Glenmorangie’s shows us how “sustainability” should be done!
Since sustainability is easily one of the most over-used and mis-used words in business today, I wanted to share an initiative I believe is spot-on and a great example of how businesses should be focusing on, working with and talking about sustainability. I truly believe the business of business is business, and hate the blatant green-washing that is constantly going on, so I am not making a moral judgement about the role of business. This is simply some inspiration and a guide for companies that are serious about making a difference.
Restoring the sea…
As part of its ongoing DEEP environmental program, the Glenmorangie distillery will restore the oyster population and reefs in Scotland’s Dornoch Firth bay by introducing 20,000 oysters into the sea next to its factory, where the reefs were overfished and are now extinct. This builds on their previous sustainable efforts around water, recycling old casks into luxury surf boards. You can see more about it here:
Why this initiative stands out:
- Impact beyond CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility or “minimising negative impact” is the minimum level consumers expect. Noone gets a business advantage from just CSR reports. Glenmorangie focuses on water (the main ingredient in whisky), having previously transformed old disposable oak caskets into surfboards. Cleaning the sea and restoring reefs is a worthy cause and each initiative builds a positive impact.
- Authentically aligned to the business operations – Finding a big cause is one thing, but tying it to the effects of your business makes it so much stronger. Oysters help to clean the 5% of the distillery’s waste water that isn’t purified by its Anaerobic Digestion plant. It creates a sense of responsibility, a company that cares and takes its impact on the environment seriously. It’s also a great story to tell!
- Builds the brand heritage – Glenmorangie’s product and heritage is so Scottish! You can imagine the cold Scottish sea and the sense of community around this distillery (even if it is owned by multi-national LVMH). The idea of oysters cleaning the cold Scottish sea creates a sense of unique “terroir” and premium single malt whisky.
- Uses partnership as innovation – DEEP is a partnership between Glenmorangie, Heriot Watt University and the Marine Conservation Society. Each of these organisations have a connection to the Scottish see with distinct goals but would struggle to make an impact individually. Together, they build on each other’s expertise and credibility to make a real impact.
- Ties back to the business – The initiative will be funded partially through sales of a special-edition whisky, Glenmorangie Dornoch, with DEEP receiving a portion of the sales. After hearing this story, which brand do you think will stand out from the shelf, next time the Single Malt lover is in store?
Being Brave means having a longer term vision, and choosing a cause where you can go beyond damage limitation and actually deliver a positive impact. Instead of simply minimising the damage the company creates through an expected CSR initiative, Glenmorangie truly integrates the positive cause into their business operations, brand story and even revenue model. Not only does this have an objectively positive effect but since it is part of the business, it is much more likely to be invested in and included in brand communication, ie seen as an investment, not just a cost.
This is not always the case for business, for example choosing a more expensive ethical supplier or reducing production emissions – these choices are a necessary cost but unless they are integrated into a bigger vision or aligned to your brand story, will be very hard to communicate positively around.
Being a responsible business that simply minimises its environmental, social or health damage is the bare minimum expected by more and more conscious customers.
Now you could say the Glenmorangie initiative is only possible because they’ve already done a lot of the essential CSR work or because they have a lot of money from LVMH, but so what? The principles of why this is a great cause are still valid and there is a lot to learn from it…
How to pick your cause
Before you pick a cause to support, here’s a simple checklist for you to assess your sustainability intiatives:
- Does this initiative create a lasting positive impact beyond my business rather than simply reducing the damage created by my business?
- Is this initiative true to my whole brand and natural for my business to talk about?
- Is this initiative interesting and newsworthy?
- Are there new partnerships or innovative models that could be used to make this initiative happen?
- Can I connect the initiative to a source of income? ie do I see a potential business return on the investment?
In the current economic system we live in, whether we like it or not, businesses do not have a moral duty to be environmentally or socially sustainable. In the near future, scarcity of resources, more informed employees or conscious consumers and government policy such as carbon tax or plastic bans will hopefully force companies to act more sustainably. In the mean time, the brave companies that are willing to not only reduce the damage created by their business but also take a longterm view and make a positive impact, will be rewarded with higher awareness and more loyal customers. For example, Iceland is the first UK supermarket to remove all palm oil in their own brand products, and last week launched an ad with Greenpeace, which was banned and went viral. Over the past week, Iceland’s consideration among consumers in the supermarket sector has shot up 5.9 points to a score of 21.6, the highest increase of any retailer on YouGov BrandIndex.