Branding always has one objective: it aims at differentiating yourself from your competitors to ensure you stand out. So far, Green Branding has been doing the job, but most companies still fail to hit the right note and their sustainability efforts often turn out to be primarily marketing-driven initiatives. Simply advertising your product as eco-conscious and using green marketing campaigns won’t do the trick anymore. Today, consumers and employees alike expect much more of a company and of their mission to do good. When it comes to your brand reputation, trust is key. In return that means for your company to achieve a high level of transparency and especially, to implement your social engagement with consistency and determination. Allowing thus consumers and employees to engage and collaborate with your CSR initiatives will increase your credibility and help building a solid corporate culture.
THE ERA OF BRAND ACTIVISM
In the age of fake news and the current political and social climate, no one wants to see obvious corporate opportunism anymore. Brand transparency has turned into an absolute essential and people are increasingly looking for brands to take the lead and stand up for real causes. It’s time for real commitment, strong leadership and an internalized CSR strategy. To date, companies executive branches often decide on a CSR strategy without actively involving all stakeholders, most importantly their employees. However, CSR can only be successfully implemented if it is also anchored in its very own corporate culture, ultimately driven by all its employees. The key to good branding is thus to cultivate and nurture a trustful, engaging bond with all parties involved, where everybody feels to be part of the bigger picture. Taking the initiative and developing innovative solutions will ultimately help strengthening your brand relationships. As a natural evolution from outdated CSR efforts a new form of brand activism emerges: A value-driven agenda for companies that take responsibility for our society and really care about our planet’s health. It is not in vain that the most influential investor in the world Laurence D. Fink, founder and chief executive of investment firm BlackRock, has pushed earlier this year for a major shift among corporations announcing the need for companies to contribute to society, if they want to receive the investor’s support. Companies need to identify an initiative that is relevant to its core business and its corporate values in order to not risk being perceived as solely self-serving. At the same time, it is of absolute necessity to act in an authentic, transparent and honest way. This doesn’t mean that you have to do everything right from the get-go, but being aware of what is to be expected and what you can offer is essential. By communicating the initiatives strength as well as its limitations, a company weakness can ultimately turn into an asset.
YOUR STORY MATTERS
A next step is to involve stakeholders and employees, ideally by making it more personal. The more your employees and stakeholders feel personally addressed and involved with the cause, the more likely it is, they feel part of the initiative and will promote it in return. This is also one of the reasons, why the story of your corporate social responsibility initiative matters so much. After all, engagement starts with storytelling and in order to tell it in a unique way, you have to do a better job in offering an additional value to the people you’re trying to actively engage. For instance, value-driven storytelling that uses gamification and edutainment features can be of great help and also serve as a starting point to build long-term and trustful relationships.
GREEN EDUTAINMENT 2.0
The internet has proven to be a great medium for this. After all, we would not have arrived in the digital age if we wouldn’t use the social networking phenomenon with its sharing, participative and co-creative nature to also foster social engagement on a more relevant scale. Digital platforms can be an optimal tool for communication that is not based on the classic top-down model. Users can actively engage and become part of a like-minded community sharing similar values and thus reinforcing them. Creating a hub that leads conversation building, ultimately will help companies to build trustworthy relationships.
This has been Treedom’s vision from the beginning. Originally inspired by the farming simulation social network game „FarmVille“, our Treedom team has created an online platform that offers an easy and playful approach to green engagement. By combining the virtual with the real, we created a bridge between digital natives and farmers in remote regions of the world. Allowing people to share and plant one or multiple trees at a time through personalized and fun storytelling, has helped us to build a growing online community of members. Thanks to a variety of edutainment features, we try to take a different stance on social engagement by providing an optimistic first step solution to the problem at hand. In the process we’ve realized that it is of great importance to offer absolute transparency in order for our members to realize how much of an impact their engagement actually has for the planet. This is one of the reasons why we offer and try to constantly improve our geo-localization and tree diary features that enables people to not only follow their planted trees online but also make sure that they are being frequently updated about our project activities. By this means also companies can engage stakeholders in a fun but meaningful activity and at the same time use the initiative and the platform to start a value-driven dialogue. #LetsGreenThePlanet