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Closing the Gap : Bringing Sustainable Solutions to Customers

Posted by: Interbrand on May 22, 2014

Closing the Gap: Bringing Sustainable Solutions to Customers

A great deal of innovative CSR work is happening in the business world every day, but there are still too many gaps and missed opportunities.   

When a recent survey by Walmart's Global Customer Insights and Analytics group revealed that 96 percent of Walmart shoppers indicated they had purchased sustainable products in the past year, the company realized that low prices are only one of numerous expectations. Further, with nine billion people projected to inhabit the planet by 2050, driving efficiency across the current food system is imperative. For Walmart, the key to bringing sustainable solutions to all of its customers is collaboration. Now, the retail giant is joining forces with CEOs from more than a dozen global companies to sign new commitments that accelerate innovation in sustainable agriculture and recycling.   

Collaboration and supply chain transparency are also core elements of Verizon's commitments to CSR and its mission to use its technology to solve some of the world's most pressing problems in education, healthcare, energy management and sustainability. Recognizing Ericsson with Verizon’s first Top Performance Award for Corporate Social Responsibility, the company acknowledges that working with responsible suppliers enhances competitiveness by improving the way it does business around the globe.   

IKEA is also doing its part to prove that doing good is good business. From meatless meatballs to wind turbines and solar energy investment, the Swedish retailer putting its money and corporate citizenship on the line. “I’m convinced we are in the middle of this clean revolution right now, but I’m also not convinced we are doing it fast enough,” said IKEA Chief Sustainability Officer Steve Howard. “All the challenges are solvable with the solutions we have today, but we don’t have the right leadership, policies and priorities in place. Most political and business leaders are in a state of denial. Sustainability will be a decisive factor in terms of which business will be here in 30 years time. It’s also the future of business.”   

In a similar vein, The Hershey Company, recently unveiled its evolved CSR framework—“Hershey Shared Goodness: Good Business, Better Life, Bright Future. Surpassing environmental targets and exceeding its year-one cocoa certification goal, Hershey is delivering on its belief that operating ethically and effectively is simply Good Business. “Our bold, aspirational goals have enabled our people and business to grow significantly,” asserted CEO John P. Bilbrey. “Hershey Shared Goodness directly reflects Milton Hershey’s founding principle of ‘doing well by doing good,’ and positions us for greater growth today and into the future.” 

Coca-Cola is also doing good—this time, in China. The company is launching a socially responsible bottled-water brand that will fund projects to bring clean drinking water to schoolchildren in rural China, where people have to walk long distances to reach a water supply.  Since socially conscious brands are not as present in China compared to some other markets, Coke saw an opening to do something innovative. While Coke has initiatives in many markets to make soda and water bottles more sustainable, the Chun Yue brand is the first created specifically with the goal of charitably helping communities.

With resource challenges ahead and many real world problems to be solved here and now, companies like Coca-Cola, Walmart, IKEA, and Hershey are proving that doing good improves both consumer perception and business practices—and that, in turn, boosts profitability. Today's commitments, according to Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon, “are about creating real systems change from one end of the supply chain to the other—meaning how products are grown and made, how they're transported and sold, and how we touch the lives of people along the way." Now that’s what we call shared value.   

To find out more about future-proofing, the positive link between sustainability and executive pay, how sustainability helps companies like HP through tough times, and how brands are actively engaging employees in sustainability efforts—or to get more details on the stories above—check out this month’s installment of Closing the Gap!




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