Brands should only push sustainability if values are in DNA, Ogilvy study stresses

'Nearly twice as many U.S. firms are embedding sustainability in strategic decision making in 2019 as we saw in 2018.'

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) should be ingrained in a brand’s DNA, and make sense to consumers for it to appear authentic, a new study from Ogilvy stresses. 

Brands aiming to alleviate wider social issues have become all the rage lately, but if not done correctly, attempts to address such issues seem inauthentic at best, and backfire disastrously at worst. 

According to Ogilvy's ‘Making Brands Matter for the Generations to Come’ report, circular consumption, and corporate social responsibility is becoming the norm rather than the exception, and brands that don’t evolve to meet the needs of consumers will find themselves lost. 

"The U.S. focus on sustainability is intensifying: Nearly twice as many U.S. firms are embedding sustainability in strategic decision making in 2019 as we saw in 2018," reads Ogilvy’s report. 

But if that focus on CSR is not ingrained in the core and culture of organizations, these efforts can seem tacked on. 

Examples Ogilvy cited as unsuccessful include Sam's Club and its CSR initiative focused on the local community, including donations and volunteerism, and Dell’s targeted action aimed at reducing plastic waste.

While these initiatives are positive, they are not aligned with the core values of either brand, leading to their efforts falling short of true CSR immersion.

Tesla’s goal to move the auto market towards electric and solar energy and MAC Cosmetics work towards building an inclusive product line were cited as examples of successfully implemented CSR initiatives, as they filtered through the entire company, and in fact, guided day-to-day operations of each organization and made sense for the brands themselves. 

According to Ogilvy, newer brands that have grown up in the internet age are at an inherent advantage, as they have often built their business around core CSR initiatives, while older brands may struggle to transform their entire corporate culture. 

Ogilvy stressed that one-off CSR initiatives simply do not cut it anymore. 

"When CSR emanates from the brand’s core it feels authentic for both customers and employees," the report reads. 


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