How valuable is sustainability?
In a world in which ‘sustainability’ has become a buzzword that few people understand, where legislation is attempting to enforce sustainability upon companies in a vague and often incoherent way, and recycling is seen as the pinnacle of eco-living, it’s easy to see why it’s not a top priority for many brands.
But it should be. For one CEO, sustainability has become a competitive advantage rather than background noise, and it’s come from a quarter you may not have expected: Jean-Marc Duvoisin, the CEO of Nespresso.
Although Starbucks is battling more important things in the States, the coffee industry doesn’t exactly have a shining reputation when it comes to sustainability. Nespresso themselves have a reputation for throwaway single-use pods, a travesty even in comparison to the reusable or recyclable cups used in major coffee chains around the world. People often feel worse about unsustainable habits in their own home because it is without question their own responsibility. Jean-Marc’s stance must surely mean that the use once, throw away approach that Nespresso currently uses is going to be replaced by a different, and more sustainable model.
The statistics themselves differ depending on where you’re reading, but there is a huge amount of waste happening in the throw-away coffee culture, which is why it is so refreshing to hear someone from within the industry value sustainability as a brand asset.
And Jean-Marc goes beyond considering sustainability as just something that needs to be done: he argues that taking a stand on a brand value such as sustainability not only endears you to the ethical customer, but provides a distinct business advantage.
It separates you from your competitors.
You can prevaricate over price, you can quiffle about quality, but there’s nothing like a strong brand to make you stand out from your competitors. What you actually do may be really similar (we won’t tell), but your seriousness about sustainability will give your target audience an instant characteristic to remember you by.
It opens new markets.
The ethical consumer isn’t the stereotype of the 1960s hippy any more: anyone from any background, age, or gender can feel passionately about the planet, and that means that there’s a huge market that in many industries is completely untapped. Giving them a reason to trust your brand will open up that market.
It gives your brand depth.
Whether you’re looking to find investors, secure a new client, or attract the best talent, your brand cannot look one dimensional. Nespresso does coffee – but that’s not all that they do. Your sustainability values are brand assets, and by giving your brand depth, you increase its perceived value and enable people to not just buy from you, but develop a relationship with you, and that’s not something you can put a price on.
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