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By Leah Montebello
Simon Francis, CEO, discusses Flock Associates’ “The Sustainable Marketer” White Paper and how marketers need to take sustainability seriously.
Long Way To Go
According to the WFA, while 95% of marketers believe that marketing can make a difference in the sustainability journey, there is still a lack of application, with only 50% citing their marketing organizations “about to start” or still “taking first steps”
As a Marketing Transformation Company, Flock Associates’ “The Sustainable Marketer” guide aims to help marketers transform their business through sustainable marketing practices.
It outlines what marketing sustainability looks like, a framework to achieve it and how it can be tracked and measured.
The paper is also based on market changes that Flock sees emerging, and preempts ones that will become increasingly important.
Simon Francis, CEO of Flock Associates, discusses the white paper with Marketing Procurement iQ and how sustainability is no longer a choice for marketers, but essential for their business.
Francis outlines three key reasons why Flock Associates has chosen to launch the white paper now: consumer demand, employee demand and personal demands.
Both internally and from clients, Francis notes that consumers and employees are demanding genuine sustainability initiatives; it seems that it is no longer enough to ‘talk the talk’, you must also walk the walk. And this is a trend that the firm notes from both an agency and advertiser perspective.
On the personal level, Francis says, “we are running out of road”. “The world is getting hotter and society is getting evermore fractured. We believe passionately as a marketing transformation company that marketing needs transforming to save the world”, he urges.
From putting this guide together, the Flock team realised how fractured this space was and the clear gap in the market for a comprehensive guide. They also engaged with other stakeholders who are passionate about this area, including trade bodies such as WFA and ISBA.
According to the WFA’s recent study on “Marketing & Sustainability: Closing the Gaps”, while 95% of marketers believe that marketing can make a difference in the sustainability journey, there is still a lack of application, with only 50% citing their marketing organizations “about to start” or still “taking first steps”.
Describing sustainability as a “labyrinth”, Francis is conscious that some advertisers “just don’t know where to start and therefore won’t start”. So what this guide aims to do is outline actionable and concrete goals that can assist marketers in making the first and then following steps.
Francis says that the guide hinges itself on three principles: SEE, ACT and MEASURE.
SEE, which is used to break down the fundamental definition of sustainability (society, environment and economy), which includes diversity, equality and inclusion. In terms of combining these seemingly distinct definitions of sustainability into one guide, Francis justifies this move by stating how you can’t separate one from the other. They are all interlinked and to be truly sustainable, you can’t have one without the other.
Then, ACT is Accountability, Collaboration and Trading. This covers the key questions to ask within your organization, your marketing team and with your partners to help inform the development of a sustainability roadmap, as well as resources and best practices and case studies.
With MEASURE, Flock Associates looks to measure these steps and their success with an input, output and outcome model. This step will be crucial to the overarching success and is an area that Francis sees has great importance.
The core of the framework is that it is just a framework. It can be adapted to different companies and different regions. “It’s not an all encompassing guide of how to do it because it’s too broad and every client is different”.
Because of this in-built flexibility, it also means that the guide’s application is global. Francis emphasises, “it can work as well in China as it can in California as it can in South Africa”.
The role of procurement
Marketing procurement plays a fundamental role in marketer’s quest for sustainability. As Francis says, “They are uniquely well placed because they bring the data and empirical side to actually set up the input, output and outcome framework”.
On top of this, marketing procurement also liaise with outside providers, and set up the processes for contracts. This gives them a unique position to actually embed authentic representation into organisations, and drive marketers’ messaging into a real impact.
The same can be said for procurement’s role in production; by minimising travel and building this culture into an organisation, they have the power to really drive change. On this, however, Francis claims that the past year has been a “wake up call” for those in production, no longer having to travel for shoots or meetings. By having to adapt to different production techniques, teams have created exceptional results at a lower cost with a lower amount of resources. This is not to be underestimated, and Francis predicts that this culture is likely to be one that continues post-pandemic.
Wider benefits of sustainability
Sustainability is becoming synonymous with success. This is reflected in the financial benefits that arise when companies are socially and environmentally conscious. For instance, in 2018, B- Corps (companies that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency and legal accountability) grew 28 times faster than the national economic growth in the UK according to the Office for National Statistics.
Additionally, aside from being financially more successful, Francis argues that costs also decrease when companies are more sustainable. They have less staff churn and lower agency costs. So this fusion of lower costs and higher earnings ultimately leads to better ROI.
And whilst this white paper is aiming to help marketers, he does acknowledge that some brands are already doing an excellent job. Francis praises the likes of Patagonia, who have “sustainability built into their DNA” and also views Verizon as a powerhouse for championing diversity and inclusion and really embracing authentic representation. However, as with anything, they can always be better, and this is ultimately why metrics and the measurement focus of the white paper is so crucial.
For Francis, the role for marketing has never changed and they need to represent what the consumers want from brands. He says, “We see that over the next ten years, sustainability in its broadest context will be the biggest consumer objective because it affects every man, woman and child on the planet”.
Consumers want authentic content and will also be open to criticism brands that don’t meet this expectation. Francis mentions greenwashing and the accountability a lot of brands are now facing, and he argues that the Flock Associates’ guide lays out an authentic and proper process and brands can use this as a springboard.
In terms of personal lessons, Francis says that he has learnt that it is important to sit down and have challenging conversations, whether that’s to do with people’s different passion points or with definitions people use: “it’s the only way you get to an aligned perspective”. This was something that they had already started to develop when partnering with ISBA to create the Representation of a Nation – Diversity and Inclusion guide.
The White Paper encourages marketers and procurement to truly examine their practices and to start walking the walk rather than talking the talk.
You can download the White Paper here.
About the White Paper
Simon Francis, CEO of Flock Associates
Natalie Morris, Global Media & Marketing Consultant at Flock Associates, played a key role in putting together this White Paper, and special thanks to Aron Lewis, Marketing Executive.