The world has changed. After a year of intense unpredictability, brands are looking toward the horizon with a mixture of anticipation and fear. The extreme impact of COVID-19 is still unfolding. The pandemic has exacerbated tenuous supply chains and recession has loomed over businesses and the economy at large. Brands have been forced to be agile and adapt. Digital innovation is moving at an incredible rate and consumer habits are changing daily. On top of that, a year of political and social unrest has culminated in a tense US election that the world watched with bated breath.
As we step into an uncertain future it is time to consider what and where do we want to be in the next few years.
Foresight has become critical as brands grapple with the question: “What next?” The reality is that the old ways were harming people and destroying the natural environment. There have been difficult blows during 2020 but humankind has also been presented with a unique opportunity to shun “business as usual” for a new model.
So, why do you need to transform your brand with ethics?
Build back better
In all of the uncertainty and struggle is a unique opportunity build back better. The evidence for being more ethical is mounting. A recent survey of more than 21,000 adults from 27 countries by IPSOS has found that 86% of people want to see the world change significantly after COVID-19 and become more sustainable and equitable – rather than revert to the status quo. In short, brands need to become more ethical because people demand it.
There have been reports showing that emissions have lowered since lockdowns started. We are reading news stories of animals reclaiming and rejoicing in the natural world free pollution and human traffic. In this way the situation has made an insurmountable problem suddenly seem tangible. It has made longstanding issues visible.
Importantly, building back better means addressing the climate emergency. It involves creating inclusive, fair and resilient societies. For businesses to transform and “be ethical” they must lower emissions, commit to sustainable practices and models, address inequality and human rights issues, embracing corporate responsibility, have transparent supply chains and do good in the world. Brands must transform with ethics to address urgent issues. Change is inventible and those brands slow to act will be left behind.
For consumers, there will be important shifts too. People will separate from the prevailing ideals of consumerism and embrace a conscious approach to consumerism.
Green is the new black
For consumers COVID-19 has been a circuit breaker of sorts, forcing them to reconsider how they buy. People are spending less as household budgets tighten. Beyond just how they buy, people are thinking about who they buy from. This trend is set to continue. A conscious approach will lead people to select brands that have a purpose and operate in sustainable and ethical ways.
With a renewed focus on sustainability and ethical business, future consumers will be more motivated than ever to buy from brands that are doing good and have a higher purpose. A post-COVID report from McKinsey found that 67% of people consider the use of sustainable materials to be an important purchasing factor, and 63% consider a brand’s promotion of sustainability in the same way.
Moreover, a recent report from Neilsen says that consumers have spent $33.6 billion this year on sustainable goods, up 15.8% compared to the same period last year – performing about four percentage points better than conventional products. All of this is to say that the rise of the green economy and conscious consumerism has only been further accelerated by the pandemic.
Higher purpose drives profit
Businesses that have been seen as virtuous during COVID-19 have been widely celebrated.
Furthermore, brands that “do good” are fairing well with consumers too. A report from Edelman says that 71% of respondents agree that if they perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever. In this case that means operating in safe and ethical ways and having strong values. The truth is that having a higher purpose will grow public sentiment, build trust and ultimately drive profit.
Furthermore, political and social movements in 2020 – such as Black Lives Matter – have put a sharp focus on what brands stand for. Suddenly brands have been expected to weigh in on important social and political issues. People expect brads to be active participants in global movements for change.
This has led to people re-evaluate brand choices and put new responsabilities on brands to be ethical and socially responsible. Ultimately, people want to spend with brands that align to their own values and ethics. This inclination will only continue to grow in the future.
Foresight tells us that brands operating with purpose and ethics will stand the test of time. Being successful in the future will take ingenuity, commitment and resilience. By transforming with ethics, businesses will build back better and contribute to a cleaner environment and more equitable planet for all. This will win over the hearts of conscious consumers and drive trust and profit moving forward. After a year of unprecedented change, brands will need to commit to deep and sustained action in order to create a better world.