Sustainability is coming up more and more in media circles today. I just read about the newly launched Music Sustainability Association. Vogue Business features Sustainability as one of its primary verticals next to Technology. And the Financial Times has just published “Managing Climate Change,” which is “on course to be their largest pink paper report in decades in terms of advertising revenue.”
Almost 3/4 of their audience recently told Condé Nast that companies behaving more sustainably took on more importance because of coronavirus. Young people especially have indicated in surveys that it affects their decision-making. Findings from the Deloitte Global’s 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey show 26% of both generations ranked protecting the environment as their top personal concern.
“They want to align with brands that share a vision and a mission with them and they’re willing to pay more for that—and that’s where sustainability comes into play,” said growth strategist Robyn Duda. “If we don’t start doing it now, there’ll be a disrupter that comes in and turns things upside down.”
But it’s not just for the young. “Creating sustainable events is no longer a bonus, it’s a must,” writes ExpoPlatform. “That’s the opinion of experts and world-leading organizers who have spoken to [us] as part of our latest series on the future of our industry. But this isn’t just about cutting emissions—it’s about securing a business model fit for the future.”
Here are some places that I’ve seen these efforts highlighted:
Create products with a sustainable focus. The Financial Times has seen a tenfold increase in request in proposals (RFPs) year over year from advertisers seeking to align themselves with the FT’s climate, sustainability and ESG content, says Brendan Spain, VP of advertising for the Americas at the FT, Digiday reports. Of the advertising RFPs the FT has received, about 40-50% mentioned climate or sustainability as a contextual alignment request. The RFPs coming to the FT are for editorial sponsorships of verticals like Climate Capital and Moral Money, as well as branded content in sectors like luxury and finance, Spain said. “Marketers are trying to appeal to more environmentally conscious consumers. Signaling these priorities to employees, partners and shareholders has become as important as marketing to consumers.”
Join a movement. The growing sustainability movement also may propel virtual events. AM&P Network member Haymarket has become a member of ISLA, a not-for-profit organization that is focused on accelerating the events industry’s transition to a sustainable future. As a member of ISLA, Haymarket will have access to sustainability training for its live event teams, and procurement will be able to use Isla’s carbon calculator to assess the carbon footprint of each event. “The communications industry connects brands with people and, through events and experiences, we have the power the shape a narrative to drive positive behavioral change across a breadth of audiences,” said ISLA co-founder Anna Abdelnoor.
Make it a key vertical and/or newsletter. Vogue Business ran an article last month titled Sustainable Retail’s New Guard. “A new fleet of dedicated multi-brand retailers are hoping to raise standards in fashion for conscious consumption. What can the industry learn from these born-good platforms?” (Separately, they have a Sustainability Edit newsletter.) Endless Wardrobe focuses on encouraging more sustainable consumption habits, they report, asking customers to think about how they will use a garment and then decide whether to rent, buy new or buy nearly new. “When we launch the criteria, it will have different levels so we can focus on providing the education and resources for brands to level up,” explains CMO Hannah Phang. This site has seen sales increase 450% in the last six months, with rental revenue jumping 2,000% in the same period.
Align with editorial groups. “We know that the journalism and information space as a whole is looking for spaces for sustainability, so if we don’t have unique and diverse voices in these rooms, how do we know what to solve for?” asked Sherrell Dorsey, founder and CEO of The Plug, a new member of our AM&P Network. “How do we think creatively about the solutions on the table? We decided to go subscription, and create these revenue-generating platforms in order to ensure our survival.”
Reach younger people. “Half of the workforce are millennials right now,” Duda said. “And there’s enough research and data out there that states what brands they align with. And they want to align with brands that share a vision and a mission with them and they’re willing to pay more for that. It may cost you more on paper right now, but the long-term effects of you having a clear value structure is going to align with your audience of the future. And it will actually reap you growth benefits in the future because you will have a very loyal community around you because you’ve done the right thing. And those who don’t do that will lose ground. “
Reduce your carbon footprint in events. “Live events take a lot and have a big carbon footprint,” said John Capano, SVP at Impact XM, on an EventBuzz podcast earlier this year. “And so doing an event where maybe it’s a smaller live portion, but a much larger online portion, you can get the same benefit and the same engagement for a much smaller carbon footprint. And obviously, that is important and should be important to many of the folks that we work with. So this is really a ton of benefits there” Adds Duda: “In events it should include three main areas of focus: society—diversity, equity and inclusion—economic growth and environmental protection. By focusing on these areas, the industry not only considers how people are impacted today, but how they are impacted tomorrow too.”