Conscious brands: Becoming responsive and responsible

As part of our ongoing conversation around Conscious Brands, we’ve compiled six key takeaways from our recent roundtables. 

Becoming both responsive and more responsible

The idea of conscious brands isn’t purely about being a more ethical, moral and sustainable brand. It is also about being a more responsive brand that is more dynamic, more exciting and more relevant by being more technologically savvy and also more emotionally connected, empathetic and aware of people's feelings, identities and backgrounds. This is not about doing better and being seen to be more ethical, it's about completing the equation by being a much more exciting, dynamic and multi-sensory kind of brand.

Responsible to whom and for what? Commitments for consumers, versus targets such as UN Sustainable Development Goals and other measurements pose an interesting conundrum for marketers and businesses as to where they prioritise their actions. Do you prioritise making a change in response to consumer demands and reacting to issues that are top of mind for them, which may have a lower overall impact on footprint? Or do you opt for a business priority that they may not have awareness of, but ultimately might be the thing that could have a greater impact. Then do you try to have an open dialogue with your consumers on your sustainability agenda, explaining that you’ve done the analysis to back up your actions?  

Accept your starting point

To be a conscious brand, you need to design it into your business model, your sustainability agenda and your consciousness. Of course, for some industries, this will prove more of a challenge than for others. There is a much greater perception and interest around sustainability but how many businesses have created a framework to show the actual value behind it? How do you monetise on saving the planet, when there were no costs attached to the damage done?  Imagine the cost for every single piece of plastic in the ocean.

Create positive impact

Over the last decade, there's been a shift from companies driven by regulation, investors or other forces, to put out sustainability reports that show how they're doing. While this may have demonstrated incremental changes, such as modest emissions reductions, in the last few years, there has been a massive shift towards positive impact. It is no longer enough to just reduce negative impact, companies are under pressure to actively demonstrate how they are changing the world by driving positive impact. There is a longer-term shift that companies are not just there to make profit, but to drive change globally, creating long-term value for much broader stakeholders, including employees, consumers and wider society.

The privacy debate

When it comes to handling customer information in the digital space, the privacy debate is both responsive and responsible. Customers will increasingly become concerned about what their data is being used for and how it is being paid back to them. This challenge isn’t merely limited to tech companies, and both regulators and consumers are set to drive the change as the privacy debate escalates. 

Inter-related societal issues

The same big questions that we grapple with as individuals, will be the ones that businesses will also need to address. Consumers will increasingly expect to understand what values are key to businesses and none of the issues around gender, racial justice, climate, inequality and justice can be separated. They are all inter-related.