Speaking at Food Manufacture’s Sustainable Food Supply Chain conference this week, Joe Franses, head of corporate responsibility and sustainability at CCE, told delegates that although top-down initiatives were vital to push the sustainability agenda, large companies needed to harness their brands to engage consumers.
“At the moment all our moves are top down, and not coming from our brands, so for me that’s probably the next big phase that’s going to drive sustainability, the consumer landscape, and that it’s got to be delivered by brands because I don’t believe it can be in any other way.”
Harnessing brand power
He added: “Innovation will drive change going forward, many big firms have great top-down sustainability commitments, we can all wheel out specialists to talk about it.
“But I believe that at the moment there is disconnect between that and what happens at brand level, and specifically the brand marketing level within some companies.”
Franses said his personal view was that firms such as CCE, Nestlé and Unilever needed to connect management and brand agendas on sustainability more effectively, given that “consumers will be at the heart of driving this change, and all our brands have the power in terms of guiding them to make sustainable choices.
While firms had to have buy-in at board level to tackle issues such as water scarcity, it was also vital to involve consumers, agreed Nestlé UK's head of public affairs Sam Fulton.
“What will drive change is businesses committing forward planning, seeing the potential impacts. That may be harder for smaller businesses, but that’s where partnerships are vital.
“Another point is making sure that consumers are involved in the issues, we also find our employees getting interested in sustainable ideas too and this is driving change. So it has to be top-down so people know what is really important, but at same time many businesses are getting rid of their corporate social responsibility departments because they’re saying, ‘it is part of everyone’s day-to-day job’ to be sustainable.”