2023 marks the halfway point to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). During COP28, the world will also learn the findings of the first Global Stocktake of the Paris agreement.
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Brand leaders around the world are now poised to see how decisions made in the UAE will impact their ability to lead on climate action and in turn how this will impact their sustainable transformation journey.
WFA CEO Stephan Loerke shares his perspectives and invites Planet Pledge Co-Chair Preeti Srivastav (Asahi) and Sustainable Marketing 2030 report co-author Jonathan Hall (Kantar's Sustainable Transformation Practice) to share their asks of those making decisions at COP28.
Stephan Loerke, CEO, WFA:
In Spring this year WFA, in partnership with Kantar, published Sustainable Marketing 20301, a meaningful body of work that paints a picture of what needs to change for the marketing industry to be compatible with a sustainable future. The research made clear that the scale of the transformation is vast and made more challenging by a fall in organisational confidence around sustainability: only 15% of respondents say they are well advanced versus 29% in 2021. Increasing regulation and the rise in accusations of greenwashing run the risk of making marketers adopt a more risk-averse attitude – even to the unfortunate extent of ‘greenhushing2’. As an industry, we risk of collectively holding back at a time when we are called to lean in. Now more than ever, we need to encourage bravery in our communications to help normalise more sustainable behaviour externally and drive new sustainable business models internally.
The task is clear. The marketing industry must act at a scale and pace commensurate with the challenges we face. We need to rethink who we collaborate with, how we work with partners and how, as an industry, we can come together collectively to solve the systemic challenges at hand.
Our invitation to those making decisions at COP28 is to partner with leading CMOs of organisations such as those committed to the WFA’s Planet Pledge. These organisations are driving meaningful change within and beyond their organisations. We ask that you welcome the role of marketers as part of the solution for a sustainable future and recognise the value creativity and innovation bring to driving this necessary transformation.
Planet Pledge Co-Chair Preeti Srivastav, Group Sustainability Director, Asahi Europe & International:
At COP28, we need everyone – nations, business, civil society - to come together on the climate change and sustainability agenda. At Asahi, we believe collaboration is key to raising ambition and staying innovative. By working together, we will go further, and we will go faster.
When COP28 concludes, it’s important that everyone has a clear signal that we are moving together in one direction towards a sustainable future. It’s when COP concludes that we turn ambition into action.
This year’s event will feature the first “global stocktake,” which will provide a comprehensive assessment of progress since the Paris Agreement. The objective is to align efforts on climate action, including measures to bridge the gaps in progress.
Marketing is fast emerging as an important catalyst to turn sustainable commitments into sustainable reality. By educating and engaging consumers about sustainability's impact and the significance of their choices, marketeers hold an important role in empowering us all to make a more positive impact. In doing so, brands themselves, can become vehicles for change, informing and inspiring consumers to adopt sustainable practices.
Looking ahead to 2024, it is important we continue to expand partnership and collaboration between marketing and sustainability teams to ensure consumers are informed and inspired to make more sustainable choices.
This is a defining time. The Global Stocktake at COP28 should serve as a reality check for us all. Now is the time for everyone to work together. With a clear purpose and direction, marketing can play a critical role to accelerate action towards a better future.
Jonathan Hall, Executive Managing Director, Kantar’s Sustainable Transformation Practice:
The latest research shows that people increasingly expect both government and business to take a leading role in addressing climate issues: they don’t think it’s fair for the responsibility to rest solely on their shoulders as consumers. So, business leaders know they have a central role to play in tackling the climate emergency AND they see enormous commercial opportunity in the economic transition.
But they need consistency and a level playing field to be able to plan their investments in the Net-Zero transition with confidence. The Global Stocktake has demonstrated how the pace of change needs to ramp up to meet the targets in the Paris Climate Accords, and businesses need to know that policy isn’t going to keep changing, so they can invest and plan with confidence. What businesses need is for governments across the world to keep the pace up and deliver on their commitments – not to roll back climate legislation in search of short-term political gain. Now is not the time to back down or soften commitments.
Greenwashing represents a widespread crisis across industries; 52% of global consumers say they have seen, or heard, false or misleading information about sustainable actions taken by brands. This is a major barrier to marketers in enabling change in sustainable lifestyles and behaviours. How can brands ask people to make better choices or take a leap of faith to try something new if they can’t trust the claims that brands are making? Marketers need governments to meaningfully work with businesses to help create the environment of trust and end consumer concerns about greenwashing once and for all.
There’s a huge opportunity for COP28 to show climate leadership. The world’s biggest brands are ready to play their part to deliver the climate transition. Businesses need governments to step up.