Getting Beyond Green
When Blackstone’s CEO, Stephen Schwartzman, talks, the markets listen. At Davos in January, Schwartzman declared that sustainability is “good economics.” The $72-billion private equity firm has issued a declaration that it will factor environmental, social, and governance performance into every investment decision it makes.
Every brand and executive facing news of firestorms and rising seas must recognize that disruption due to extreme weather, drought, and economic inequity are the primary risks that will determine profitability in the long run. Embracing transparency in reporting and telling the story of progress toward difficult goals, such as making and delivering products and services in a sustainable way, is the challenge for business in the 2020s.
Figure 1: Source: Nielsen, The Evolution of the Sustainability Mindset
Customers are overwhelmingly concerned with sustainability when shopping. Nielsen and The Conference Board reported that 80 percent of Gen Z, 84 percent of Millennials, 79 percent of Gen X, and 72 percent of Baby Boomers responded to a 2018 survey saying it is “extremely” or “very” important that business eliminate negative environmental impacts.
Your revenue will increasingly be determined by consumers’ perception of your brand’s sustainability. Your profits will depend on minimizing climate impacts on the economy.
The story is your action
Sustainability is measurable, your actions are observable. While few companies can boast about substantial progress toward net-zero CO2 emissions, many brands are making meaningful investments in sustainability. In fact, business has pioneered sustainability, often out of necessity.
You don’t need to be “woke” to be sustainable. Nestle, a long-troubled brand when it comes to environmental and socio-economic issues, recently recognized that its access to plastic feed stocks for its global bottled water business are running short. The company took the radical step of promising to pay a premium over the market price for recycled food-grade plastic in order to secure materials in its future.
IKEA, Unilever, Patagonia, and IBM have solid sustainability stories built on their public actions and measurable impact on emissions, energy and water usage. Consumers have gravitated to these brands for sustainable options, and their shares have climbed on that consumer confidence.
At Metaforce, we focus on brand building and storytelling for companies that embrace transparency. We work with clients and their suppliers or partners to show consumers how they are investing for sustainable outcomes, as well as share the lessons learned from mistakes. By embracing accountability, brands can take credit for their successful environmental, social, and governance efforts while sharing lessons learned from their mistakes. Humans are just beginning to understand the scope of environmental damage.
When thousands are driven to the sea by Australian wildfires, the public’s attention is galvanized. Companies that show how they are making real, accountable efforts to eliminate waste and negative environmental impacts can activate an audience to take sustainability actions – and partner with those consumers to extend those changes to other industries.
Doing nothing is no longer an option. The actions your brand takes at every step in the product/service lifecycle are the tangible evidence of progress.
Metaforce’s sustainability efforts
With the advances of digital technology and 21st century talent economies, distributed workforces are changing the future of work, and nimble service providers like Metaforce emerge to compete with global agencies groaning under their own weight. Our digitally connected “special forces” teams of partner-level specialists come together quickly and lightly around client challenges because we are not loaded down with all the FTEs, support staff and office overhead of traditional firms. Our sustainability starts with lower overhead and less waste.
Our teams assemble virtually, collaborate digitally and travel only when necessary. For example, the impact of four people flying cross-country for a single meeting is equal to about 18.8 percent of the average American’s annual carbon footprint. By eliminating 10 such trips a year in favor of video-conferencing, we can reduce the firm’s carbon emissions by as much as 35.6 tons.
The University of California Berkeley’s Cool Climate Network estimates that simply staffing an office, having people commute to a heated or cooled office, and other daily operational activities for a company with $2.3 million in revenue is equal to one-and-a-half of an average American’s carbon footprint. Across the U.S. economy, which produced $21.4 trillion in GDP in 2019, these small changes could yield dramatic reductions in climate-changing CO2 emissions.
We are not perfect – far from it – but we seek to recognize and consider the environmental impact of our decisions.
Likewise, your brand is probably still making tentative steps toward sustainability, which can be pivotal to a consumer’s trust for and engagement with your product or service. We can help you explain, amplify, and gather feedback from every sustainability decision. It may earn you a call from Blackstone.