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In 2021, we shouldn’t need to debate whether brands should or not stand for something good. The real question lies in what should brands stand for? How does a brand decide its stance and what issues should it should get involved in? 

First, let’s tackle why should brands stand for anything. Why should a brand contribute to society; why should a brand care about corporate social responsibility (CSR)? The answer to this is simple... because the consumer cares about it. 

Consumers care about what brands do besides selling products. Consumers want to use the products of brands that stand for something good because it provides them with a feeling that they're contributing to a positive purpose too – by buying from the brand.

So, if the consumer cares about CSR, the brand better care about it too, otherwise consumers will choose differently. Brands need to make a real and positive contribution in order to satisfy customers and, importantly, remain competitive.

As the world pays more and more attention to sustainability, Swedish-Swiss multinational food packaging company Tetra Pak decided to openly commit to sustainable practices and inform others – key partners, customers and stakeholders – of its choices.

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Tetra Pak partnered with  Appetite Creative to create an eco-themed mobile quiz, which would test the user’s knowledge about recycling and Tetra Pak’s environmental commitments.

The fun interactive quiz had two levels – an easier one for younger players and a trickier one for adults. Each round consisted of five questions, with players ‘growing’ more trees in a forest, for each question answered correctly. 

By reinforcing its commitment to sustainability and educating users about relevant environmental issues, Tetra Pak received a highly positive customer response, with the average length of the quiz session resulting in two minutes and 49 seconds and players answering more than 19,000 questions.

Besides this engagement, the quiz also had a positive environmental impact with 750 real trees actually planted in a forest.

However, brands can’t rely on just simply communicating their commitment; they need to ensure that their philosophy is consistent across their company’s culture, leadership behaviours and every position across the business for ensuring authentic and positive outcomes. 

Filip Lundberg, head of sustainability of the Swedish football and ice-hockey club Djurgårdens IF, emphasised during Appetite’s November webinar on this subject that it is absolutely crucial for the delivery of a message to match the message itself. In his opinion, congruence across all aspects of CSR is a matter of credibility, which is key for an authentic and positive brand reputation. 

Maria Garcia-Moreno, senior consultant environmental social and governance, sustainability and climate change at PwC, agreed with Lundberg. A good brand needs to represent its identity and core values in its CSR message. Therefore, to have a sustainable and long-term CSR strategy, it is fundamental that consumers, investors and the stakeholders feel represented by a trustworthy brand with a sincere message.

So, what should brands do? Not every brand has the resources to get involved in social or environmental issues. Brands should address their own practices and make a positive change by supporting employees, communities, and consumers. Do not just Tweet about a serious issue – address the inequality in your own workforce or environment and act on it.

Jenny Stanley, managing director at Appetite Creative