WFA launches framework to help marketers lead on climate change challenge
New research suggests marketers lag corporate progress on the sustainability journey
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WFA is urging global marketers to sign up to its new Planet Pledge. The initiative is designed to put marketers in a position where they can help lead brands’ responses to climate change, encourage efforts across the wider marketing industry and help consumers act more sustainably when using their products and services.
The pledge is being launched at WFA’s Global Marketer Week to coincide with new WFA research– Marketing and Sustainability: Closing the Gaps – which identifies that while marketers believe that they can be a force for change, marketing, as a function, often lags other functions within the business: Just 10% of marketers claim to be well advanced in this area compared to 29% who said that their company as a whole was at this stage.
The Planet Pledge aims to bridge this gap by encouraging CMOs to take action in four key areas:
- Commit to being a champion for the global Race to Zero campaign both internally within their organisations and to encouraging their marketing supply chain to do the same;
- Scale the capability of marketing organisations to lead for climate action by providing tools and guidance for their marketers and agencies;
- Harness the power of their marketing communications to drive more sustainable consumer behaviours;
- Reinforce a trustworthy marketing environment, where sustainability claims can be easily substantiated so that consumers can trust the marketing messages they are presented with as they seek to align their own consumption with their values.
Progress on all these goals will be reported annually by the WFA. The WFA will also work with advertising standards bodies worldwide and other relevant stakeholders in order to deliver industry guidance that will preserve trust in the evolving language of environmental claims in a way that enables consumers to make sustainable choices with confidence.
The Pledge is designed to amplify existing efforts and direct WFA members and their value chain partners towards them. In addition, it introduces new actions that marketing leaders can initiate and champion, thereby playing a distinct role in support of the transition to net zero.
It may take time for WFA members to sign up, as signing up to Race to Zero is a corporate commitment that extends well beyond marketing. Nevertheless, there is strong support among WFA members for the Pledge, which has been developed alongside CMOs from companies such as Bayer, Danone, Diageo, Dole Packaged Foods, Mastercard, Ørsted, Reckitt, Telefónica, Tesco and Unilever.
The four commitments they need to sign up to reflect the challenges identified in the WFA’s new research, which found that 95% of marketers believe that the marketing function can make a difference in the sustainability journey.
It will not be easy, however, and Marketing and Sustainability: Closing the Gaps identifies three areas of significant challenges in delivering on these goals:
- The gap between consumers’ expectations of brands – and what they perceive brands are doing with respect to the environment and sustainability. This is despite the fact that 79% claim their companies are already taking action to meet the UN’s sustainable development goals. Among the 17 SDGs, four were cited most frequently as relevant were: Good Health & Well-Being (SDG 3), Gender Equality (SDG 5), Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG 12) and Production and Climate Action (SDG 13).
- The gap between organizations’ efforts on sustainability – and what their marketing departments are communicating; Marketing appears to significantly lag on the sustainability journey, and more than 50% describe their marketing organization as “about to start” or still taking “first steps.”
- The gap between the acknowledged power of brands to make a difference – and what they are doing, particularly to help consumers make better choices and live more sustainable lifestyles. Research by Futerra has found that 40% of consumers feel that brands are actually making it harder for them to act sustainably.
Marketing and Sustainability: Closing the Gaps was run in partnership with Project 17, the communications unit centered on the United Nations' Global Goals and behavioural change experts, BVA Nudge Unit. The findings are based on in-depth qualitative Interviews with 13 global Chief Marketing Officers as well as a quantitative survey run in conjunction with National Advertiser Associations with responses from more than 650 marketers in 34 markets around the world, including a wide mix of geographies, company sizes and categories.
Sustainability has certainly rapidly risen up marketers’ agendas. In WFA’s 2020 ‘Marketer of the Future’ study sustainability lagged at the bottom of the ‘current role’ options provided but it was also No. 1 when asked which areas would become more important over the next five years.
Part of the challenge for marketers is the organizational structure for many corporates, as sustainability does not sit neatly into an existing function. Marketers cite challenges such as conflicting business priorities (39%), lack of dedicated internal resources (27%) and pressure from shareholders (26%).
Marketing and Sustainability: Closing the Gaps argues that true progress will necessitate the same transformative mindset that organisations had to adopt during the ‘digital revolution’. Marketers need to see the opportunities inherent to the sustainability agenda as a new filter through which to see the entire ecosystem versus simply a new chapter to the marketing playbook. Right now, just one third of organisations have sustainability as a KPI on their marketing dashboard and approximately 20% of marketing organisations are not measuring sustainability efforts at all.
Above all, however, it will take courage for marketers to more boldly communicate corporate efforts, once they have something positive to say. Eighty-nine percent say companies need to be braver in communicating their efforts but only a quarter do, in many cases due to the fear of consumer backlash. Sixteen percent of those questioned said they had a good story to tell but were not yet ready to do so, while 47% said they need to improve their narrative.
Although the marketers who responded to the report cited a wide range of solutions for driving a step change in action, there were three areas of common focus: Upskilling the marketing team; committing to efforts to help consumers make sustainable choices; and providing inspiration, via sustainability and marketing case studies.
Stephan Loerke, WFA CEO: “Marketers have been behind the curve in driving sustainability but now is the time for change. Marketing should be leading the charge in communicating consumer demands for action internally, while also demonstrating to their customers how their company can help them make more sustainable choices. The Planet Pledge aims to embolden senior marketers to become climate champions both within their companies and with consumers at large and become catalysts for positive change.”
Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Mastercard and WFA President: “Marketers have not until now been at the forefront of the sustainability journey within their organisations. But as the ultimate voice of consumers and consumers demanding companies help address the climate emergency, it’s time for marketers to step up and lead. The WFA Planet Pledge is a fantastic framework for empowering senior marketers to help address an issue which is of paramount importance to consumers and society. It makes good business sense while making sure we as an organisation do the right thing. Mastercard for one will be signing up.”
Conny Braams, Chief Digital and Marketing Officer, Unilever: “Just as marketing is at the heart of our business, so it must be at the heart of our response to the climate crisis. Our brands have the power to connect emotionally with people all over the world, to help them make sense of that world and provide solutions to the issues they face. With concerns around climate change at an all-time high, marketers have a unique role to play in communicating the benefits of making sustainable choices and adopting sustainable behaviours, truly becoming a force for good in the world as we collectively embark on the Race to Zero.”
Rupen Desai, Global CMO, Dole Packaged Foods: “I am a strong believer that, whether it is purpose, or a more positive view of how business is done in context to people, communities and planet, it has to start and end with building this into the business model. As an organization, if ‘how you make money’ is not aligned with prosperity for people and the planet, it is very difficult to have any significant or sustainable impact.”
Valérie Hernando-Presse, Chief Marketing Officer, Danone Group: “We are in an era of "show me, don't tell me". The more you act, even in a small way, the better. People want to know what you are doing now, not in five years. What matters is not the purpose, but which impact our brands will make on planet, people and health driven by their purpose - It starts with purpose-driven and sustainability savvy brand people.”
Filip Engel, Vice President, Sustainability, Public Affairs, Branding and Marketing, Ørsted: “When we accelerated communication about our sustainability goals to transform from fossil fuels to clean energy, it fuelled and inspired business transformation. By communicating this attractive destination, the future for the company, it inspired the business to accelerate change and helped grow the brand. Communication was one of the key drivers in making the change happen.”
Alessandra Bellini, Chief Customer Officer, Tesco: “We’ve shown throughout the pandemic what a critical role businesses like Tesco can play in helping our customers through challenging times. As the issue of climate change becomes increasingly important, we have another vital role to play, ensuring Tesco reduces its impact on the environment, while also inspiring our customers and colleagues to take action themselves. The WFA Planet Pledge provides us with the framework to do this, helping marketers champion the Race to Zero both internally and with consumers.”
Patricia Corsi, Chief Marketing and Digital Officer, Bayer Consumer Health: "I am pleased to see Bayer within the first group of signatories of the WFA Planet Pledge - in line with Bayer's vision of ‘Health for all, Hunger for none’. The Marketers are an important part of the solution and can play a role in educating and encouraging Consumer and Customer behavioral change that will support progress. I am convinced that by teaming up with other functions and companies, with the leadership from the WFA, we can make the impact we all want to see and live by."
Nigel Topping, UK High Level Climate Champion for COP26: "Marketing has incredible power in creating tangible and exciting visions of ourselves and our future, and in explaining the benefits of this critical transition to a zero carbon world. Given how important climate change is to their business and to our planet, Chief Marketing Officers should quickly become the new climate activists and lead the way in the Race to Zero."
Gail Gallie, Founder of Project 17: "Marketers hold the super power we need to accelerate the actions we need taken at every level- the ability to make the world think and behave differently. This pledge facilitates collective and bold action and I am delighted to be a part of it."
More about the Planet Pledge at wfaplanetpledge.org.
Notes for editors
The World Federation of Advertisers makes marketing better by championing more effective and sustainable marketing communications. It is the voice of marketers worldwide, representing 90% of global marketing communications spend – roughly US$900 billion per annum. WFA connects the world’s biggest brand owners and national advertiser associations in more than 60 markets, bringing together tens of thousands of brands at local level. Together, they create a global network which offers a unique source of leadership, expertise and inspiration. For more information: www.wfanet.org
About Project 17
Gail Gallie is co Founder of Project Everyone, the campaign unit that launched the Global Goals on behalf of the United Nations. In Summer 2019, Gail founded sister organisation Project 17, a goals informed consultancy that works with partners and clients to create better alignment between the work that they do and the issues they care about – using the UN Global Goals as a universal frame of reference. Project 17 believe that the future is bright, if our businesses and systems are based on choices that are good for both people AND planet. More at www.project17.com.
About BVA Nudge Unit
BVA Nudge Unit (www.bvanudgeunit.com) is a global consultancy specialised in behavior change. Our mission is to apply behavioral science for good, by finding “win-win-win” opportunities that benefit organizations, consumers and society. To this end, areas of specialized expertise include Diversity & Inclusion, Health & Safety, Sustainability and Digital Adoption.
BVA Nudge Unit has now completed over 250 successful behavioral science initiatives across 30 countries, on behalf of governments, public sector organizations (including the United Nations, Greenpeace and WWF) and leading private sector companies (such as Procter & Gamble, Bristol Myers Squibb and HSBC, among many others). We have also been pioneers in applying cutting-edge academic research to real world challenges and in introducing award-winning new methodologies and frameworks (such as The Drivers of Influence and NudgeLabs) for Behavioural Science application.
BVA Nudge Unit is a division of the BVA Group, a leading global insights agency with over 1,000 employees across 12 global offices.