BfG News Issue 10 - Expert View
10 Mar 2008|Added Value
On Thursday 6th March, we saw the second meeting of minds for a common cause – Branding for Good. Respected industry leaders from global bank HSBC, retailer Marks & Spencer and energy giant E.ON took to the stage to share their responsible branding journeys.
First up was Chris Clark, Head of Marketing HSBC. In a world where homogeneity and standardisation dominate, HSBC are building their business in the belief that different people from different cultures and different walks of life create value. They believe that it is the combination of different people, and the fusion of different ideas, that provides the essential fuel for progress and success. Chris outlined HSBC’s five point plan to become catalysts for change and offered some learnings & realities on the reputation journey.
1. Physician Heal thyself – businesses need to take responsibility by mitigating their own impact on the environment. Carbon offsetting is just one route. Make responsible decisions about your real estate and build environmentally sound offices
2. Dig Deep – get your hand in your pocket. Big businesses can afford to support causes. One such example is HSBC’s involvement in Climate Partnership investing $100m
3. Use Ultimate Influence – impose your ethics on others through stringent policies to suppliers and those you’re willing to do business with and show them you’re serious.
4. Engage en-masse – staff and customers through products and services as well as other programmes.
5. Influencing Lifestyle – become a trusted advisor to consumers. Understand what they need and advise them on making it possible
Marks & Spencer are clearly ahead on the responsible journey. David Hordle, as Head of Plan A Delivery shared learnings from the first year of this five-year eco plan. At M&S they believe that behaving responsibly (both on the environment and ethical issues) is important; not only because it’s the right thing to do but because their customers & employees want it and increasingly, their shareholders expect it.
Their ‘look behind the label’ campaign (launched in 2006) started the M&S responsible journey and research showed an increase in consumer trust with the brand, moreso than with any prior campaign. The research also highlighted consumers desire to know more about the products they were buying and on what M&S were doing to lead on the issues that mattered most.
Hence, ‘Plan A – because there is no Plan B’ was launched in January 2007, their £200 million five year eco plan that addresses five key areas and touches every part of their business, taking action across 35,000 product lines involving 2,000 factories, 20,000 farms and 250,000 workers.
It’s a challenging programme and they confess they don’t have all the answers yet. Much will change over the years to come, but David is proud that they’ve started the journey at the right time and with the right intentions.
How does an energy provider ‘go green’? The purpose of Keith Fletcher’s presentation was to give the summit delegates the ‘been there, doing that’ view from E.ON. To talk straight from the coalface, as Propositions Manager, about how difficult it is to develop a green proposition with the challenges that this energy giant faces.
One such challenge: to meet an environmental need of a niche area of their customer base. Another: to sustain a brand position, of one of the world’s largest carbon emitters, that was changing and transforming within the UK. Keith described it as their ‘skeleton’ and reinforced E.ON’s conscious confidence to take responsibility in this area by driving tangible actions to solve some of those problems. A position of strength that as an organisation, even with their skeleton or ‘brand shadow’ they feel confident about what they’re saying when it comes to environmental improvement.
Our speakers reiterated that responsible branding is a ‘journey’. Whether your brand is about to embark on the responsible journey; are deeply entrenched with sleeves rolled up; or are starting to see the consumer brand trust rewards for your efforts – it is a journey about authenticity, transparency and honesty.