Future of Consumption: Sustainability and commercial success

In this episode, J. Walker Smith talks with Kantar sustainability expert Jonathan Hall about the reach and vital importance of sustainability as a business imperative.
22 June 2020
Wind turbines with sunset
J Walker Smith
Walker Smith

Knowledge Lead, North America

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This moment in time of a global pandemic, and civil protests worldwide about racial justice, implicates sustainability, too.

In this podcast conversation with Jonathan Hall, Chief Solutions officer for the Consulting Division of Kantar and Managing Partner of Kantar’s Sustainable Transformation Practice, we begin with a detailed discussion of the definition of sustainability. As Jonathan explains, it is more than green products because it takes more than eco-friendly brands to make a genuine and lasting difference for the planet. It takes progress on societal issues as well.

Our perspective at Kantar aligns with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the U.N. in 2015 — five are environmental, two concern policy and ten are social. These goals are interrelated. It takes the full set of goals to ensure the long-term health and resilience of businesses, communities and the planet. Jonathan points out, for example, that poverty in the global South creates a refugee crisis that in turn breeds conflict which worsens environmental issues. If these social issues are not remedied, there can be no long-term solution for sustainability.

Is has been well-established that the effects of global warming and environmental degradation affect communities of color disproportionately. It is not possible to understand the full dimensions of the sustainability challenge without first recognising these inequities.

The coronavirus pandemic is having the same kind of disproportionate impact on people of color and indigent communities. Combined with this watershed moment of global protests against systemic racism, it is clearer than ever that policy and commerce to advance sustainability must address social issues as well.

Brands and companies are coming around to the idea that business must serve all stakeholders, not merely shareholders. Perhaps most emblematic of this shift was the action taken last year by The Business Roundtable, a non-profit organisation established in 1972 consisting of the CEOs of major companies. It modified its mission to update the purpose of a corporation to serve not just the interests of shareholders but the interests of all stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers and local communities. This is an explicit recognition that societal priorities must be high on the agenda.

At Kantar, we have talked about this as the emerging Era of the Public. Sustainability has been the driving force behind the emergence of the Era of the Public. What companies are expected to deliver now includes all areas of society. As my conversation with Jonathan Hall makes clear, the health of business depends on the health of communities, society, people and the planet. 

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