Dominic Mason
Dominic Mason
Managing Director, Southeast Asia
Articles 4 min read
17 Feb 2023

Sustainability + Branding

The idea of sustainability branding as a concept may seem contentious. For some, it carries connotations of greenwashing. However, just as strategic branding involves far more than logos and taglines, sustainability branding involves embedding robust sustainability strategies into businesses guided by brand purpose. Aligning brands to create shared value through substantive actions and initiatives is about impacting beyond surface-level communications.

As corporate Vietnam seeks to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world, sustainability branding has a role to play. By thinking and going beyond CSR initiatives and ESG compliance, Vietnamese brands can build the capacity to endure.

How can Vietnamese companies achieve this?

Traditionally a brand is seen simply as a logo and a set of graphic elements. As such it is often left to the corporate communications or marketing department to manage these visual assets. A more holistic and strategic perspective of branding involves unifying the entire organisation through a shared purpose. This involves not just marketing and communication teams, but strategic planning functions, innovation experts, human resource departments, and sustainability champions.

Leveraging a brand’s purpose to inspire both internal and external audiences to play an active part of a company’s sustainability journey can help build and nurture an organisational culture of sustainability. Over time, this can change behaviours, create pathways to innovation, and help future-proof brands.

One opportunity is to think about making sustainability real for people beyond the content in annual and sustainability reports. This involves creating and delivering experiences that bring a brand’s purpose and sustainability strategy to life, making it relevant, meaningful, and enabling interaction and participation.

An example of a Vietnamese company that has worked towards this direction is the private equity fund manager Dragon Capital Group. Recognised for its commitment to improving corporate governance and creating shared value, Dragon Capital’s purpose is to champion sustainable development of the environment, society, and economy in Vietnam and in other countries through its responsible investment strategies and ESG management framework.

What are the steps towards sustainable brand development for Vietnamese companies?

1. Undertaking stakeholder engagement and a robust materiality assessment to focus on the issues that matter and to inform the strategic management of business risks.

2. Integrating business and sustainability strategies through the lens of branding to guide resource allocation, create meaningful experiences, and to help build a culture of sustainability

3. With global interest in sustainability at an all-time high, Vietnam’s corporate leaders must address sustainability and communicate their approach holistically and credibly to avoid accusations of ’greenwashing’.

Vietnam, as a young and dynamic country with an entrepreneurial culture and abundant resources, faces an opportunity to shape its story of sustainable development and shared growth.

Sustainability branding is really about shaping with substance rather than signalling on the surface.

The opportunity for Vietnam’s companies is to prove their brand purpose.

This article was first published in Sustainable Vietnam: A Focus on Sustainability, Partnerships, and Impact on 4 May 2022.

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