In your view, what is the most overused phrase that niggles the bejesus out of you more than anything else? For me, it’s “the pandemic changed everything.” It’s quite a ridiculous thing to say, as if what every person on the entire planet experienced over the last two years could simply be dusted off and we’d all return to the way things were before the whole damn thing began.
But in a business context, though, things really, really have changed. Cast your mind back, if you will, to the summer of 2020, around July/August time. Research eminated that provided a real-time understanding of how customer and consumer attitudes and behaviours were changing as a direct result of the pandemic. Business leaders, marketers and PR agencies like us, all had questions we needed answering.
How are our customers and prospects feeling? Have current events shifted their priorities? What matters most to them right now? Is the context of the here and now reshaping their purchasing decisions? And what does this mean in terms of the messaging we use to communicate with them? It quickly became very clear that consumer and customer buying considerations were changing.
Customers were quickly ditching those businesses whose communications continue to bang the “buy from me and us” drum, and showed themselves to be tone deaf and not empathetic to what people were going through at the time. Businesses, they saw, no longer simply performed the role of product or service provider in their eyes. Customers now wanted – expected in fact – businesses to take on greater environmental and societal responsibility, and the conscious consumer movement had effectively entered the mainstream.
But how long would this last for, we all contemplated. Was it all just the zeitgeist, or could this greater awareness of how responsible or irresponsible the business is, and the way it is increasingly influencing customer purchasing decisions, gain momentum over the long term. Well, by the Easter of 2021, we had the answer and businesses needed to get their heads around it very, very fast if they hadn’t done so already.
It was a contextual revolution that became a catalyst for businesses to pin their colours to the mast of the things that matter most to them and their customers, specifically issues to do with people and the planet – but it also spirited a darker element… the rise of the green- and purpose-washing brigade. These are companies who recognise what their customers want and expect from their product and service providers of choice, and then seek to exploit this for their own gain.
Or, put another way, they see sustainability and societal impacts as a tool for post-pandemic growth. “Tell the people what they want to hear and we’ll win out over our competitors.” That’s not just my view. The Competition and Markets Authority last year found that 40% of businesses who boasted their green credentials cannot actually substantiate these claims at all.
They are, in fact, lying. As much as this angers the heck out of me, there is a more serious element to this. And it’s not that customers are having the wool pulled over their eyes and being duped into believing that a business is all goody goody so that they’re seduced into parting with the money. Customers are more savvy than that.
What I get most upset by is that those businesses who are making great strides in organising themselves along more sustainable lines and possibly impacting their communities are not getting heard as much as they should be. And this, I believe, is because they’re afraid. They’re fearful that if they go public and communicate to the world what they have done, are doing and plan to do, and the impact the initiatives are having, then their customers, competitors, or even the media might accuse them of greenwashing and the damage that causes to business’ reputation can be long lasting and irreparable.
And that is what this video series will address and help businesses like yours to overcome. We’ll talk through ways in which you can and should communicate your environmental and social actions, and to do so in the right way at the right time, and we’ll share the latest findings of our own research into environmental, social and governance intentions – ESG – among businesses and what this means for you.
And finally, we’ll talk about the ROI that communicating what you do can have on the business itself. And I don’t mean a huge spike in sales and mass overnight expansion, although that is likely to come if you get it right. Rather, the way in which doing good and the right thing by people and planet increases your impact on your sector and influence on your customers.
So stay with us throughout this series of three videos, and I promise you it will be worth your time investment.