By Anthi Pashi, Business Development Director, Partners VMLY&R
You’ve probably noticed that the topics of conversation that dominate most conferences, summits, articles and news outlets are pretty much common across the globe. They’re about slowing down climate change and the environmental impact we’re having on our planet, achieving equality and diversity in the workplace and beyond, data protection and the increasingly heated debate about privacy as well as an overall expectation for transparency and ethical behaviour. These and other related issues are becoming the focal point both for society and as an extension, businesses at large.
This is not happening by accident. As millennials gain more and more spending power, make up a high percentage of the workforce, enter senior positions and start investing in companies, their agendas are shaping society as well as the business world. Their wants have quickly transformed into expectations and demands from those in influential positions including governments and corporations, impacting their decisions in multiple areas of life, politics and business. From where they choose to work, to invest, who to vote for and what to buy.
A company’s stance around Environmental, Social and Governance issues. A response to the demand from various stakeholders including investors, employees and society, to address these burning issues and incorporate solutions into their operations, vision and mission. The need for companies and brands to implement purpose-driven ESG agenda’s is at its peak, recognized as a one-way street in securing performance and longevity – something the pandemic crisis has no doubt highlighted and possibly accelerated.
But why is ESG important for brands?
As more and more companies globally, as well as some leaders in the Cyprus market, build and incorporate ESG strategies in their business model, it’s important to understand the benefits that an honest, purpose driven ESG agenda can bring for the organization.
- Attraction and retention of top talent. By 2030, Millennials and Gen Z will account for two thirds of the work force. So, knowing what’s important to them and providing it will be crucial in a company’s ability to employ and keep top talent. It’s no coincidence that Fortune’s 2019 Best Companies to Work For had a 14% higher ESG score than the global average. Millennials care about how a company impacts society, what they are doing to protect the environment and whether they can trust it.
- Better and more loyal customers. That same target group also makes up the majority of consumers. More and more do we see millennials and Gen Zs with purchasing power, favoring brands that stand up for what they believe in. For brands that value what they value and actively try to make a difference.
- A stronger brand overall. It would be a mistake to underestimate what an effective and transparent ESG agenda that is interwoven into a company’s business model can do for brand value. It can become the competitive advantage within an industry, as has been proven during the challenging pandemic period where Fidelity’s research and report showed a correlation between companies with higher ESG scores and performance.
It's important to note however that having an ESG agenda, or even taking action is not enough. It requires more than what brands have been doing so far. ESG is changing gears whereby a major component to an effective and impactful ESG agenda is collecting, verifying and sharing this information.
Whatever issues your company is addressing through various initiatives, in whichever way the brand is being a good citizen, it must communicate it in a way that builds authenticity, credibility and has a long-lasting positive impact on the brand and stakeholders. It’s more than just publicizing its latest ad-hoc CSR initiative. Effective communication that will increase brand strength and value, requires a strategic approach, consistency, alignment and integration with the brand’s values and other messaging.
It requires a collaboration with a communication agency that understands and builds communication based on the brand’s long-term objectives, that knows the market and the ever-evolving consumer and incorporates sustainability and important social issues in its own philosophy.
The ability to see the bigger picture is crucial in order to build communication that will not only effectively get across the immediate message of your brand’s sustainability agenda but will also consistently build on and strengthen brand perception in the long-term.
At Partners VMLY&R, we know what it means to elevate your messaging. When it’s time to change the game and what it takes to make it happen. And this is the time to make that change – from one off CSR activations that no doubt do good, but get lost in hundreds of others and even lost among your own brand’s messaging – to a strategically drafted and implemented ESG communication plan.
Fueled by our own passion and adoption of initiatives that positively contribute to the environment and society, giving back has been part of our DNA since the very early days of the agency back in 1995. Initiatives such as employee volunteer days, pro bono work for foundations and charitable organisations as well as green initiatives are embedded into our way of working and policies.
This commitment to contribution is also shared by the global network of VMLY&R that we’re officially affiliated with since 2004. Our network is an important source of global information, trends, ideas and research, providing us with the opportunity to be one step ahead and guide our clients in this space in a way that will bring about the benefits they seek.
ESG’s role in businesses and brands will only keep increasing with time, making it a necessity for companies that want to grow and thrive and it would be a shame for these efforts to go to waste due to incomplete or non-impactful communication. It’s time to look at ESG communication as a major part of your communication plan and become partners with those that can help you get the most out of it.