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Speaking of SiLC | The Marketing Store's Pamela Stathaki to talk "A Brave New World"

Mon 25 Apr 2022 | 02:31 pm GMT
Rob Hutchins | Products of Change Writer

The Marketing Store's Pamela Stathaki will be presenting Brave New World: The Rising Challenge of Sustainable Messaging at SiLC this June

If you don’t already recognise The Marketing Store’s global head of sustainability, Pamela Stathaki as somewhat sustainability sector royalty, you soon will. A qualified chemical engineer and multi award-winning industry executive, Pamela boasts a CV that acts as a who’s who of sustainable development in the big brand space. Working with names that include Dyson, McDonald’s, and GSK, Pamela has acted to strengthen the sustainability practices within the output and development of some the world’s biggest names in consumer brands. An expert in making the ambitious achievable for her clients, and in her ten years working in the field of sustainability, Pamela has pretty much seen it all. It’s why Products of Change couldn’t be more excited to welcome Pamela to the Sustainability in Licensing Conference stage this summer, where she will deliver a not-to-be-missed presentation titled, Brave New World: The Rising Challenge of Sustainability Messaging. But June 22 is still too far away, so we had a quick catch up with Pamela ahead of the event to learn a little bit more… Hello Pamela, we are incredibly excited that you and The Marketing Store will be joining us for the Sustainability in Licensing Conference this year, where you’ll be navigating the waters of the Green Claims Code and how to avoid greenwashing. To kick us off, could you give us a recap of what The Marketing Store does and the work you are recognised for? Of course. The Marketing Store is a global customer engagement agency. We create custom, next generation brand experiences and products that captivate, engage and spark action among our customers. We do this online, through mobile, ecommerce and social, in-store through retail experience, brand identity, and packaging. And at the moment, through experiential and activation. Our clients include McDonald’s, Nissan, Adidas, and T-Mobile, and we are incredibly proud of the long-term engagements we have with these partners.
The Marketing Store has worked on campaigns such as O2's Go Green initiative.
And within that, you are the global head of sustainability, which must be an incredibly exciting and interesting role to have! Can you talk us through your job, your relationship with sustainability, and what led you to this point?  I joined The Marketing Store as global head of sustainability in August 2019. Initially, my key focus was working with our client to agree on a sustainability strategy and goal that is not only ambitious but achievable. In order to make the client’s ambition a reality, I work closely with TMS’ researchers, developers, engineers, designers, and suppliers to find the right sustainable solution for the firm’s toys. Our target group for our toys is families and children, so we have an additional responsibility to think about the future world we will be creating with the choices we make today. My role has expanded to support the sustainability credentials of other products the agency develops, as well as kick-off The Marketing Store’s corporate sustainability initiatives and strategy. This has led to TMS receiving the Planet Mark certification two consecutive years and winning Planet Marks 2021 Carbon Reduction by Intensity. I have always been interested in sustainability from an early age, in the broader sense as I have always loved spending time in nature. However, from a professional perspective my first real pull came to me when I was studying Chemical Engineering and later during my post-grad Environmental Management degree through courses which focused on environmental engineering and renewable energy. I have been working in sustainability for over 10 years and have worked in international brands such as Dyson, Ernst & Young and GlaxoSmithKline. Lastly, I have been externally recognised for my passion.  I won Planet Mark's "Sustainability Influencer" 2021 award and was edie's "Sustainability Leader of the Year" 2021 award finalist. I also made the World's 100 'Top Influencers' in Mojo Nation's 2021 list for toy & game design. Specifically, due to my influence in sustainable design in my short tenure I was highlighted as a 'Rising Star' in the Design Champion category. We love the stat that 80 per cent of a product’s environmental impact is determined at design phase as it places so much importance on innovating from the ground up, before everything or anything else happens. What does this stat mean to The Marketing Store and the work you do - often with major, global clients? Sustainability thinking has been embedded throughout our design process. This means that right from the beginning of the design process, the concept phase of the design our designers consider the overall sustainability goal and its definition which we have agreed on with the client. Elements that are considered are selecting sustainable materials, sustainable design, and recoverability. For us to be successful by delivering fun, safe, and sustainable toys our design team uses a lot of creativity and continuously improve their sustainability knowledge through internal training. What do you typically look to first when designing sustainability into a product or brand? Can you talk us through some of the biggest successes you’ve seen to date - is it perhaps your incredible work with McDonalds?  Designing sustainability in products is complex and multi-layered, therefore we take a very scientific approach. We have conducted a series of detailed Life Cycle Assessments for our toys and understand for which part of the products’ lifecycle is the highest environmental impact. We do not only consider carbon impact in our assessments but take a much broader approach such as water usage, land usage and ethical sourcing. Based on the research conducted, the biggest impact for most categories is the material selection. Therefore, we are continuously investigating new sustainable and innovative materials that we can use for our toys. This is one of the main reasons we are seeing a shift of our toys from virgin plastic to paper. Our designs team has done some amazing work in innovating by using paper which makes me excited about what the future holds. One of our biggest recent successes is giving cold cups a new life by turning them into Happy Meal® books. In February, McDonald's customers in Germany received one of seven children’s books made up of 40 per cent recycled cold cup materials with stories focused on the environment and nature. This innovative Happy Meal® is not only the first of its kind but an important means of promoting closed-loop recycling to give used material a unique second life. With this circular innovation, we utilised materials that potentially would have been recycled into producing single use or disposable products, such as paper towels, and transformed them into Happy Meal® books that can be enjoyed time and time again before being passed on, creating a long-lasting product.
The Marketing Store utilised materials that would otherwise have been recycled into single use or disposable products, such as paper towels, and transformed them into Happy Meal® books.
You’ll be talking us through the Green Claims Code and greenwashing at SILC this year. Obviously, we don’t want to give it all away ahead of the show, but can you offer us a snapshot of your relationship with this topic? Sustainability has changed drastically since I started my career over 10 years ago; in the level of maturity brands are developing, in consumers’ demands for brands to do more, in sustainable solutions and technology, in governmental sustainability-focused legislation, as well as communicating all these new initiatives. Sustainability messaging is just as complex as the topic of sustainability itself which is why it is not easy to get it right. I have made mistakes in this space myself. I am not perfect in this space, but I am continuously aiming to improve how I communicate sustainability and get it right. The main mentality shift for sustainability messaging has been that it is no longer a hygiene factor or something “nice to have”. It has now become a priority and customers are making purchase decisions based upon it. Specifically, 45 per cent of Gen Z stopped purchasing certain brands because of ethical or sustainability concerns. Sustainability messaging is quite tricky and risky because if you get it wrong and end up greenwashing it is difficult to gain back customer loyalty and trust. It’s why I strongly believe that sustainability messaging should not be the responsibility of just one team. Experts and stakeholders from various backgrounds should work together to get it right such as sustainability professionals, marketers, communication experts, PR, and legal professionals. How switched on are consumers becoming to greenwashing?  I would say that most consumers are not aware of the term ‘greenwashing’ which I will further dissect in my presentation during the conference. From experience, when I do speak to an audience of non-sustainability professionals and refer to this term, I do get quite a few blank faces. However, many are aware of the results of greenwashing and all of us have probably been victims of it. Unfortunately, based on the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network’s (ICPEN) investigation of 500 websites, it was found that 40 per cent were posting misleading environmental information. It is extremely difficult for consumers to understand if they are being victims of greenwashing. Therefore, it is not surprising that 43 per cent of consumers believe that companies make it hard to choose sustainable options. Deciphering sustainability messaging should not fall within the consumers’ responsibility. Clear and honest sustainability messaging should part of a wider sustainability brand strategy. What do you think the future holds for consumers, brands, and sustainability/ net positive or even regenerative business? If I need to summarise the future in one word, it would be “change”. But then again, there is no other constant in life other than change. Since the coronavirus pandemic we have seen a huge shift in sustainability such as less travel, shopping local, buying more sustainable products. With the “Black Lives Matter” movement we are seeing brands focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion internally and externally. Currently, with the war in the Ukraine, we are seeing brands taking a stance on political topics and focussing on charitable and humanitarian initiatives. These devastating global crises show us that the brands that will prosper are the ones that focus on “Purpose & Impact” but is much broader than just sustainability. As Simon Sinek mentions in his book, “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” This is even more relevant following global life changing crises we are experiencing.
  • Consumers are re-prioritising what is important for them. Therefore, organisations will also need to adapt to these changes as consumers demand and expect more. During the pandemic consumers’ views on sustainability were reinforced. People all over the world are expressing an appetite for change and looking at brands for these changes. Specifically, 88 per cent of consumers want brands to help them make a difference.
  • Shareholders:Senior executives of investing firms agree that ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance) is on top of mind. This is highlighted in Larry Fink’s (CEO of Blackrock) letter to CEOs in 2022 “Putting your company’s purpose at the foundation of your relationships with your stakeholders is critical to long-term success.”
  • Employees:We hear often from leaders that our most important resource are people. That is very true. Therefore, it is important to not only attract but maintain talent. One of the main attraction points for employees is working for a purposeful brand. Climate change, human rights and social equity are all issues of growing importance, especially for millennial employees, who now make up the majority of the workforce. These internal demands for climate-positive action are forcing a transformation of workplace culture. We are seeing this shift in Gen Z talent as 49 per cent of Gen Z will work for purpose drive company
  • Purposeful Brands: COP26 which took place in Glasgow in November 2021 was at the centre of the sustainability world with a key focus on Climate Change and Net Zero goals. The impact of climate change is seen as a real risk for businesses therefore large corporations are increasingly pledging to bring their GHG as close to zero by 2050. At this point, only a fifth of the world’s largest companies have committed to Net Zero target. This is a positive move, but still not enough to meet the 1.5 degrees limit. These commitments along with consumer interest have created opportunities for new innovations, business ideas or new business models such as a moving towards renewable electricity, recyclable packaging, less usage of virgin fossil fuel-based plastic and circularity innovations (refillable stations or new leasing models for furniture and clothes). Therefore, it is no surprise that we are seeing that many purpose-driven brands made in on TIME’s 2022 Most Influential Companies. I expect in the future we will see an increase of corporations setting Net Zero target, new sustainable innovations to support meeting such goals and an increase of Net Positive commitments which focus on restoring the planet’s natural environment and regenerating biodiversity.
Pamela (left) collects her Planet Mark award and prepares to introduce The Marketing Store's Better Future Blueprint later this year.
Pamela, not only has this been an extremely insightful chat, it’s got us (if possible) even more geared up for the Sustainability in Licensing Conference this summer, and your presentation! We can’t wait. Before we let you get back to your important work, is there anything you might be able to tease us with - upcoming projects for The Marketing Store you’re excited about right now? Or anything you’d like to shout about? Last year we made a tremendous amount of progress on our corporate sustainability strategy. Our parent company, HAVI, created a Sustainability Committee with stakeholders from different business units to update the strategy which is called the Better Future Blueprint. The strategy does not only focus on sustainability, but it has a holistic approach which defines our purpose and multiplies our positive impact. It consists of four main pillars: People & Communities, Planet, Invention and Collaboration. Being a member of the committee was a really fulfilling experience and I am excited to share that there will be more in this space as we will be announcing our ambitious targets soon! Pamela Stathaki’s presentation Brave New World: The Rising Challenge of Sustainability Messaging will take place at 3pm on 22 June, 2022 at the Sustainability in Licensing Conference at The Royal Geographical Society in central London. Book your tickets to see Pamela and the rest of the line-up in action here.
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