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Strategic Sustainability, ROI, and Corporate Branding

Previously, I wrote a post about how companies can use social marketing to distribute content and tell their brand story to the target market. I discussed how many companies are using social media to highlight their sustainability programs and the ways they improve communities. However, many remain skeptical of storytelling as a marketing tool, and even sustainability programs themselves. I heard from a few skeptics in the comments. They wondered whether content marketing about a company’s community impact had any real measurable ROI.

Recently, I came across a video on Youtube “Doing Well By Doing Good,” from Coca Cola’s CEO, Muhtar Kent, from their 2014 shareholder meeting regarding the importance of sustainability within their organization. The video is in response to the question of a skeptical shareholder.

“My question is about the business case for all your sustainability programs. Are these just feel good PR efforts or do they create real value for the business? Is there any real return on investment?”

The response he gave was epic. He discusses how their sustainability program has been the driving force behind many of the innovative advancements they have made including water neutrality. Their refined processes use far less water. Plus, they now recycle more of what they do use! The positive impact to society is that Coke’s factories are using exponentially less water in the communities they serve. The benefit to Coke’s bottom line was realized from a 30% reduction in production costs.

Coke’s CEO summarizes their sustainability program and the impact they are aiming for here: woman with laptop typing  at home

Coke is focused on making a positive difference in communities around the world through a three-pronged sustainability agenda focused on empowering women through its 5by20 program and other initiatives; replacing every liter of water used to manufacture its beverages through reduction, recycling and replenishment projects by 2020; and promotingwell-being through four global commitments focused on increasing the availability of low- and no-calorie beverage options, responsible marketing, transparent labeling and supporting active healthy living programs worldwide.

A couple of days ago on Twitter, I did a search under the hashtag #SustainabilityROI. One of the pages I looked at was @SustainBrands. While, there were tons of great links and tweets on the page, the one that stuck out most was this Tweet:

  Presentation: Regenerating Connection: ‘Storydoing’ for Authenticity and Lasting Brand Value: 

The link is to a presentation from Sustainable Brands where they highlight the importance of storytelling within a company’s marketing tactics to project the image of an authentic brand. I am the Founder and CMO at Social Marketing Solutions, LLC(SMS). At SMS, our slogan is: “Marketing is no longer just about pushing a product, rather it is a compelling brand story that makes an organization stand out.”  Good story telling provides emotional attachment for customers to the brand, making them more sticky and increasingly more loyal.

With so many choices in the marketplace of similar quality and price, consumers are looking align themselves with brands that fit their values. They are more likely to do business with companies that they see have a positive impact on their community. Customers want to do business with a transparent brand that engages them with interesting and value based content.

I firmly believe that sustainability practices are in the best interest of all organizations big and small. Incorporating sustainability can improve a company’s operations, impact their communities, improve their reputations, and enhance their branding efforts.

Do you see the synergy between sustainability and branding via story telling or are you a skeptic? Please do engage in discussion below regarding the effectiveness of sustainability programs, storytelling as a branding tool, or anything else that came to mind while reading my post.

About John White

He is a Chief Marketing Officer at Social Marketing Solutions, the LinkedIn group owner of Publishers and Bloggers, MBA candidate, and contributor to Dice Tech News, CareerToolbox, Linked Into Business, and more. You can connect with him on John White

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