While sustainability and branding have entirely different meanings, these days these two concepts are becoming very much connected. As defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, “branding” is “the promoting of a product or service by identifying it with a particular brand,” and “sustainable” is “able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed.” (Why the word sustainability is not yet included in this dictionary is a whole other conversation!)
What’s happening now? Sustainability and branding are aligning. “Sustainability brands,” are “products and services that are branded to signify a special added value in terms of environmental and social benefits to the customer and thus enable the differentiation from competitors.” Companies are realizing that their images – and financial incomes – are directly correlated with how environmentally and socially sustainable they are. Some brands were founded on the notion of using fewer resources, creating less waste, and having a social mission; many others have only recently realized that their brand’s existence may depend on changing the way they do business.
Let’s take a look at household cleaning products.
Brands such as Mrs. Meyers, Method, and Seventh Generation (founded 27 years ago!), have been winning the hearts of those looking for sustainable soaps and cleansers for many years. But just in 2008, Clorox unveiled its Green Works brand – a 99% natural line coming from renewable resources, being biodegradable, and free of petrochemicals.
After the launch, Don Knauss, CEO of Clorox, stated the decision to create this line “was big, but it was easy. It was easy because we thought it was right on trend.” As consumers increasingly desire brands that use fewer harsh chemicals and leave less of an impact on our environment, this trend will continue to shake up mainstream businesses. A report from UL Environment proves this: In the U.S. alone, sales of greener cleaning products more than doubled between 2007 and 2011, from $303 million to $640 million, suggesting that future growth of such products will outpace that of non-green cleaning products.
How about the food industry?
This year, Target announced it will double the number of sustainable products on its shelves. It has already begun to reduce stock of brands that don’t align. Healthier foods and organic brands now occupy much of that coveted eye-level space.
Did you know that organic food sales in the U.S. have risen 72% since 2008? Target CEO Brian Cornell said the change “is being shaped around what consumers are looking for." Organic foods are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms, and are therefore better for the soil, water, and our planet’s ecosystems. To be clear, Target isn’t evicting Lucky Charms, but such long-thought traditional items might become more difficult to find.
It’s just the beginning.
This movement for brands to embed sustainability at their core, or to create new sustainable business models, is just getting going. We continue to see more brands touting their sustainable attributes, and more organizations and news outlets dedicated to corporate responsibility and sustainability. As a true testament to this, Sustainable Brands, a leader in providing support to companies looking to accelerate sustainability-led brand innovation since 2006, now hosts thousands of attendees at face-to-face meetings in 11 cities across 6 continents each year!
If you’re just getting started, Sustrana has plenty of resources to help. Or, check out our online sustainability management system to quickly and affordably put sustainability best practices into action.