How these 4 CMOs are helping drive the sustainability agenda

Marketing chiefs from L'Occitane, Heritage Bank, Mastercard and Bickford's Group share how they're working to propel their companies' sustainability and social conscience efforts

Sustainability isn’t a new phenomenon, but the acceleration of social and cultural conscience over the past year has seen it increasingly become an actionable goal for organisations.  

Consumers are demanding businesses take action and embed corporate social responsibility within their operations, and companies must respond or face backlash. What’s more, the SustainAbility Institute’s 2020 annual trends report shows we’re entering a decade of action as United Nation member states strive to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals they adopted back in 2015.  

So it’s not surprising to see sustainability objectives firmly in the spotlight for a number of companies operating in Australia. Within them, marketing chiefs are directly helping champion sustainability action. We’ve seen across Australia that businesses are taking it upon themselves to set sustainability objectives.  

In this latest food for thought, we ask four leading Australian marketers to share key initiatives they’re orchestrating as CMOs that are improving their organisations’ sustainability and social/cultural conscience credentials in 2021.  

Developing the framework for socially responsible business  

Heritage Bank general manager of marketing, Amanda Temperly  

The marketing department is leading the development and implementation of a new Environmental, Social and Governance Policy (ESG) at Heritage Bank. As a mutual financial institution, acting responsibly and ethically has always been inherent in our operations. We exist to serve the interests of our members, and their communities, not to maximise profit for shareholders. We have always acted with the greater good of our community in mind.  

However, until now we have never explicitly documented our approach to ESG. That’s changing because of the growing expectations among all our stakeholders that we will not only do more in this area, but also be more transparent about our ESG commitments.   

Within Heritage, staff and senior leaders alike want us to place a higher focus on sustainability in all our activities. Our members, business partners, clients, suppliers, investors and even our regulators are asking for more information about our position on ESG issues. We need to adapt our operations to reflect the need for greater sustainability across the range of activities covered under the ESG umbrella, and also better document what we are doing. That’s what our ESG Policy work is all about.  

The marketing department is leading a cross-functional working group identifying what we are already doing in the area of ESG, as well as what else we should be doing, and then setting KPIs and metrics for those activities. Our goal is to embed ESG considerations into our day-to-day decision-making processes and operations, to ensure Heritage is fulfilling its responsibility to create a sustainable future for our planet.  

Documenting our ESG activities better will also reassure all our stakeholders we are pursuing a socially responsible path.  

Doing well by doing good

Mastercard VP head of integrated marketing and communications Australasia, Kirsty Redfearn  

The reality of climate change and its effects on our planet are no longer debatable. The momentum to address this challenge is growing – with global businesses, consumers and governments all playing a role. And we’re seeing organisations’ approach to sustainability increasingly becoming aligned with how they do business.  

Mastercard has long embedded decency at its core, with our ‘Doing Well by Doing Good’ mantra propelling the overarching business purpose, of conducting business openly and transparently. This allows Mastercard to be good stewards of the environment, creating a sustainable future.  

Our latest research shows three in five Australians believe it’s more important than ever that businesses and brands do their part to help the environment, with 26 per cent of Generation Z already planning to stop buying from companies that are without an environmental plan in place. Should businesses wish to continue interacting with these customers, they need to show leadership on matters of sustainability or risk becoming irrelevant.  

When consumers understand the impact they can have on a business, they can become an instrumental element to take positive action. It’s about striking a balance between the work we’re doing as a business and highlighting the important role of the consumer in that process.  

For example, the Mastercard Priceless Planet Coalition, which Mastercard launched in Australia in late 2020, unites the efforts of merchants, banks, cities and consumers to fight climate change with the restoration of 100 million trees by 2025.  

Together with forestry experts, Conservation International (CI) and World Resources Institute (WRI), we’ve developed a global portfolio of high-quality restoration projects. Trees were chosen for the first remediation effort because it is well-documented that tree-planting programs are an effective mechanism to combat climate change.        

The Coalition’s long-term goals are to make an impact critical to enabling positive climate change in line with Mastercard’s vision. We’re also creating programs to help consumers make more informed, sustainable lifestyle choices. For example, in partnership with Doconomy, Mastercard created the Carbon Calculator to help consumers better understand their carbon footprint.  

It’s more important than ever as a brand to listen to customers, who increasingly want to turn their purchases into meaningful action for the planet. If businesses put sustainability and decency at the heart of their purpose, it can unlock new product solutions and new ways to engage with consumers, while creating positive change for the environment.  

Related: Why sustainability and marketing are a match made in heaven

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Coles launches new sustainability initiative

Speaking boldly, acting locally

LÓccitane Australia marketing manager, Pam Wilson  

Sustainability certainly isn’t a new concept for L’Occitane. Since the brand’s inception in 1976, our founder and visionary, Olivier Baussan, always understood the need to respect the natural environment our ingredients are sourced from. Sustainability in this sense has always been at the heart of the brand.  

In terms of what we are doing in 2021, there are three key areas we are focusing on to make sure we are proudly singing our sustainability commitment to our customers, partners and employees.  

1.Speaking Boldly

We have always been very humble about our continuing commitment to sustainability and have never boldly spoken to our customers about this. We know sustainability is ever increasing as a vital part of brands’ marketing strategy and an important means in building loyalty from our customers.  

We are now celebrating our sustainability wins and successes through all our campaigns at a store level (our visual merchandising will always have a commitment focus); and our communications on social and emails to our customers will have an ‘always on’ approach.

More widely, our team training will always have a central element to continue our beauty advisors’ knowledge of how the company is forever working towards improved sustainability, both globally and locally. It is the heart of all our communication touchpoints.  

2.Acting Locally

There is (rightly so) an expectation for brands to build improved sustainability efforts into their products and services. While our efforts at a global level are vital, it is equally as important to ensure local customers feel connected too. Nothing can reinforce this further by acting locally.  

In 2020, following the devastating bushfires, the L’Occitane Foundation formed a partnership with the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife and committed $228,000 to help plant 1 million seedlings in Australian recovery nurseries over the next five years, to help regenerate natural habitats and vegetation that was destroyed. In 2021, we will see the start of the seedling planting – something we are having our teams from head office to boutiques involved in. We will also hopefully have customers involved so they too can feel more connected to this important sustainability project at a local level.  

We were also the first beauty brand to partner with TerraCycle back in 2016, and now in 2021, we have a dedicated campaign to push and promote our message regarding recycling. This isn’t just a marketing moment for us, it is an ongoing commitment to customers and all beauty users to bring any beauty brand like product into the store all year round, to recycle with us to receive 10 per cent off. To date we have locally collected and saved 15 tonnes of beauty waste from entering Australian landfill.  

3.Sustainability Squad

We have implemented a Sustainability Squad, bringing together an agile team from multiple departments who meet monthly to monitor our local and global commitment progress, discuss means and ways to involve and educate all our teams (Head Office, Boutiques, Warehouse) in our efforts, and discuss what we can all individually do to help make a difference. By engaging our teams at every level, we all have a much more purposeful determination to truly ‘walk the talk’. These are our cross-functional allies, with members from HR, learning and development, project team, brand and of course our general managers.  

While our commitment to sustainability is very much lead from the top, it is fair to say marketing is typically the heartbeat of a company and thus our local partnerships and activations are all delivered from a local marketing team level. It is empowering to engage our teams at every level in the implementation – feeling a part of a bigger picture, and making a difference, it is rewarding for everyone that is connected to the brand.  

We are hoping to continue to engage all stakeholders into our sustainability commitments by educating customers on more sustainable product choices, and our ongoing commitment to improve on our sustainability solutions. How engaged our customers are (both our active customer base, and also how many new customers we can bring into the brand) is a measure of our success.  

Loyalty to our brand will be our longer-term measure. As a brand that will never cease trying to continually improve our sustainable measures, it is important we continue to communicate to our customers our continued and ever improving evolving commitment.  

Read more: The Lion's Share co-founder calls on marketers to get behind biodiversity

I feel very fortunate to work for a group who truly ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to sustainability. It is in the brand’s DNA – not just a marketing term or strategic opportunity – it is something that everyone connected to the brand is proud of and continually works toward improving.  

The end-to-end supply chain  

Bickford Group sales and marketing manager, Chris Illman  

The Bickford’s group of companies creates a range of premium beverages including award-winning cordials, premium juices, carbonates, waters, wines and spirits. The Australian-owned and managed private company, which was first founded in 1839, is based in South Australia and runs a $50 million purpose-built manufacturing facility.  

Bickfords Group is committed to key environmental sustainable practices and initiatives in manufacturing and regional sites management by reducing energy, water and waste. From a manufacturing perspective, these pillars include:  

  • Environmental management
  • Environmental requirements strictly adhered too around noise, dust, gas or fume emissions, spillages and preservation of the local ecology
  • Signatory to the National Packaging Covenant
  • Recycling
  • All workers are required to participate in recycling programs.

We also maintain key sustainability pillars across our regional sites:

  • Water Conservation – such as recovery of condensate from distillation for garden maintenance
  • Waste Management/Recycling – such as reclaimed timber for hospitality sites furniture
  • Fuel and Energy Reduction – including 2017 Solar Panel installation at key sites
  • Sustainable Shopping – including introducing reusable calico bags for all purchases.

As our marketing and sales leader, I am particularly passionate about moving from PET to RPET for our ranges that use this type of material. As an example, our plant-based ranges of Nut Milks are moving to RPET later this year as a stage 1 evolution.  

For context, PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate, which is a form of polyester (just like the clothing fabric). It is extruded or molded into plastic bottles and containers for packaging foods and beverages, personal care products, and many other consumer products.  

RPET takes plastic that has already been created, usually plastic bottles, and chops the bottles into tiny flakes. These flakes are then melted to separate the core PET ingredient inside of the bottle. This PET can then be used to make another plastic bottle. Not only does it use up to 50 per cent less energy than making PET from scratch, but by using existing bottles already created, it ensures these bottles don’t end up in landfill. It also means we can leave the planet as it is: rather than obtaining the core ingredient via the highly damaging process of crude oil primary extraction, we instead make use of a product in abundance that may otherwise have directly contributed to landfill.  

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