Battling the ‘blah, blah, blah’ to make sustainability real in B2B
The scramble to get Cop-fit in the second half of last year will have implications for B2B businesses in 2022 and beyond. This dynamic was on full display during the recent B2B World Fest panel, ‘Transparency, honesty & investment: making sustainability real’.
B2B World Fest explored what B2B marketers need to do to turn sustainability aspirations into business realities
“It’s not what you say, it’s what you do.” Borrowing Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s now famous remarks at the Cop26 climate conference, Leslie Beckman, senior director field marketing, Asia Pacific, at Qlik stated: “To combat the ‘blah blah blah’, I would use three other words: authenticity, action and accountability. It’s what we expect of the policymakers at Cop. There is absolutely no reason as B2B marketers we shouldn’t also be meeting those expectations – just as the policymakers must.”
Facilitated by The Drum’s co-founder and editor-in-chief Gordon Young, a panel comprised of industry experts at B2B World Fest explored what B2B marketers need to do to turn sustainability aspirations into business realities. Beckman continued that this starts with “not stating more than what you’re actually doing and being honest about what your intentions are.”
“Transparency is better than trying to be perfect,” agreed Mette Monk, head of group branding, design and digital communication at Danfoss. “We can’t go all the way in one day,” emphasizing that “taking it slow and being transparent that ‘we’re not there yet but we are working on it’” is better than lofty but empty promises.
“You need to be clear about your domain and specific about the actions you are going to take,” continued Anna Harris, director of strategy at the global B2B agency Stein IAS, which developed and produced B2B World Fest in partnership with The Drum.
“You can’t just talk about sustainability anymore,” Harris commented. “Rhetoric is not action. You must be specific. If you mention the word sustainability, you must very quickly say what you mean by that.”
“The greenest energy is the energy that we do not use at all,” said Monk. “But facts like that need to be delivered with substance and based on reliable data because otherwise it just becomes fluffy statements with no substance.”
Monk added that “85% of reaching the Paris Agreement can be done with technology that already exists. And that’s the technology all of us are trying to create awareness around.”
Harris in turn noted that conventional wisdom holds that the rational B2B buyer is somehow different from the emotional B2C consumer with regards to environmental, social and governance (ESG). “B2B buyers are human beings just like us. We need to not just understand the rational but understand the emotional as well and build that into our B2B marketing strategies around ESG.”
In addition to her work with Qlik, Beckman is founder of the Eco-Marketing Project, which provides direction to marketers in their quest to be greener. Beckman pointed out that the Project’s ‘Eco Everybody Survey’ found that 90% of consumers said that they would spend a premium on an environmentally-friendly product – even if it had no benefit to them at all.
The panel’s concluding takeaway was that making sustainability real does not mean fundamentally changing one’s business. As is often the case with eco issues, making better use of what’s already available – be that tech, time or talent – will pay immediate dividends. The panelists’ consensus was that this should be a positive thing and should be framed as such because you can’t “scare people onboard.”
“I think we have to come from a positive place,” Harris concluded. “We need to engage people in a way that’s actually going to make them feel good about what they’re doing, not feel that we’re beating them into submission with a stick.”
Tune in to watch the full session Transparency, honesty & investment: making sustainability real on demand here.
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