Environmental sustainability increasingly plays a role in everything from local laws and regulations to global policy. Think Tanks regularly lead generative discussions on how to create a world not reliant on fossil fuels, and efforts to raise awareness around the benefits of reuse and recycling are only growing. Both at the micro and macro level, sustainability affects everything about how we live our everyday lives. These efforts have seeped into our everyday products, and by association, into the very DNA of creative brands. This means that branding efforts oriented toward sustainability have influenced everything from the type of paper used in marketing efforts (if any!) to logo generation and corporate responsibility efforts by major corporations. Creative agencies advising brands on sustainability, in particular, have the challenge of authentically integrating environmental conservation into products at every level, from packaging to internal communications.
With these challenges in mind, we reached out to President & CEO at one of the best agencies in the business: Laurent Hainaut at forceMAJEURE, the award-winning creative agency specializing in effective brand creation, re-branding, product design & innovation. Over the course of our conversation, key points arose that serve as guidelines for anyone in the creative field who aligns themselves and their “brand” with environmental sustainability. Take a look at the below key points we pulled from our conversation on environmental sustainability and authenticity in branding.
Approach Environmental Sustainability with Authenticity in Mind
Hainaut notes of his work directing forceMAJEURE that branding efforts require experience rooted in years of strategy. “We are not just a design agency; we have done some intense positioning work for our clients, and strategy is a big part of our approach. We collaborate very closely with C-level and VP or brand to craft a brand’s DNA.” Referring to the award-winning re-design project for Diageo’s Buchanan’s scotch whiskey (Gold, DBA’s Design Effectiveness Awards), Hainaut notes the importance of keeping key elements of the brand’s spirit alive when approaching re-design. “This unique Scotch is a common celebratory gift for weddings and other community milestones in Latin America and beyond. Our goal centers around shifting the public perception of the brand so that everyone loves it, including millennials, and part of that was understanding the culture of this particular demographic while preserving the code and symbols making this brand popular. This required getting to the roots of the brand.”
When it comes to brand re-design, issues such as sustainability require special attention – particularly for a brand that has been left untouched over long periods of time. Environmental conservation efforts have improved significantly year after year, so for a brand that hasn’t seen products re-designed for even ten to fifteen years, significant changes may be required. As an example, product packaging standards are very different for newly created brands with brand new product design versus older products when it comes to sustainability. While new brands may have eco-friendly packaging in mind from the beginning, this may not have been a factor in creating packaging for an older, existing brand. Hainaut explains the difference between guiding small companies versus multi-national companies when it comes to packaging design updates. “With large big brands, it is so difficult to change the packaging for millions of products worldwide. However, to work with their brand you impact the world – this is why it is key to renew their sustainability efforts and packaging approach.” Small steps can be taken quickly, but larger shifts take years. Still, that shouldn’t deter companies working across a larger scale from making concerted efforts toward environmental sustainability.
In more than one way, understanding the roots of a brand are crucial to understanding how sustainability efforts can positively impact a brand’s perception. By articulating a brand’s authentic perspective, both the longevity and innovation can co-exist for a brand simultaneously. This results in a win-win: for the brand, and for the environment. Whether a small, hand-crafted product created by a collective of artists or a consumer product produced by major conglomerates that feature in millions of homes worldwide, sustainability efforts can be scaled accordingly to make sure environmental impact is kept to a minimum and eco-friendly initiatives guide the company forward.
Set Yourself Up for Sustainability Success
What work is needed to implement sustainability as a key tenet when building a brand from the ground up? Hainaut points out that, again, authenticity plays a formative role in approaching brand strategy. “Brands can’t just ‘greenwash’ their image: they must be firmly committed to the environment and not just pay lip service to ideas around sustainability.” He remarks on how changes at the grassroots level have impacted larger industries as a whole, making eco-friendly initiatives easier for creative agencies to propose to their clients across different product categories. “For example,” notes Hainaut, “in terms of the clean beauty movement, sustainability efforts originated with smaller brands.” Due to efforts to build clean, sustainable brands from the ground up, more and more visibility is awarded to brands making ongoing commitments to eco-friendly choices. “We at creative agencies are trying to encourage brands to embrace environmental sustainability. We are finally starting now to achieve things, and are more optimistic that many brands are serious about environmental conservation. From dedicated clients, the commitment is real.”
No matter the size of your organization, take a moment to see how sustainability can be integrated into daily operations from the ground up. Individuals contractors and consultants can draw from these lessons as well, by ensuring that they recycle, composts, and relies on other sustainable companies to only use eco-friendly products. By integrating a sustainability mindset into every step of business operations, larger efforts will ring as authentic to the wider public. Consumers align their values with that of the brands that they use, and by speaking to environmentally sustainable audiences, your work will cultivate a fiercely devoted brand of passionate advocates for years to come.
Have any sustainability-focused brands you’d like to give a shout-out to? Have you been part of a branding campaign focused around eco-friendly initiatives? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!