• BBaier

Sustainability & Growth Ad World 2021 talk.

Hello all, today I will share content with you from a talk I recently conduced at Ad World 2021. It was a great experience to be speaker at the event. To quote the organizers: "This was another record-breaking year for the books with 53,721 attendees, 4,163 companies, 166 countries, and 151,566 (17 years 110 days) hours of content streamed so far. Couldn’t have done it without you!" 💪🏼✌🏼

I will be talking to you about the value of purpose - for individuals, companies and organizations. How sustainability fits into all of this, and how brands respond to a future of conscious consumption at scale while developing their purpose-driven ecosystem often with the power of meaningful partnerships. And why? Because we all know that the motto faster, higher, further no longer works and is no longer sufficient as a motto.

We all live in a time of constant change,

disruption and technological developments like AI, IOT, big data to name a few that are faster and more complex than ever before. And now we have to deal with the countless challenges posed by COVID-19. In times like this a sense of purpose grows in its significance and is an important psychological resource for people of all ages to develop and/or recruit during this crisis.


Before I deep dive let’s take a few moments on a few definitions on what some call buzzwords to ensure we are all on the same page:

- Purpose is the reason for which something is done, created or for which something exists.

- Company purpose is a bold affirmation of its reason for being in business. Purpose is not do-gooding.

- Sustainability simply means the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.

- Sustainability in the business context is a business approach to creating long-term value by taking into consideration how a given organization operates in the ecological, social and economic environment. Sustainability is built on the assumption that developing such strategies foster company longevity.


The understanding and meaning of purpose has changed for many humans purpose is defined as a personally meaningful, relatively firm intention that guides behavior, is characterized by active engagement, and contributes to the world beyond oneself (Damon et al., 2003). The discussion of purpose has a decades-long history in existential and humanistic psychology. In short, it is said that people are generally psychologically and physically healthier when they have a meaningful reason to live and ways to contribute to the world beyond themselves. Given the benefits of having a sense of purpose, there has been an increasing interest in understanding the development of purpose. COVID-19 has undoubtedly brought a disruption in routine and feelings of fear and uncertainty to many people’s lives. For youth—and adults—who are still developing a sense of purpose, engaging in goal-directed action may be one way to manage these challenging feelings and actively cope with stress. Questions like: What needs do I see in the world? What are my values, and how are they related to my experience of COVID-19? What strengths and skills do I have or want to develop to help address the needs I have observed? Which company do I want to work for that shares my values and contributes to the greater good…. Just to name a few.


Purpose in a corporate context increasingly plays a role for companies and brands. Especially that employees, consumers and shareholders exert more pressure. In a business context purpose charges the mission, the mission statement and the vision with a common good reference. A company purpose has its origin. There is no future without a heritage. Deutsche Bank, Ford or Bayer cannot simply change their purpose. Because it has grown historically. According to Harvard Business Manager found that only 28 percent of employees feel connected to their company's Purpose which is a problem from my point of view.

In Europe purpose has tradition and is anchored through medium-sized companies. It’s in their DNA and seen by many as Europe's few real competitive advantages. The entrepreneurship, the SMEs and the many family businesses have always had the self-image of also being useful to society rather than just to shareholders.


Surely but slowly we are moving away from a world in where most sustainability reports tend to be PR activities, with little connection to the core business. Fact is, that we run a global economy that is using resources at 1.5 times the regeneration capacity of our planet. The long-believed attitude that sustainability is a source of problems is shifting to a source of opportunity. Some companies and brands are already more advanced than others.

According to Otto Scharmer there are 5 stages in which we can define development levels:

1) Alleviating projects- old style corporate responsibility

2) Making sustainability part of the organizational practices – sustainability is turned into a real thing,

3) Making sustainability part of business innovation – sustainability begins to be reframed from a problem to an opportunity

4) Creating an organizational culture of sustainability – connect sustainability of more than just elements of the core business.

5) Creating a purpose driven ecosystem and organization – purpose let organization with primary focus positive and environmental impact and also operating a necessary level of profitability.

Sustainability can therefore be seen as a game changer, to the extent that not only regulation, but also conduct guidelines and ethical standards operate as constraints on the behaviour of enterprises and their pursuit of profits.

  • People are much more likely to choose an employer if there is a purpose there that actually benefits society. In return, they are increasingly willing to forego salary. Such questions also play a more important role in purchasing decisions. Today, companies can no longer avoid linking profit orientation to a purpose.

  • It affects not only Generation Y, but all age groups and also managers themselves. (Harvard Business Interview)

BRANDS / TRENDS (Trendbook 2021)

- Ethical Brands - The continually growing number of cause-washing cases has led to corporate social responsibility losing its effect. Consumers no longer trust the contrived goodwill of large companies. In an attempt to maneuvre themselves into more credible positions, such companies are now holding a mirror up to society in general. They promote the kind of values and standards that most people would agree with, such as environmentally-friendly consumption, to pave the way towards a better world, while marketing their services as a step in the right direction. Start-ups are also increasingly investing in new products with a social mission. The emotional touch in the new brand message is crucial here: the more deeply the consumers are affected, the greater their identification will be. In this way, brands act on the general public political positions and establish themselves as moral authorities.

- Circular Economy: 3.5 million tons of waste are produced around the world every day and this figure is predicted to almost double by 2025. The aim of the circular economy is to no longer allow products to become waste after their use and, instead, reintroduce them into the production cycle as secondary raw materials.

The cycle begins with a proper yet uncomplicated form of recycling and ends with waste mining. Products made up of secondary materials can then be actively sought – ranging from leftover food to buildings with integrated scrap tires. Closing off material cycles is not only positive for the environment. Resource-intense industries also profit from the reprocessing of valuable raw materials.

- Clean Tech: Clean tech refers to ecologically clean technologies and methods that help to reduce emissions and spare resources. The driving forces behind the clean tech economy are the growing ecological awareness, the economic desire to achieve a boost in efficiency and the political will to regulate CO2.

Concrete clean tech applications include solutions for saving energy, for independently harvesting energy from renewable energies, for storing energy, for processing technologies to avoid or reduce air, water and land pollution, and for sustainable mobility. The aim of clean tech is the complete avoidance of emissions: Environmentally-friendly bitcoin mining (Hydro Miner).

- Ethical Consumption - Our own form of personal consumption has become a distinguishing characteristic. Consumers increasingly rate the range of products according to moral considerations: products should be vegan, produced fairly and be as emission-free as possible. This development is strengthened by the knowledge that individual purchasing decisions can have a long-lasting influence on the range of goods on offer.

However, it is not always easy to live an ecologically sustainable and resource-friendly life. Apps and