Brands are Rising to Challenges Where Governments are Proving Inadequate

As we pointed out in a previous post, consumers increasingly expect brands to stand for more than the products and services that generate their revenues and profits. Millennials and Generation Z, especially, seek to align with brands that not only publicly stand for positive societal or environmental change but actively do something about it. As governments around the world increasingly seem paralyzed in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic and deeply divided electorates, many brands are now standing up and taking action well beyond their historic remit.

For example, P&G recently announced an acceleration of its commitment to gender equality. Miller Lite is strongly supporting the Open & Proud LGBTQ program. And Unilever is committed to building a more inclusive and equitable society. From Nike to Grubhub, many other brands are just as energized and engaged in creating social change.

However, as the country and world at large seem to careen from one natural disaster to another, brands are trying to make a difference mostly in the areas of environmental stewardship and sustainability. Here are a few of the brands trying to make our planet a better place now and for future generations:


LEGO just announced it is working on a prototype version of their famous toy bricks that is made from recycled single-use plastics following FDA- and EFSA-approved processes to ensure quality, creating four bricks from every one-liter plastic PET bottle. Last year, LEGO Group announced it was removing single-use plastic from its packaging, and in 2018 it started manufacturing bio-polyethylene LEGO components (i.e., toy trees) from sustainably sourced sugarcane. The company states it is investing around $400 million by 2022 to accelerate its sustainability programs.

In the words of Tim Brooks (LEGO Group’s VP of Environmental Responsibility): “We’re committed to playing our part in building a sustainable future for generations of children. We want our products to have a positive impact on the planet, not just with the play they inspire, but also with the materials we use. We still have a long way to go on our journey but are pleased with the progress we’re making.”

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Puma has committed by 2022 to source all of its paper-based packaging from recycled or certified sources to reduce the brand’s impact on the world’s forests, consistent with the principles of integral forestry.

Puma’s viscose will be sourced from fiber producers who are regularly audited and ranked by Canopy, thereby helping to protect ancient and endangered forests, which serve a vital role in carbon capture and water management.

Nicole Rycroft, Canopy’s Executive Director, says: “Transforming unsustainable supply chains is vital to keep forests standing, protect biodiversity, and stabilise the world’s climate. Puma strives to be at the front of the pack and today they are clearly demonstrating that leadership.”


Going beyond preserving the world’s forests, Nestlé is embracing a forest-positive strategy that involves not just buying from supply chains that prevent deforestation but one that is actively protecting standing forests. Specifically, while working to eliminate deforestation across the supply chains for its various product categories, Nestlé is favoring suppliers that promote forest conservation and restoration.

According to Magdi Batato, EVP and Head of Operatios for Nestlé, “Forest positive is only achievable if we work hand-in-hand with farmers and local communities, industry partners and governments to form wider solutions across local, regional and global level…and that this forest positive strategy is key to regenerating Earth’s water systems, soil health and carbon storage.”


Ralph Lauren Corporation has announced its plan to achieve net-zero global greenhouse gas emissions from its operations and value chain by 2040. Specifically, the brand has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% within the next decade, using 100% renewable power in its offices, stores and distribution centers by 2025 and by collaborating with Indigo Ag, an ag-tech company focused on improving the sustainability, profitability and social responsibility of the agriculture system, in high-quality and verifiable carbon removals.

In the words of the President and CEO of the Ralph Lauren Corporation, Patrice Louvet, “Our net zero goal and roadmap are anchored in our belief that through deliberate action we can deliver the change required to reduce our climate impact and help create a more sustainable future for generations to come.”


And finally, Coca-Cola is actively partnering with The Ocean Cleanup project to intercept plastic litter from rivers around the world before it gets to our oceans.


These brands, to mention are few, are stepping up where politicians and governments are unable or unwilling to coordinate worldwide activities aimed at curbing our negative impact on our natural environment. Even if these brands were just doing this to appeal to current and future consumers, they are, at least, doing so. If given the choice between buying from a brand that actively supports environmental causes versus one that does not, the choice seems pretty obvious to this consumer — and likely to many, many more.

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Frank Schab
An experienced marketing and branding strategist, Frank has been helping clients optimize the value of their brands through insightful analysis and effective strategy for more than three decades. Along with holding positions at General Motors and Pfizer, Frank served as a Managing Partner at Interbrand New York and VP of Global Brand Research at Opinion Research Corporation before co-founding Six Degrees. His brand-building work in various sectors including hospitality, medical device, pharmaceutical, automotive and technology has taken him to 17 countries on four continents. Frank holds a doctorate in psychology from Yale University and speaks fluent German.

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