Last week, Boohoo appointed a former high court judge to examine its business practices on the back of their recent supply chain fiasco that lost both customers and reputation. We also saw the launch of the Advertising Association Ad Net Zero plan initiative which commits the advertising industry to reduce the carbon impact of developing, producing and running UK advertising to real net zero by end 2030.
These two snippets of news fit into the broader conversations around sustainability that are taking a more focused shape for many businesses - both from a client and supply chain angle. The days when a mere nod to CSR would suffice and tick the requisite boxes have been replaced by sustainability strategies and chief sustainability officers as this topic becomes engrained in the offering.
This raises the question of what sustainability looks like in our sector of marcomms. Is it about environmental causes such as the Advertising Association are challenging? Is it ensuring a regulated supply chain that is appropriately accredited and follows compliance? Does it relate to the ethics of ensuring that all employees are treated fairly and justly in their context? The answer, of course, is that it is all of the above and more and the ‘more’ is important.
Recent research from the Stanford University identified the trend of a ‘ new age of corporations actively transforming the market to make it more sustainable’ - evidenced by the outdoor apparel brand Patagonia changing their mission statement to read ‘Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.’ The challenge of the impact on the bottom line is being debunked with B Corp registered companies in the UK posting a growth rate up to 28 times higher than the national average.
The next generation of marketeers and producers, our clients and customers of tomorrow, see sustainability as integral to their world and that will continue to gain traction. They will be more demanding of its inclusion in their work sector. Ensuring that products and supply chains manage high environmental and ethical standards will be further matched by a demand that markets also uphold these merits.
Now is the time to audit how well prepared our market is to ensure robust and future proofed sustainability strategies will carry us into, and through, these increasing demands. Certification obviously helps but the requirement stretches beyond that into an embedded cultural commitment to walk the walk. Interrogating how important this sits within a business requires vulnerability and transparency – two further virtues espoused by the upcoming workforce.
However, it requires, above all, the sheer cahones to put people and planet on a par with profit.