Marketing Driving More Sustainable Growth.

On June 1st and 2nd, I attended the annual UN Global Compact Leaders Summit. The event brought together UN global leaders and stakeholders – governments, businesses, and civil society – live and virtual as in 2021. The overall objective of the summit was to allow participants to take stock of progress on the SDGs and identify priorities for knowledge, resources and financing in the coming years. 

The event ran continuously for over 24 hours with a session dedicated to marketing scheduled at midnight Paris time (I must confess I watched the replay video!). I found the session quite interesting so here is a summary. 

For about 50 minutes, Marc de Swaan Arons, co-founder of the Institute for Real Growth, asked world-renowned marketing experts to speak about the power of marketing for more sustainable growth. The panel was including:

  • Andisa Ntsubane, CMO Council Board Member, Africa marketer of the year 2022 and IRG Humanized Growth Champion for 2021;
  • Silvia Lagnado, Chief Sustainable Growth Officer, Natura & Co;
  • Antonio Lucio, Founder 5sdiversity, Former CMO of Meta, HP and Visa;
  • Connie Braams, Chief Digital and Commercial Officer, Unilever, WFA Marketer of the Year 2022;
  • Professor Andrew Stephen, L’Oreal Professor of Marketing, Associate Dean of Research, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.


The business environment has changed significantly following the pandemic.

  • The COVID has encouraged collaboration, pushed for faster decision-making and forced companies to go above and beyond. On a more personal level, it has caused the panelists to reflect and better align their business practices with their personal aspirations. 
  • On a more macro level, the pandemic has accelerated the shift in the purpose of business from shareholder profit to creating value for all stakeholders: colleagues, customers, the community and the financial markets.

Consumer, citizen and employee expectations and behaviors have changed as a result of the pandemic.

  • Consumers have taken stock of their lives and re-evaluated their priorities. Social and environmental dimensions have become more important. 
  • There is a rise of a more cautious and considerate consumption. Consumers are buying products for their value due to inflation, but they are also considering their values. 
  • Stakeholder demands are increasingly aligned with ESG criteria: environmental sustainability, social justice, governance. 
  • Social movements in favor of diversity and inclusion, against gender-based violence or police brutality, have gained visibility and importance. 
  • People are taking a stand and expecting brands to do the same. Marketers need to be more empathetic to their stakeholders and embed sustainability into marketing.
  • In parallel, employees’ expectations have changed in terms of flexibility in the work environment, and they also expect companies to put more focus on their mental well-being. 
  • Meanwhile, digital consumption has grown during the pandemic. It is an enduring phenomenon that is fundamentally changing the way people live, play, and buy. 
  • New ways of building brands and converting them into sales are emerging. It is transforming business and marketing models and evolving marketing mixes.

Winning organizations are agents of change in areas of social justice and environmental sustainability

  • In the wake of the pandemic, people trust businesses (and NGOs) more than leaders and official institutions (Edelman study). Companies must be agents of change in social and environmental areas that matter to consumers, but also to citizens and employees. 
  • The issues go beyond business. Companies are faced with existential questions: who are we? what is our role? what society do we want to build? what are the values that define us?
  • What winning organizations do differently: take the lead; collaborate much more; empathize with their stakeholders (employees and customers); connect the business to the Sustainable Development Goals; help solve social problems; adhere to values to build trust; deliver a unique and contextually relevant brand experience; create a strong employer brand; and are able to anticipate stakeholder needs and align the internal organization to meet those needs.

In the new reality, marketing leaders are taking action and collaborating to solve problems in their industries and in the world

  • The new reality requires collective action, and marketing must step up and play its part. 
  • Marketing cannot be separated from strategy, finance, supply chain, customer experience, and other business activities. Marketers must collaborate better internally. 
  • What marketing leaders do differently: turn ideals into action; take into account the needs of internal and external stakeholders; unite everyone around the customer and the company’s purpose; play a larger role in their organizations and have more influence on the c-suite; create an atmosphere and work environment where employees are more productive and better connected; collaborate with their peers to advance the world’s agenda; demonstrate empathy with their stakeholders as well as with themselves; have a scientific yet humanistic approach; and share their results and demonstrate that having a purpose generates profit.


  • Be intentional and deliberate. Create the right context, environment and mood for others to thrive, but also to make marketing more meaningful (Andisa Ntsubane).
  • Find your ‘ikigai’, the intersection between your passion, your abilities and what the company needs (Silvia Lagnado).
  • Be empathetic to yourself, take care of yourself (Antonio Lucio).
  • Be optimistic, curious. Act and collaborate with other functions (HR, finance, …). Make sure the company meets the needs of the different stakeholders (Connie Braams).
  • See the big picture and imagine the macro forces that could disrupt us. Think more broadly and expansively (Andrew Stephen).


If the world can change due to a virus, it can change for good as well.” Connie Braams

We move into a time of collaborative advantage[vs. competitive advantage]. Silvia Lagnado

Brands who take leadership positions are able to connect the what to the why.” Andisa Ntsubane

Winning organizations […] are deeply empathetic about all the stakeholders that they serve, starting with their employees.” Antonio Lucio

Brands that are relevant with those [social and environmental] needs are going to do better. » Andrew Stephen

Link to original video: