TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR SUSTAINABILITY
P&G’s Mohamed Khalil on doing the right thing.
Multinational corporations that have rooted themselves within the fabric of the UAE’s community have a responsibility – not only to make a societal impact in their host country, but also to involve the entire community in this process. It is brands that are driving behavioural change in customers through local sustainability initiatives that garner the most loyalty in the long term.
Sustainability has become a hot topic over the past decade, and, for business, a strong sustainability strategy translates into fiscal gains that bolster the bottom line. However, by its very nature, the issue of social responsibility needs to be tackled, not with numbers, but with heart. In the FMCG sphere, we have found that one of the main drivers of customer loyalty was our approach to sustainability. In fact, it is the first topic that customers want to discuss when they engage with our brand online.
In addition to our own experience, myriad studies have connected consumer loyalty to shared values and corporates doing good and undertaking community initiatives. Millennials represent the highest proportion of the world’s population, and have surpassed older generations in terms of spending power. In the GCC, millennials are key as they account for a disproportionate percentage of the population. Recently, Pew Research Centre found that this demographic is more likely to support strong environmental policies, and more than 80 per cent of millennials prioritise making the world a better place as a personal mission. In short, customers want to interact with companies that talk the talk and walk the walk.
With this in mind, it is important for multinational corporations to create their own personas among consumers, and this cannot be done with a single initiative, but is a relationship that takes years to nurture and grow. Strategies must also be aligned on a global level to ensure synergies, as well as authenticity – and this extends across brands and industries.
On a global level, we have ingrained sustainability within our research and development process – at the innovation level. We continue towards our long term goal of zero waste going to landfill and 100 per cent renewable energy in the region with the same vigour as we are committed to globally. However, we recognise that this is not enough for the individual consumer; it is imperative that we make strong connections ns between sustainability and brand equity on a personal level, and this means having a strong understanding of f the regions and societies where we operate to ensure that we are making ng the right impact, and that we are opening the doors of participation beyond eyond the walls of our factories and offices. ces.
Our challenge is to find nd ways to educate the consumer and nd help them become a force for the greater good in a way that also unites them hem with the societies they are living in. This year, we were inspired by The e Year of Zayed initiative. Sustainability nability was one of the key values of f the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan n Al Nahyan, and we wanted to emulate ate this in a very real and community ty focused way, not only to spread awareness eness or a message, but also to do something that will make a tangible e difference in our host country, one that hat will resonate for many years s to come.
“Leave your mark” is a campaign that was a result of this thought process. The ghaf tree – the national tree of the UAE – is endangered, dangered, so to change this directly, ly, we committed to cultivating thousands of f ghaf trees in the UAE, and making the community a part of it, by planting a seed for every P&G product sold in the period between July 26 and August 4 this year. In addition to this, we invited consumers to flex their green thumbs and plant ghaf seeds to break the Guinness World Record for the most seeds planted simultaneously in one hour. As a result of our campaign, more than 100 UAE consumers were directly responsible for planting 20,600 ghaf seeds in one hour.
Of course, this is just one of the many ways that we are bringing sustainability to life in the region, and we have found that there is definitely stronger brand affinity amongst our customers following such initiatives, but the customers that stay loyal are the ones that believe in our brand ethos that places sustainability at the very core of everything we do. This is a learning that spans far beyond the borders of the UAE and the FMCG industry, and one that we believe will become the backbone of everything t that at consumers co su e s stand sta d for.
Our challenge is to find ways to educate the consumer and help them become a force for the greater good in a way that also unites them with the societies they are living in.