Who is this for? (6minute read)
The blog provides the key elements of sustainability in strategic planning while also emphasising the importance of authenticity and avoiding greenwashing. In a 6-9minute read, gain valuable insights for ecopreneurs, brands, eCommerce founders, business owners, and retailer owners who want to align their business strategies with sustainability goals.
Strategic Planning in 2023 and Beyond Involves Sustainability
Strategic planning is how an organisation’s executives outline their vision for the future and determine their company’s targets. It consists of figuring out how the management team should meet the company’s targets to ensure the company achieves growth and progress.
The purpose of strategic planning in companies may be to create strategic marketing plans to enhance revenue and profits, increase awareness, position themselves above competitors, or improve their overall look through entire rebranding. The management and operations teams collaborate to determine the targets, describe the steps, allocate tasks, and assess the effort’s performance.
Getting Clear on Vision, Mission and Purpose.
Before we continue, we’ll pause to continue, we find we’re often needing to clarify the meaning of vision, mission and purpose for the brands we work with.
Although they are related and often used interchangeably, they have distinct meanings and serve different functions in defining an organisation’s goals and direction:
1. Mission: A mission statement describes an organisation’s primary purpose, outlining its core function or the reason it exists. It addresses what the organisation does, who it serves, and what value it brings to its stakeholders. A well-crafted mission statement should be concise and focused, providing a clear understanding of the organisation’s objectives and guiding its daily operations.
2. Vision: A vision statement is a forward-looking declaration that describes the organisation’s long-term aspirations and desired future state. It is an inspirational and motivational statement that paints a picture of where the organisation wants to be in the future, usually in 5-10 years. The vision should be ambitious but achievable, serving as a guiding star for strategic planning and decision-making.
3. Purpose: An organisation’s purpose goes beyond its mission and vision to encompass the deeper meaning and impact it aims to create in the world. It reflects the organisation’s core values, beliefs, and its commitment to making a difference in the lives of its customers, employees, and the broader community. A clear and authentic purpose can help an organisation connect with its stakeholders on a more profound level, driving engagement, loyalty, and long-term success.
“Our mission is to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” – Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia
Are Purpose and Sustainable the Same Thing?
And purpose-driven brands and sustainable brands can be related, but they are not necessarily the same thing.
Purpose-driven brands are those that have a clearly defined purpose, often focused on making a positive impact on society, the environment, or the lives of their customers, employees, and stakeholders. Their purpose goes beyond profit-making and informs their decision-making, strategies, and business practices. A purpose-driven brand can have a wide range of objectives, such as addressing social inequalities, improving healthcare, promoting education, or fostering community development.
Sustainable brands, on the other hand, prioritise environmental and social responsibility in their business operations. They aim to minimise their negative impact on the environment, use resources efficiently, and contribute to the well-being of society. Sustainable brands often incorporate ethical sourcing, fair labour practices, and environmentally friendly production processes into their business models.
“Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” – Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla
While a purpose-driven brand can be a sustainable brand if its purpose centres on environmental and social responsibility, not all purpose-driven brands are necessarily focused on sustainability. Similarly, a sustainable brand may not have a broader purpose beyond its commitment to minimizing its environmental impact and promoting social responsibility.
Reasons Why Sustainability is Vital in Strategy Planning
There are specific reasons why sustainability is an essential component of strategic marketing planning:
- It creates resilience from a social and environmental perspective. Social, environmental, and regulatory constraints influence organizational decision-making. Strategic plans will help the organisation achieve stability regardless of the future internal or external social impacts.
- It promotes innovation in an organisation since the strategic marketing planning team may identify opportunities for innovation. A product or project undergoes a cyclic process. The process includes everything from the resources and manufacturing techniques employed to the finished product’s operation, lifespan, and disposal alternatives.
- It allows an organisation to adapt to the constantly changing environmental dynamics. These dynamics include but are not limited to new technological disruptions, population expansion, the effects of climate change, resource restrictions, and new business models.
- It’s why customers want to shop from you!
Integrating ESG Factors in Sustainable Strategic Planning
Incorporating ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) factors into strategic planning is crucial for sustainable brands. ESG factors offer a comprehensive framework for evaluating a company’s sustainability and ethical impact, which is increasingly important to investors, consumers, and other stakeholders.
By integrating ESG considerations into strategic planning, sustainable brands can:
1.Demonstrate a commitment to a holistic approach to sustainability, addressing not only environmental concerns but also social and governance issues.
2. Identify and manage potential risks and opportunities related to ESG factors, making their business more resilient and adaptable.
3. Enhance their reputation and attractiveness by showing investors, customers, and other stakeholders that the brand is aware of and actively addressing critical sustainability issues.
4. Improve long-term financial performance, as companies with strong ESG profiles have been shown to outperform their peers in various studies.
5. Considering ESG factors in strategic planning helps sustainable brands align their operations, policies, and goals with the expectations of an increasingly environmentally and socially conscious market. By addressing ESG factors, sustainable brands can create a positive impact on society, the environment, and their bottom line.
Avoiding Pitfalls: Accidental Greenwashing and Ensuring Authenticity
While embracing sustainability in strategic planning offers numerous benefits, it is essential to avoid pitfalls like “accidental greenwashing.” Accidental greenwashing occurs when a brand unintentionally overstates or misrepresents its environmental or social impact, leading to misconceptions about its sustainability efforts.
To build a genuinely sustainable brand that appeals to mainstream consumers, consider the following best practices:
1. Be clear on your brand message and authentic purpose: Communicate your commitment to sustainability and the specific actions your brand is taking to give back to the planet authentically. Ensure that your sustainability initiatives align with your core values and are integrated into your business operations.
2. Leverage social media for starters and other newsworthy media channels to display the impact your brand is having: Provide evidence of the tangible outcomes and positive changes your sustainability initiatives have generated. This proof can include metrics, case studies, and testimonials that demonstrate the real-world impact of your efforts.
3. Emphasise ‘buying better’: Clearly articulate how purchasing from your brand contributes to a more sustainable future and supports your customers’ values. Highlight the unique features and benefits of your products or services that promote sustainability and set you apart from competitors.
4. Market intentionally without greenwashing: Be transparent and honest in your marketing communications, avoiding exaggerated or misleading claims about your sustainability efforts. Focus on showcasing your genuine commitment to sustainability and the steps you are taking to make a positive impact.
“We have an opportunity to help build a world where everyone has enough food to eat and no child goes to bed hungry. Where every child lives to their fifth birthday and has the right to a happy childhood.” – Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever
Sustainable Strategic Marketing Planning
Sustainability in strategic marketing planning involves managing finite resources to achieve the most optimum outputs despite the limited resources. The strategic management of limited company resources should be equitable and inclusive. As a result, sustainable strategic marketing planning, as identified, is a future-oriented cyclic process executed in the following chronological order:
1. Sensitising the organisation’s teams
2. Formulation of a mission and vision
3. Stakeholder and resource mapping
4. Conducting market research
5. Analysis of market research data 6. Plan alternatives
6. Formulation of the sustainable strategic plan
7. Monitoring and evaluation
Sustainability in strategic planning will help to navigate through the ever-challenging terrain, making businesses resilient to internal and external environmental and social shocks. The inclusivity of stakeholders, customers, and team members in the planning phase helps promote problem-solving innovation. Furthermore, different players will have a stake in formulating the final sustainable strategic plan for the organization. By avoiding accidental greenwashing and ensuring authenticity in your sustainability efforts, your brand can build trust and credibility with consumers while contributing to a more sustainable future.