The strate­gic im­per­a­tive for sus­tain­abil­ity mar­ket­ing

Sus­tain­abil­ity mar­ket­ing is about de­liv­er­ing more value to cus­tomers and en­sur­ing that the brand prom­ise is vi­able over a long time.

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents - AKACHI NGWU

Sus­tain­abil­ity mar­ket­ing is an emerg­ing field in mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion and a grow­ing num­ber of brands are now tak­ing it very se­ri­ously. Also known as green mar­ket­ing, it is a con­cept that draws on ideas of en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial sus­tain­abil­ity. Businesses are in­creas­ingly com­ing to the re­al­i­sa­tion that to in­crease busi­ness value, they need to broaden their fo­cus be­yond fi­nan­cial bot­tom line, to in­clude so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sid­er­a­tions.

Sus­tain­abil­ity mar­ket­ing also in­volves build­ing re­la­tion­ships with con­sumers and see­ing them as stake­hold­ers. As a key mar­ket­ing strat­egy, savvy brands un­der­stand the im­por­tance of build­ing loy­alty with this gen­er­a­tion of cus­tomers, while pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

For in­stance, the Sus­tain­able Brand In­dex, pub­lished by the Swedish com­pany, SB In­sight AB, en­ables con­sumers to de­ter­mine how so­cially and en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able pop­u­lar brands are. The 2017 in­dex has com­pa­nies like IKEA, Philips, Unilever, Nes­tle, Co­ca­Cola, Pepsi, McDon­ald's, Shell, and NESCAFE in its rank­ings.

In the co­a­les­cence of fi­nan­cial, en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial con­sid­er­a­tions in busi­ness, sus­tain­able or­gan­i­sa­tions are pro­mot­ing and help­ing to ad­dress the three di­men­sions of sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment,

namely, so­cial, eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal. It is around these di­men­sions that the United Na­tions Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs) re­volve. The 17 SDGs stand as the bench­mark for global com­mit­ment to­wards the fight to wipe out poverty, end in­equal­ity and tackle cli­mate change over the 15-year pe­riod be­tween 2016 and 2030. In 2015, Nige­ria joined over 190 coun­tries to adopt the UN de­vel­op­ment agenda.

When an or­gan­i­sa­tion con­sid­ers the so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts of its prod­ucts or ser­vices and seeks ways to ad­dress such im­pacts, the or­gan­i­sa­tion is em­brac­ing sus­tain­abil­ity prin­ci­ples. Hav­ing said that, en­trepreneur­ship is needed to gal­vanise a cor­po­rate agenda de­signed to pro­mote the well­be­ing of the con­sumers. As such, sus­tain­abil­ity mar­ket­ing is about de­liv­er­ing more value to cus­tomers and en­sur­ing that the brand prom­ise is vi­able over a long time.

The prac­tice of sus­tain­abil­ity mar­ket­ing can also help brands and in­sti­tu­tions to ad­dress is­sues per­tain­ing to poor ser­vice, for in­stance. There are many in­stances of con­sumers be­ing at the re­ceiv­ing end of poor ser­vice de­liv­ery by or­gan­i­sa­tions with­out re­ceiv­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate re­dress. Sus­tain­abil­ity en­tails the long-term pur­suit of eco­nomic re­la­tion­ships with con­sumers in other to achieve the com­mon good.

I like to share two ex­am­ples that show lack of a sus­tain­abil­ity mar­ket­ing ap­proach. Ama­zon, the global e-com­merce gi­ant, failed to de­liver four books that I or­dered on its plat­form. And nei­ther was the pay­ment re­funded, de­spite sev­eral com­plaints I made. Though the books were bought through other mer­chants on Ama­zon's web­site, Ama­zon is vi­car­i­ously li­able as the books were sold on its plat­form. That ex­pe­ri­ence leads me hav­ing to re­think when­ever I con­sider car­ry­ing out an on­line trans­ac­tion.

My col­league had a trans­ac­tion with a lead­ing e-com­merce brand in Nige­ria. The item that was de­liv­ered to him was dif­fer­ent from what he had or­dered. Rather than get­ting a re­place­ment, the com­pany of­fered him a gift voucher as com­pen­sa­tion for fu­ture pur­chases. Sadly, the voucher can­not pos­si­bly be a sat­is­fac­tory res­o­lu­tion of my col­league's bad ex­pe­ri­ence with this mer­chant.

But there are or­gan­i­sa­tions that are demon­strat­ing their sus­tain­abil­ity mar­ket­ing com­mit­ments through var­i­ous projects across their value chains. One of such or­gan­i­sa­tions is Ac­cess Bank Plc.

Sus­tain­abil­ity has be­come the cor­ner­stone of Ac­cess Bank's cor­po­rate phi­los­o­phy. The bank drives its sus­tain­abil­ity agenda through strate­gic part­ner­ships, some of which in­volve ad­dress­ing ed­u­ca­tion, health, women's rights and so­cial well­be­ing of peo­ple in com­mu­ni­ties where it op­er­ates. Some of the bank's prod­ucts fo­cus on pro­mot­ing fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion of women to help achieve gen­der-eq­uity in ac­cess to fi­nance.

The Unilever Sus­tain­able Liv­ing Plan (USLP) is re­port­edly at the heart of the com­pany's busi­ness model. Unilever has three goals un­der the USLP, which are to im­prove health and well-be­ing; re­duce its en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact by half; and en­hance the liveli­hoods of mil­lions of peo­ple.

The Nes­tle in So­ci­ety sus­tain­abil­ity strat­egy is de­signed to en­hance qual­ity of life and con­trib­ute to a health­ier fu­ture. Nes­tle's three over­ar­ch­ing am­bi­tions are to help 50 mil­lion chil­dren to lead health­ier lives; help to im­prove 30 mil­lion liveli­hoods in com­mu­ni­ties where the food and bev­er­age com­pany has busi­ness op­er­a­tions; and Nes­tle's am­bi­tion to strive for zero en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact in its op­er­a­tions.

In ad­di­tion to the ob­vi­ous sus­tain­abil­ity in­ter­ests of Ac­cess Bank, Unilever and Nes­tle – as shown in their pro­grammes, which span ed­u­ca­tion, health, women em­pow­er­ment, san­i­ta­tion, youth en­trepreneur­ship, nutri­tion, ru­ral de­vel­op­ment and wa­ter – the youth de­mo­graphic is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of sus­tain­able mar­ket­ing. And Nige­ria has a gi­gan­tic youth pop­u­la­tion that needs to be em­pow­ered and tapped by brands and pol­i­cy­mak­ers alike.

The Nige­ria pop­u­la­tion, cur­rently es­ti­mated at over 196 mil­lion, is fore­casted to grow to over 200 mil­lion by the year 2020, ac­cord­ing to Worl­dome­ters. The coun­try is not only the largest in Africa in terms of pop­u­la­tion, the me­dian age in the coun­try is 17.9 years. For this rea­son, Nige­ria could be de­scribed as hav­ing a mil­len­ni­als-driven con­sumer mar­ket. Although this de­mo­graphic co­hort has di­verse def­i­ni­tions, Pew Re­search Cen­ter says mil­len­ni­als are those born be­tween 1981 and 1996.

But gen­er­ally, mil­len­ni­als in­clude the Gen­er­a­tion Y (peo­ple born be­tween 19811991) and Gen­er­a­tion Z (those born be­tween 1991-2001). Mar­ket­ing Magazine de­scribed Gen­er­a­tion Z as the “holy grail for brands.” Mil­len­ni­als are, there­fore, a key fron­tier for sus­tain­abil­ity mar­ket­ing and growth. Given the cur­rent and fu­ture po­ten­tial of this de­mog­ra­phy in Nige­ria, brand en­gage­ment will need to be tai­lored to meet their ex­pec­ta­tions.

To cel­e­brate its 10th an­niver­sary, this pub­li­ca­tion – Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria – is hold­ing a col­lo­quium with the theme, “Nige­ria's Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Agenda.” The event will hold on Tues­day, Septem­ber 11th, 2018, at the Shehu Musa Yar'Adua Cen­tre in Abuja.

The col­lo­quium, which prom­ises to be highly-en­gag­ing and im­pact­ful, will fea­ture two key­note speeches by Muham­mad Ali Pate, Global health and de­vel­op­ment ex­pert and for­mer Nige­rian Min­is­ter of State for Health; and Ar­shad Rab, De­vel­op­ment thinker and CEO, Euro­pean Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment. Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria is host­ing this col­lo­quium to pro­mote pol­icy di­a­logues to evolve the best pol­icy op­tions for Nige­ria's sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment agenda.

This event also presents an op­por­tu­nity for pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions and brands to par­tic­i­pate and forge part­ner­ships with the pub­li­ca­tion and other stake­hold­ers to strengthen their sus­tain­abil­ity mar­ket­ing strate­gies.

Ac­cess Bank drives its sus­tain­abil­ity agenda through strate­gic part­ner­ships, some of which in­volve ad­dress­ing ed­u­ca­tion, health, women's rights and so­cial well­be­ing of peo­ple in com­mu­ni­ties where it op­er­ates.

Group CEO, Ac­cess Bank Plc, ad­dress­ing del­e­gates at the Global Sus­tain­able Fi­nance Con­fer­ence 2017 in Karl­sruhe, Ger­many

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