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The FT Investment in Brand Award 2021

By Michael Nutley | Freelance Writer

May 10, 2021 | 9 min read

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In modern marketing, where brands are built step-by-step at every customer touchpoint, consistency is crucial. So The Drum is delighted to have teamed up with the FT once again to recognize the importance of long-term investment and planning to marketing success, as part of The Drum Awards for Marketing 2021.

The FT Investment in Brand Award 2021

The FT Investment in Brand Award 2021

Nowhere is this emphasis on a sustained approach more important than in establishing and maintaining a brand’s green credentials. So as we look to “build back better” in the wake of the pandemic, this year’s award will celebrate those marketers whose dogged commitment to a persistent strategy has advanced their brand’s ecological credibility and highlighted its environmentally sustainable business model.

The shortlisted brands come from sectors as diverse as clothing, utilities, banking, food, retail, SaaS and period products. They range from recent scale-ups to long-established companies. Some have green issues at the heart of their business; others are trying to run their core business in the most sustainable, environmentally-friendly way possible. But they are all great examples of how long-term thinking can pay off, for them, their customers and the planet.

The 2021 nominees are:


Iberdrola is one of the world’s largest electricity utilities by market capitalization, and is the world’s largest producer of wind power. In 2009 it committed to reducing the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions to below fifty grams of CO2 per kWh globally by 2030 — a reduction of approximately 90% in the intensity of emissions compared to 2010. It aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050. The company ranked 19th in the 2020 Corporate Knights index of the world’s most sustainable corporations, and is a member of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Alliance. It was one of BrandZ’s 30 most valuable Spanish brands in 2020 and ranked 10th in Interbrand’s Best Spanish brands 2019.

DBS Bank

DBS is a leading financial services group in Asia, serving 18 markets. Since its founding as the Development Bank of Singapore in 1968, DBS has been purpose-driven. It focuses on three pillars of sustainability: responsible banking; responsible business practices; and creating social impact. In 2020 DBS won Global Finance’s award for Best Investment Bank for Sustainable Finance – Asia Pacific. In the past year it has rethought its marketing and communications to raise awareness of the importance of sustainability and to encourage people into action. This included launching a regional Towards Zero Food Waste Initiative and centring the second season of its online mini-series Sparks around social enterprises established to take on sustainability issues. Sparks Season 2 attracted over 270m views and 9m engagements across the region.


Outdoor clothing brand Patagonia is the grandparent of ecologically aware business, and it still has lessons for today’s start-ups. Since it started, it has donated 1% of sales to environmental causes, and it was one of the first companies to tell customers not to buy its products in an ad. In 2002 it set up a non-profit business – 1% For The Planet – to help connect companies with non-profit partners that match their values. The programme now has over 3000 participants and has given back $270m to the environment. In 2018, Patagonia changed its mission statement to “Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.” The company does little traditional brand advertising, concentrating instead on campaigning, and it tries to tie its product marketing to environmental issues. Patagonia has seen revenues grow from $543m in 2012 to to $1bn in 2017.


CRM SaaS company Salesforce ranks at 53 in Barron’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies For 2021. It has adopted a climate policy platform based on three principles: reduce emission sources and scale nature-based solutions to reach net-zero emissions by 2050; reorient economies and financial systems around a net-zero future; ensure an equitable transition to a more resilient society. It ranked 41st in the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands list for 2020, up from 46 in 2019 and 78 in 2018. In 2017 the company launched its “Blaze your trail” marketing initiative, to “shine a spotlight on the achievements of individual customers, foster pioneering thinking, and help educate them in the rapidly changing world of technology innovation”.

Who Gives A Crap?

Established in 2012, this Australian B-Corp was founded on the basis of donating half its profits to build toilets in the global south. So far it has given over £4.5m. Its toilet paper is made from either recycled post-consumer waste paper and post-industrial paper or 100% bamboo, and its shipping is carbon-neutral. It now operates in the US and Europe. Earlier this year, its Play Edition packaging won the 2020 D&AD Yellow Pencil for best-in-class packaging design.

Beyond Meat

The Beyond Meat mission statement says; “By shifting from animal to plant-based meat, we can positively impact four growing global issues: human health, climate change, constraints on natural resources, and animal welfare.” According to a study by the University of Michigan creating a Beyond Burger uses 99% less water, 93% less land, and 46% less energy than producing a quarter-pounder from meat. Initial marketing targeted meat-eaters as well as vegans and vegetarians, and used athletes to dispel myth that eating meat was “healthier” than non-meat diets. Once the brand’s reputation was established, it was able to do deals with restaurant chains as a “named” product on the menu, further increasing its status. Its IPO was one of the most successful of 2019, beginning trading at $25 a share and closing its first day on $65.75. Last year it launched its first TV ad, in the US, and became involved in organisations advocating social change. In 2020, its net revenues were $406.8 m, an increase of 36.6% y-o-y.


IKEA launched its sustainability strategy, People & Planet Positive, in 2012. The company aims to be climate-positive by 2030, and is also moving to becoming a circular business, designing all its products to repurposed, repaired, reused, resold and recycled. Its ambition is to use only recycled and renewable-based plastic in its products by 2030, and it’s trialing ways of helping customers repair and resell their IKEA purchases, and on Black Friday last year IKEA Retail stores in 27 countries offered to buy back unwanted furniture. The company began emphasizing its commitment to sustainability in 2014, when it introduced its “The Wonderful Everyday” strapline. Its latest campaign – Fortune Favors The Frugal - aims to show the difference everyone can make by taking small actions.


Thinx was founded in 2011 to produce underwear that can be worn during menstruation to replace or supplement traditional feminine hygiene products. Not only can each pair of pants absorb as much menstrual blood as five tampons, they are also washable and reusable. The company claims they can be washed 40 times and still retain maximum absorbency. Alongside the sustainability of the product, Thinx also campaigns against period poverty and supports sex education in schools. It was chosen as on of Fast Company’s most innovative companies of 2017, and Thinx pants were named one of Time magazine’s best inventions of 2015. The brand has specialized in social media advertising, but its first foray into TV, in 2019, which imagined men having periods, won multiple awards.


French sneaker brand Veja is the epitome of marketing in the internet-era, where “Your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what your customers think it is.” The company says it costs between five and seven times more to produce its sustainable sneakers, because the raw materials are environmentally friendly and purchased according to fair trade principles, and because the sneakers are produced in factories with high social standards.

Because it spends no money on marketing, it can sell them for the same price as regular brands. Instead, this emphasis on the quality of the product and its production generates brand value through owned and earned media. Turnover grew from €12m in 2016 to €60m in 2019, with the company selling 2m pairs of trainers a year on average.


UBS’s green credentials include being the sector leader for Diversified Financial Services and Capital Markets in Dow Jones Sustainability Index for six years running and membership of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Alliance. In 2020 it increased its impact and sustainable focused investment to $141bn, an increase of 154% from 2019 (out of $1.1tn invested). In 2016, UBS Wealth Management launched its UBS Unlimited content marketing strategy, a partnership with Vanity Fair, Vice, Monocle and The Future Laboratory, in an effort to reach an audience of younger, more purpose-driven millionaires. Unlimited was described as: “content platform mixing insightful current affairs and thought leadership aimed at taking UBS out of its comfort zone in the financial sector and helping it connect with potential new clients on a different level”. In its first year, Unlimited attracted 1 million unique users to the online hub and engaged 5 million people via social media.

Final judging will be done by The Drum Awards for Marketing 2021 jury. The winner will be announced at the virtual awards show on 17 June 2021. Not only will they receive the FT Award, but they will also be invited to discuss their strategy during The Drum’s Creative Transformation Festival in June.

To see what else is coming up at The Drum, visit

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