Last week at the Sustainable Brands conference in San Diego, gDiapers CEO, Jason Graham-Nye said: “I think sustainability is like fight club. The first rule of fight club is don’t talk about fight club. The first rule of sustainability is the word is so dead.”
And he’s not alone. In one of the conference events, Raphael Bemporad – co-founder and chief strategy officer at BBMG and Tensie Whelan, president of Rainforest Alliance – presented a new report entitled The New Sustainably Narrative, which tries to address the following problem:
“Sustainability doesn’t mean anything real to consumers. Too often, it brings to mind technical issues or seemingly insurmountable environmental challenges.”
I guess this problem statement shouldn’t be surprising news to anyone involved in or following the many efforts to engage consumers in sustainability. The issue it raises has long become the Achilles’ heel of the sustainability movement, making companies wonder what on earth can be done to get consumers on board.
So, what can be done to change the status quo when it comes to consumers with or without using the ‘S’ word?
Well, to answer this exact question a group of industry experts in consumer behavior met in a workshop hosted by the Rainforest Alliance. The group brainstormed “a new global narrative that taps into the consumer shift towards a broader and more meaningful set of values around mindful living and sustainability.” And the results of this effort can be found in The New Sustainably Narrative report, which was sponsored by Domtar and authored by BBMG.
The first part of the report includes some compelling information about consumer trends that was introduced by industry experts, including:
- Consumers don’t connect sustainability to their own wellbeing or success (BuzzBack Market Research)
- Consumers want brands to empower a meaningful life, and yet … Most people would not care if 73 percent of brands disappeared (Havas)
- Brands must evolve to deliver on social and cultural benefits – caring for my wellbeing and the wellbeing of my family, for the wellbeing of my community and for the wellbeing of the planet (Coca-Cola).
When you look at these findings in the context of narrative then it becomes quite clear that the challenge is to translate sustainability into concepts people understand and find compelling — wellbeing, betterment, purpose and so on.