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Brands that support sustainability appeal to today’s young generation

A recent online Sunday Times GenNext event analysed how authenticity is a key marketing currency that includes self-awareness and willingness to make changes in business

24 June 2022 - 14:41
Brands that successfully market a sustainability message to the young generation tend to be authentic, transparent and open to youth culture.
Brands that successfully market a sustainability message to the young generation tend to be authentic, transparent and open to youth culture.
Image: Supplied/Unsplash/Mika Beaumeister

Having a good product is no longer enough to win the purchasing power of young people. Post pandemic, brands that support sustainability are supported and promoted by the youth. 

A recent virtual Sunday Times GenNext panel discussion focused on how brands can successfully integrate sustainability solutions into their business operations to appeal to the younger generation. This event — watch a recording of it below — was hosted in in partnership with Yellowwood, Gautrain, Brand SA, Pin Pop and CliffCentral.

Tshepiso Malele, acting country head of China at Brand SA, said sustainability is the way to achieve business objectives while ensuring there’s long-term feasibility, contributing to improvement.

Lipalesa Morake, senior programmes manager for strategic partnerships at Global Citizen, said sustainability is about being authentic, especially about climate change. Authenticity is a vital marketing currency and includes self-awareness and the willingness to make changes, she said. 

Malele said the JSE stood out as a notable brand which plays an important role in influencing all listed companies to become more transparent. To achieve this, it is providing guidelines on how to proactively report on issues of sustainability. 

For Thando Lukhele from the Junior Board of Directors, a standout brand driven by sustainability is Cotton On — given that it is supplying new clothes manufactured from recycled fabric. She said a company that acknowledges the needs of their country and acts transparently, is one worth supporting. 

Influencers play a key role in helping brands to communicate sustainability messages. Lukhele highlighted the impact SA influencer Kay Yarms had on Dawn skin care sales in January, when her unpaid post commending their product went viral. The post was seen as authentic and was trusted by her young followers.

Leemisa Tsolo, head of asset management at Attacq, said the firm is looking into a system which recycles clothes as part of their contribution to sustainability. The Mall of Africa, owned by Attacq, has won awards from the Green Building Council of SA for its environmental practices. Rainwater harvesting, renewable energy from solar panels and waste recycling are part of the sustainability process. 

Quoting the proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together,” Tsolo said Attacq’s malls involve their employees and smaller tenant businesses in the sustainability process. 

Dillon Kahn, vice-president of Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Paramount International Studios and Creative Services Africa at Paramount Africa, said Comedy Central provided a platform for the youth to air their views — behind and in front of the camera. 

A culture squad representing Gen X, Y and Z knows about their audiences, chooses relevant topics and presents shows such as this year’s Beyond the Binary — Fluid Voices — stories which counteract bias. The audience provides feedback, keeping the content current and authentic. Kahn said boundaries were inevitably pushed and apologies were issued for any offence caused unintentionally.

The next Sunday Times GenNext online dialogue, titled 'The significance of data and analytics in your youth marketing', will take place on June 30 at 1pm. For more information, or to register, click here.