Lightblue Creative Experience Agency
A broad swathe of consumers, especially among the young, are willing to pay a mark up for products and services backed by sustainability. Brands must recognise that. Image Credit: Supplied

As we look towards COP28 in Dubai, a question arises – how can brands in a market still catching up with sustainability efforts authentically commit to becoming greener?

The call from Majid Al Suwaidi, Director-General of COP28, is clear: “Come with solutions and real actions”.

In a world where climate change is a looming threat to existence, this challenge extends to brands and agencies as well. Here’s how they can rise to this occasion.

Brands need to understand that sustainable practices are now an expectation, not an exception, especially among younger generations. As the market focuses on Gen Z, a consumer group with high awareness of sustainability, showcasing values related to the environment becomes essential.

Interestingly, a significant portion of Gen Z is willing to pay more for eco-friendly products, debunking the myth that sustainable branding is prohibitively expensive. Brands need to reflect on their purpose and the circularity of their products, making strides to eliminate waste.

Full disclosure

Transparency is a fundamental step in proving a brand’s dedication to the environment. Brands that have successfully integrated environmental consciousness into their foundation, like Siemens, not only achieve their climate targets but often exceed them.

Showcasing an understanding of one’s supply chain, similar to Adidas, which openly shares its supplier list, signifies genuine commitment. Communicating these efforts in the form of powerful storytelling is key to resonating with all stakeholder levels.

One brand that stands out in its sustainability efforts is Reflo, a sports brand, which goes beyond minimizing environmental impact to actively contributing to environmental regeneration. Reflo uses 50 per cent less energy, 70 per cent fewer carbon emissions, 20 per cent less water, and excludes oil in its production processes.

Brands also have the unique opportunity to empower audiences to be part of the solution. By showcasing how audiences can utilize products and services to lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle, brands foster a relationship of co-creation.

An inspiring example comes from Pinterest’s original content series ‘Inspire a Better Future’, which educates on various sustainability aspects, empowering audiences to make more environmentally conscious decisions.

An all-in approach

Collaboration, even amongst competitors, is essential in driving broader sustainable change. This was exemplified by Kering’s launch of ‘The Fashion Pact’, and with climate, biodiversity, and ocean targets. This pact, which includes over 200 companies, highlights that brands can set aside competition to innovate and champion shared environmental goals.

Engaging the youth is another pathway to achieving sustainability goals. PepsiCo’s Arab Youth Hackathon, which enables young individuals to create climate solutions, serves as a compelling example. Young people, highly motivated to act pro-environmentally, have the power to reshape the climate narrative and deliver upon UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Embracing the circular economy is another vital step for brands. Incorporating circular economy principles into operations promotes sustainability, helps address unique environmental challenges, and maximizes resource use.

Brands can look to leaders in the space, like Mashreq, for a roadmap on how to transition towards greater sustainability. Mashreq’s dedication to digital innovation has been a key driving force in its sustainable strategic development. For instance, the bank’s launch of Neo NXT in 2022 aimed to enhance financial literacy amongst young individuals, embodying social responsibility within a digital solution.

Authentic green commitments must go beyond mere marketing ploys, requiring daily operational commitment to sustainability. It’s time for brands to offer real solutions and actions, and playing their part in building a sustainable future for all.

If they fail to embrace the moment, they risk being left behind in an increasingly green-conscious world.