Is market­ing for good the only sustainable future for the industry?

Is market­ing for good the only sustainable future for the industry?
Is market­ing for good the only sustainable future for the industry?

The ethics of consumerism are hugely important to a generation that won't think twice about boycotting companies for any lapse in their moral obligations to the environment and society. Can brands afford to ignore CSR or treat it simply as a cosmetic PR exercise?


Simon Oldham

Group commercial director, Highland Spring group

Marketing for good has a crucial role to play in the future of the industry. Consumers are looking for brands that give something back, and this can set a brand apart from its competitors, provided its values are marketed with sincerity and are consistent with its DNA.

Our brand values – including trust, integrity, honesty and corporate responsibility – are at the heart of what we do. From the way we source water and protect our land to the use of 100% recyclable plastic for our bottles and minimising waste, sustainability is central to our business and brand.

Marketing for good should continue to be an important part of future brand strategies. This, alongside a move to adapt to these fast-paced times across all touchpoints, will deliver truly effective campaigns.

Katy Taylor Group marketing director,

The Go-Ahead Group

At The Go-Ahead Group [which operates train and bus services], sustainability is integral to the way we run our business. We have a devolved business strategy, which means our local businesses are best-placed to make a positive contribution to the communities in which we operate.

Corporate responsibility is also embedded in our marketing strategy and, by encouraging the use of public transport rather than private cars, 
we contribute to safer, less-congested roads and cleaner air.

There is a link between sustainable brands and positive customer response, and marketing for good enables Go-Ahead to communicate its credentials as a sustainable operator.

Sustainability is an intangible asset and its return on investment cannot be easily measured. However, I believe it is of critical value for corporations that want their businesses to be more resilient and achieve long-term growth.

Toby Hoare chief executive,
J Walter Thompson Europe

It is great to take on a good cause, but if the strategy is not insightful and the communications are not distinctive and exciting, no one will notice.

We are competing with online publishers and entertainment companies. We have to create relevant and entertaining communications because consumers choose what they want to engage with.

To build a sustainable and successful future, we need to do what we do best: be creative. A good, well-executed idea will always engage people.

If it can make a difference in the real world, even better. We created Kenco’s ‘Coffee vs gangs’ campaign, to name just one. The scheme gives young Hondurans an alternative to gang life by becoming coffee farmers; it also helps Kenco sell a lot of coffee.

Jane Asscher Founding partner,

Strategy and Management, 23Red

Two out of three people agree that companies have a role to play in the wellbeing of society. In mature markets, cost, quality and quantity are the primary determinants of ‘value’, and influence our choices. However, when faced with numerous similar options, how ‘good’ a company is becomes a factor, and organisations that communicate the good they do can elevate themselves in people’s minds.

The astute marketer knows CSR is not a department or campaign. It is a vital element of the brand strategy that needs a considered approach equal to that employed with innovation, communication and promotion. Writing off the benefits of CSR as ‘goodwill’ will no longer suffice –not when it is used to its full potential and is capable of driving differentiation and influencing sales. CSR is the only sustainable future.

Chris Falconer Group account director,

It’s not easy being a brand, especially an FMCG brand, in 2015. The endless squeeze on price, the battle for space and the rise of the ‘less choice, more value’ European supermarket means sustainability isn’t at the top of anybody’s priority list: brand, shopper, consumer or customer.

However, it needs to be – and brands have to be leading this agenda and moving toward a model that creates value for every stakeholder.

One of our clients, Nestlé’s ‘Creating shared value’, is a great example ( Its purpose is to nurture and aid the future of its suppliers by building and curating a sustainable, manageable, traceable supply chain, from plantlet to consumer.

This creates a better future for everyone: better plantlets, better farmers, better yield, better cocoa and, ultimately, better chocolate.

Matt Fanshawe

Group coo and global brand director, Havas Helia

Tackling social and environmental problems and helping to improve quality of life is now important to people. Contributing to society purely through profit – and job – creation is an outdated attitude.

Great companies create shared value, solve world problems and make money. An Accenture study (‘Can business do well by doing good?’, 2010) found that the 50 most-sustainable companies in Fortune magazine’s list of the 1000 biggest companies in the US out-performed those judged the 50 least-sustainable by 16%.

The disconnection between people’s expectations and brand delivery is highlighted in the Havas Meaningful Brands study: most people wouldn’t care if 73% of the world’s brands disappeared, and 70% of millennials believe they should censure unethical companies by avoiding their products.


Each month The Forum questions members of The Marketing Society on a hot topic. For more on membership, visit


Start Your Free 30-Day Free Trial

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free