Are Consumer Companies Serious About What They Say In Their Sustainability/Responsibility Reports?

Posted on September 24, 2015 by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist

#Business & Society #Corporate Governance #Corporate Responsibility #Corporate Sustainability #ESG Issues #SRI #Sustainability Reporting #Sustainable Investing 

Forbes’ contributor Christopher Meyer seeks to ask and answer this question in our story selection this week. He explores the actions and statements about responsibility to society that leading consumer marketers make.  Is the commitment and action “for real,” or part of the effort to differentiate [a company] from its consumer market peers via smart PR?
For his examples the author looks at such enterprises as Luxottica (glasses), its peer Warby Parker; Toms (footwear), and Eileen Fisher (clothing).  Some of the perspectives offered are harsh – Warby Parker has made a “structural commitment to social benefit, while Luxottica pursues practices that shift consumer surplus to investors, an unsustainable form of capitalism.”  Some are praiseworthy:  Eileen Fisher claims “We don’t want sustainability to be our edge…we want it to be universal…”  Where this is relevant:  “As customers, we want to understand companies’ motivations because we think it will help us to identify those who are genuinely trying to be part of the solution,” notes the writer.
The Forbes contributor is focused in this commentary on some well-known domestic and global consumer marketers, and explores what might motivate a potential buyer to look more closely at the culture,  commitments, statements and achievements of companies who want their business (to purchase clothing, glasses, apparel, foods such as Whole Foods, furniture at IKEA, and so on).
This is an important development in consumer marketing.  Moving up the value chain, we at G&A Institute monitor the large consumer marketers and their sustainability journeys.   We’ve been assisting clients to sell more products and services to these larger customers by strategically aligning, executing and communicating effectively about their (the supplier) sustainability & responsibility programs.
Examples are an industrial manufacturer, a food company or a service company service selling to the large, globally-recognized corporate sustainability leader that in turn is likely selling to the consumer (think of such enterprises as Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Hershey’s, Nestle’s and other large diversified companies in the consumer and institutional food space).  The majority of these consumer market leaders are jockeying to be the leader among peers.) So, at the top of the value chain, the major customers are asking ever-more penetrating questions of their suppliers/providers. This is occurring in many industries – food, vehicles, apparel, beauty products, beverages, hard goods, electronics, etc.
The takeaway here is that if your customer is consumer focused, tune in to what leaders such as Warby Parker is doing (good examples in the Top Story).  If you are selling higher up to the global sustainability leadership companies, if you are not already doing so, be prepared to respond to a growing list of questions about your ESG strategies, goals & objectives, measurements, performance, and achievements.  These questions are asked directly and through third party service providers such as EcoVadis or Sedex, while still others are aligning their suppliers with the same reporting frameworks that they use, such as the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI G4) or the CDP questions.
At all levels of the value chain, sustainability and responsibility in various forms are increasingly on the minds of the world’s customers!
If you’d like to find out more about how G&A can help your organization to build a more efficient and effective sustainable supply chain program, please contact Louis Coppola at
To read the full story, click the link below:
How Can We Know Which Companies Are Serious About Sustainability?
(Wednesday – September 16, 2015)
Source: Forbes – A growing number of consumers want to “vote with their wallets” – but the information provided about companies resembles political campaign messages rather than clear evidence of sustainability