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Climate change: Radical Marketing the way to go

Everyone needs to step up to help our companies use their considerable resources and assets to fix the most pressing existential problem of our lifetime.

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The Sony Center at the Potsdamer Square is pictured before Earth Hour in Berlin, Germany on March 30, 2019. The Reputation Institute has ranked Sony Japan as a Top 10 Most Reputable Company for the past nine years, thanks in part to its "Road to Zero" efforts to achieve a zero environmental footprint.

HERE is a reality: successful organisations today could see drastic financial declines in the future because they didn't invest in the green innovations necessary to ensure sustainable living for future generations. How would your stakeholders react to such a scenario?

Climate change is an existential threat. Take into account that 97 per cent of climate scientists agree that mankind's activities for the past 100 years have helped accelerate climate change, disrupting ecosystems everywhere. Reputation is earned from the experiences of stakeholders: customers, employees, business and value chain partners, government alliances, NGOs and even social movements. Everyone plays a role since the scientific evidence says we have 12 years to limit devastating global warming or face the irreversible loss of many ecosystems required to sustain life. Fail here and your other marketing metrics won't matter.

Questioning the science is of little use. Rather it is imperative to start aggressively re-strategising your company's future vis-à-vis this climate change challenge. Radical Marketing shows how by focusing on four interconnected factors: stakeholders, solutions, environment and engagement.

Radical Marketing begins here since climate solutions must positively impact people everywhere. Company leaders have a moral, ethical and fiduciary responsibility to re-align their company's strategy to benefit all stakeholders. Targeting micro-markets of customers through data mining and predictive analytics is irrelevant if their interests have shifted from upgrading their widgets to simply surviving. Therefore, leaders must redefine their relationship with and understanding of their stakeholder community. This will not be easy because most stakeholders typically have a vested interest in the status quo and have difficulty imagining new solutions. But leaders must radically refocus their solutions to support responsible and sustainable environment impact.

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For example, the Reputation Institute has ranked Sony Japan as a Top 10 Most Reputable Company for the past nine years, thanks in part to its "Road to Zero" efforts to achieve a zero environmental footprint.

What can you do to push your organisation to directly address stakeholders? Ask the following questions of your company:

  • What do we need to understand about the plausible impacts from climate change and our stakeholder community's corresponding pain points?
  • How can each of us galvanise our stakeholders and help them, and us, make the needed changes?

We cannot wait for a perfect solution. We know the challenge: solve climate change. Therefore, marketing leaders need to help your company change and translate stakeholder insights into solutions. Divergent 3D is a Los Angeles-based company focused on radically changing the entire lifecycle impact from each stage of manufacturing by reducing the material and energy required to produce vehicles. In a Founders and Funders podcast from February 2019, company founder Kevin Czinger discussed how Divergent 3D is using new technologies to substantially reduce resource and energy usage, reinventing every stage of the production lifecycle, and even the concept of a factory itself. What can your company do to develop bold solutions like Divergent 3D? Ask the following questions:

  • What systemic changes must we make in how we conceive, design, produce and deliver solutions?
  • Which people and partners can help us create new solutions?

Environment is both inside and outside the company. Inside refers to how the company designs its facilities to reflect the solutions and values it promotes. For example, consider the Thai energy company Bangchak. Its corporate headquarters are LEED-Platinum Certified, including recycled materials throughout and the latest smart technologies to minimise its carbon footprint. Outside represents how people find, interact with, and experience the company whenever they use its products or services. Bangchak customers buy the company's green products, experience its natural lighting in service stations and even see that the company collects rainwater for recycling. Marketers can ask their leadership:

  • How do people inside see and experience us? What must we do to transform these areas to ensure we are practicing what we preach?
  • What must we do to transform these areas to ensure we are delivering not just what we promise, while creating enduring value for society?

Radical Marketing requires companies to actively engage stakeholders to become community advocates for you. A trusted community of supporters is far more impactful and influential than employing marketing communications. At the same time, aligning messages from your community of supporters with your own authentic outreach will strengthen the credibility of your engagement.

Swell is an investment firm investing in companies that are solving the world's biggest challenges aligned "with at least one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals". Swell engages its stakeholder community by encouraging them to shift their investments, and thereby corporate behaviour, based on how those firms directly address hugely complex global problems. The investors become advocates and catalysts for change. Here are questions you must ask your company in order to develop deeper, influential engagement:

  • What are our compelling reasons for stakeholders to become our ambassadors and advocates?
  • What are the specific actions we must do immediately to build a highly networked community of shared interest who use their own outreach to increase its impact?

Since company reputations are the entire organisation as experienced by stakeholders, then all of us must practise radical marketing. This is not a job, a title, or a domain. It is a call to action. Everyone needs to step up, push for massive change, and advocate for decisions that help our companies use their considerable resources and assets to fix the most pressing existential problem of our lifetime.

  • The writer is Duke Corporate Education's regional managing director for Asia. He is based in Singapore.