WFA President and CMCO at Mastercard, Raja Rajamannar and Ana Maria Henao, Global Vice President of Marketing at PepsiCo, discuss the ways in which marketing can be a force of positive change in the race to net zero emissions.
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In April 2021, WFA launched Planet Pledge, a CMO-led framework designed to galvanise positive action from brands in support for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through its four commitments, Planet Pledge aims to turn CMOs into champions for the climate agenda within their companies.
This November, WFA CEO Stephan Loerke moderated a conversation between Raja Rajamannar and Ana Maria Henao as part of the Ad Net Zero Global Summit, held during the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow. The discussion gravitated around the importance of sustainability initiatives such as Planet Pledge, and how these commitments should look in practice. Some take outs from the panel include:
Marketing can plan a leading role in driving sustainability
As Sir David Attenborough put it, saving our planet is now a communications challenge. If we are to solve the world’s to-do list outlined by the UN SDGs, we will need the creativity and innovation inherent to the marketing industry.
What does that mean more concretely? Internally, marketers can use their voice to help make sustainability central to the business model, externally they can harness creativity to raise awareness of the challenges, such as the climate crisis.
"When you are committing as a company to the sustainability cause, it is the CEO who is in the driver's seat, he owns it and drives it. But it's marketing that brings it to life." – Raja Rajamannar
"For consumers, sustainability is a key topic, and one very close to their hearts. But what we have found is that they sometimes find it difficult to know where to start. It's not lack of awareness or willingness, it's knowing how they can contribute to this agenda. And I think this is where brands can use their platforms to amplify the message." – Ana Maria Henao
Collaboration between stakeholders is key
Brands and marketers play an important role in the fight against climate change. However, to ensure a green and sustainable future, every actor – from the first raw material producer to the last customer – needs to be invested in these sustainability efforts.
There are many comparisons here with the digital transformations that many organisations are still going through. Just as we need digital champions to ensure organisations think ‘digital first’, so we now need to help all stakeholders – both internal and external – see everything through a sustainability filter.
"When you think about the business that PepsiCo is in, the food chain is a complex system with multiple stakeholders. We, as a company, cannot generate the change alone –we are one actor of many that need to work together. If you take packaging for example, our ultimate aim is to create a circular economy where plastic waste is a thing of the past. But we cannot do that alone. We have to engage with our suppliers, internally and with cosumers to ensure that we can bring this to life." – Ana Maria Henao
Commitments need to be long term
The sustainability challenge requires long-term commitments embedded in the business strategy of every company, ones that will be maintained even in times of economic distress. Moreover, the road towards a net zero future cannot rely on good intentions alone, and these commitments need to be paired with reliable measurement mechanisms, that ensure that the efforts companies are making generate the expected results.
"You need to have a lot of realistic considerations, for example how are the economics going to look like? If they're not blended into your code business model, this becomes like a one-off ad-hoc activity. So having a sustained, continuous committment is the biggest challenge." – Raja Rajamannar
Watch the full recording here: