How brands can truly make a difference

As part of a Festival of Marketing panel, director and writer Richard Curtis joined WWF’s Tanya Steele and Reckitt Benckiser’s Fabrice Beaulieu to discuss the part that brands can play in tackling the climate crisis

The conversation around sustainability is no longer one companies can ignore. As awareness, and urgency, around the climate crisis grows, brands are being forced to face their responsibilities. “In the last two to three years alone there’s been huge acceleration in the conversation,” says Tanya Steele, CEO of WWF UK. “It’s the understanding of environmental issues, whether pollution or plastic, but I’d frame it more widely across climate and nature loss – which effectively underpins our life in terms of the air we breathe and the food we eat. We’ve seen some significant steps forward.”

Amidst a backdrop of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg’s climate strikes, as well as increasingly aware consumers, the pressure is on for companies to prove they’re actually doing something to address the world’s problems – and that’s in their supply chains, as well as in their creative work.

“An increasing number of brands have started to engage, respond and commit,” says Fabrice Beaulieu, who is executive vice president for Reckitt Benckiser’s Group Marketing Excellence function, and also responsible for the company’s Category Development Organisation in its hygiene business. Beaulieu has led innovation and development for brands including Finish, Dettol and Vanish.

Top image: Still from WWF’s Our Planet: Too Big To Fail; Above: still from the Festival of Marketing panel discussion

“I see two routes,” Beaulieu continues. “The brands which have focused on reducing their negative impact on society or the environment – and this is about commitment to plastic, recyclability, more sustainable ingredients and less waste, which is great and proof of action. There’s also another set of brands which have tried to broaden their impact, maybe increase the scope of what they used to do and try to leverage all their talent and voice into creating positive impact for change.”