Recognizing corporate responsibility and sustainability as a business imperative isn’t new. The growing number of ways for companies to connect business strategy with key environmental, social and governance (ESG) opportunities across the full value chain recently brought more than 250 corporate leaders together for CECP’s annual summit in New York City.
CECP, the “CEO Force for Good,” is a coalition of companies and CEOs committed to creating a better world through business. This year’s summit, “Brave Leaders, Bold Moves,” highlighted the importance of engaging in meaningful actions today that help ensure a long-term future through sustainable growth.
As a long-standing CECP member company, we joined the summit to share insights across multiple areas, with Kirsten Londono, Senior Vice President, Client Development, sharing our data around consumer sustainability trends, and Crystal Barnes, Vice President, Global Responsibility & Sustainability, exploring how corporate responsibility and investor relations teams in particular can connect to unlock new opportunities.
Recognizing that the products we buy are more than just food and goods, Kirsten emphasized that sustainability is one of multiple factors, like lifestage and wellness, that influence what, where and how individuals choose to consume. While slow retail growth is expected to continue, she noted that brands can find a way forward by tapping into sustainability claims that consumers care about. In a world where 30% of heavy social media users view social media engagement as an important way to show support for their favorite companies or brands, according to our Social Media Report, companies are increasingly conscious of the need to provide consumers with experiences that resonate most effectively.
Bringing in data from Nielsen Product Insider, an ingredient and label measurement tool powered by our strategic alliance with Label Insight, Kirsten highlighted some specific areas where food and beverages with sustainability claims are growing, citing a 10.8% growth rate (from 2015 to 2016) for products made using responsible business practices, and an 11.4% increase (over the same period) for products using sustainable farming methods.
Linking sustainability and transparency, Kirsten also shared findings from our Global Ingredient and Dining-Out Trends Report, such as the 73% of consumers who stated feeling positively about companies that are transparent about where and how their products are made, grown or raised.
Transparency stretches far beyond consumer preference. Collaboration around shared goals for continuous improvement—and committing to publicly sharing progress with key stakeholders—is another area of growth opportunity for all companies. Building on CEO Mitch Barns’ presentation of our long-term business strategy at CECP’s inaugural CEO-Investor Forum in February, Crystal shared how teams across Nielsen work together to achieve shared goals.
Highlighting the relationship between our Global Responsibility & Sustainability and Investor Relations teams, in particular, Crystal and her co-panelists commented on the evolution of these partnerships across companies and sectors, going from more transactional exchanges of information to transformational collaborations that create value for the investor community and beyond.
“What it’s helped highlight for us is that your environmental, social, governance, or ESG, strategy is your business strategy,” said Crystal. “They are not mutually exclusive; they’re complementary.”
Photo credit: CECP.