activations in a way that’s motivating to stakeholders – or risk losing relevance and getting left behind.

What are some sustainability trends you are seeing/expect to see in the future?

The Issues Radar is the new tool from Kantar that we use to identify emerging trends across the sustainability landscape. We use AI to evaluate the how conversations are growing and to map them against the global goals. We are already seeing communications professionals use it to get on the front foot with their sustainability comms. Some of the things it shows us include some of the highest demand is to be found in places that most companies didn’t even see up until the recent past. Let’s talk here about some of the social justice aspects of sustainable development – which people tend to think less about than environmental. There are trillions of dollars of opportunity locked up in under-served groups of people that even now many clients are passing up: from segments focused on race & ethnicity to disability to sexual identity and so on. 

Amazingly, we’re still having to talk about women as an under-served segment. Global female income is expected to have reached $24 trillion annually in 2020, up from $20 trillion in 2018. More than that, women are expected to control $43 trillion of global consumer spending through voluntary private consumption or an exchange of money for goods and services in 2020. There will be 100 million more women in the global labour force by 2030. Asia-Pacific will have the largest female workforce. By 2030, women will change the workforce landscape with a more than 40% average participation rate. And women-owned companies will represent over 40% of registered businesses worldwide in 2020.