We’re living in a world where so much has changed in such a short space of time. The ongoing pandemic has forced us all to face the fragility of our world and to reflect on the intrinsic connection between our health and the health of our planet. This time has also pushed many companies to take a hard look at their purpose.
For me, this year has seen several milestones for Evian as we adopt an ever more sustainable model, aiming to become a fully circular brand by 2025, as well as achieving carbon neutrality in April.
We are acting now, however these changes did not happen overnight and - just like every business - we must continue to reflect on our purpose, and how to reconcile growth with a clean and healthy planet.
There are a lot of theories out there about how to make brands grow. I believe one of the best is simple, but not easy to implement: put the purpose of your brand upfront in everything you do. This theory is about brands departing from “pledgeland” and instead showing action. The planet will not wait for us.
Brands on a Mission, a recent book by Myriam Sibide, senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, explores exactly that. It shows us several examples of how brands can not only create impactful social missions that improve public health and safety but can accomplish this while driving profitability and growth. With their often-vast reach and resources, brands can act as trendsetters, aligning their products and marketing to inspire positive action.
Myriam discusses in her book, for example, how an equipment company improved poor sanitation in India, Bangladesh, and Tanzania; how a toothpaste brand helped address school absenteeism and even how a beer brand is tackling domestic violence.
We recently worked with Myriam to research how we can inspire people to recycle plastic bottles, particularly through the positive impact that our 2019 #FlipItForGood campaign had on recycling behavior change. In her study of 1,200 participants, Sidibe proved that the challenge triggered a recycling mindset and increased recycling behavior – calculating that it increased water bottle recycling by 56 percent and paper recycling by 47 percent over the campaign period.
For us, this campaign is a clear example demonstrating how brands can look to leverage their platforms to motivate consumer behavior change around plastic waste; highlighting how one simple action of putting a bottle in the right bin can have a great impact when done collectively.
Of course, right now, we know that the COVID-19 pandemic is posing a threat. It has become increasingly challenging to deliver our commitments as the pandemic continues, and consumers have noted that.
Commitments to achieving sustainability should be more than just pledges. They must be an intrinsic part of any business strategy and, most importantly, a brand’s values. My take is that businesses must have big and ambitious goals on sustainability but should not let the fear of starting small paralyze them. What is important is starting somewhere, even if these actions look small in the beginning. In the long run, the seeds will grow and make a difference.
Image credit: Djib Djib/Unsplash
Shweta Harit is Global Brand Vice President for Evian, where she spearheaded Evian’s latest carbon neutral certification in April 2020, as well as continuing to engage consumers with Evian’s sustainability journey more broadly as it seeks to become fully circular by 2025.