Last month, MHP hosted a Luxury Marketing Council Europe discussion on the role of CSR in the fashion world. The event was chaired by the eminent Professor Frances Corner, OBE, head of the London College of Fashion – and MHP’s Robert Nuttall, Managing Director of our Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability practice, was a member of the panel.
One of the key questions raised included the issue of how to effectively integrate corporate responsibility and sustainability practices into the wider business model. In order to be fully effective, and indeed fully sustainable, CSR must imbue all aspects of an organisation’s offering: products, services, supply chain and branding. Viewed in this way, CSR becomes less a question of infinite delegation and deferral of responsibility for implementing sustainable practice, more a valuable demonstration that doing business in a sustainable way actually sells.
The cover story of the latest edition of Marketing Week follows on from the LMCE event, focusing on an emergent model of CSR that seeks to weave sustainability into the very fabric of a profitable business model, rather than simply posing as an expensive marketing add-on. Quoted extensively throughout the article, MHP’s Robert Nuttall draws on his experience implementing the industry renowned Plan A intiative at M&S. Robert thus suggests that “unless sustainability has a strong commercial outcome, it is by definition not sustainable.” He also underlines the danger of using CSR as a mere marketing tool: “there is often a disconnect between communications professionals and those who understand the issues from a technical standpoint…lead[ing] to confused and opaque statements.”
By streamlining its procurement process and ensuring sustainability is assimilated into all levels of its supply chain, M&S’ Plan A saved the organisation £50m in a year. Robert’s commentary highlights an important issue which organisations must now face head on: how to effect and communicate sustainable change in such a way that its place in the business model is viable?
The importance of fully integrating sustainability into both practices and process has never been clearer. For organisations, the challenge now resides in making this imperative as commercially sound as it is ethical.