Insights 10/01/2020 Alastair Jones

Sustainability is a driver for growth


Sustainability has not only become a strategic differentiator for brands; there is clear evidence to show that it is also a driver of improved business performance. Adopting and embedding a sustainability strategy can not only create greater operational efficiency for businesses, it can also enhance brand equity, unlock new opportunities and encourage a culture of innovation.

The exciting aspect of all this is that design in its broadest sense is very much at the heart of these growth opportunities and, with companies at very different stages of their sustainability journeys, we believe that design and innovation have a vital role to play in shaping sustainability strategies.

However, many businesses are failing to capitalise on these very real opportunities. In some cases this is due to uncertainty about how and where to start, whilst others may only be looking at sustainability as a strategic necessity and the shorter term environmentally related operational efficiencies. Often brands aren’t activating the corporate level sustainability strategy or recognising how strategically led sustainability approaches can improve a brand’s appeal, unlock new thinking and drive growth.

Integrating sustainability into brand strategy does require a different approach and brand and sustainability teams may not have worked closely together before. However close collaboration and an integrated approach can reap dividends, propelling an organisation and brand beyond an approach that sees sustainability as simply a necessity to a differentiator that drives growth.

This is where we see a truly integrated design and innovation approach making a significant contribution, drawing together the disciplines of technical consultancy, design and innovation combined with a brand and consumer led mentality. A dynamic new approach is needed, one that will stimulate new thinking and collaborations whilst injecting new enthusiasm and energy into people and teams keen to make a difference and be proud of working for an organisation that is committed to doing their bit.

At Echo we believe in creating sustainable brands and packaging that present a cohesive story in order to deliver a win for business, consumer and the environment – an approach we call WinWinWin. Indeed, many new sustainable innovations fail, not because of poor technical performance, but because they fail to connect to consumers and integrate into their lives.

Delivering successful sustainable solutions means being expert in materials and manufacturing (and staying up-to-date given the rate of innovation); understanding consumers in order to communicate sustainability that’s both practical and motivating and having the design and branding skills and experience to ensure sustainability is delivered in an exciting, brand appropriate way.

At a consultancy level an integrated design and innovation approach can help facilitate the interaction between sustainability and brand teams, provide technical support and input as well as helping to forge collaborations with new partners and suppliers.

Design can be used to help challenge assumptions and break rivers of thought as well as preserve and champion brand equity in the move to new materials, formats or delivery systems. Design can also address potential barriers created by on-costs of new materials through the development of supporting communications and activations to elevate consumer value perceptions and lower price sensitivity. Echo’s Nudge Design approach, based on behavioural psychology, helps consumers realise their best intentions, supporting positive attitudes and behaviours through the wider community by building in benefits that support ‘Me, my world, the world’.

Innovation can deliver short term wins such as a lighthouse sku or halo product, perhaps the first in a series of progressive innovations, that sends a strong message about future intentions. It can also forge a long-term future vision and a pipeline of ideas e.g. new occasions and delivery systems, that enhance the consumer experience while delivering wins for the environment.

The bottom line is that no business can afford to treat sustainability as a ‘nice to have’ or a ‘division’ separate from the core business of brand building. Companies and brands that put sustainability at the core and embrace it as a strategic differentiator will profit from incremental growth, drive a culture of innovation and foster loyalty and engagement amongst customers, employees, local communities, suppliers and investors. That’s a win all round.