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Cannes Lions: Havas’ Greg James on how companies can take firmer action on sustainability

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Greg James, Chief Transformation Officer at Havas Media Group talks to Euronews Next
Greg James, Chief Transformation Officer at Havas Media Group talks to Euronews Next   -   Copyright  Euronews
By Annabel Murphy  & Oleksandra Vakulina

“If you're not aligning purpose to profit, then you're probably not going to be as profitable,” said Greg James.

“I think that purpose piece has to play a bigger role, and it's helping in many cases, increase margins”.

Speaking to Euronews Next at the 100 per cent recyclable Havas café at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, the Chief Transformation Officer at Havas Media Group shared why brands need to make sustainability and purpose a business imperative.

Sustainability is fast giving companies in many industries a competitive advantage meaning they no longer need to prioritise profit over conscience, or vice versa.

“We used to think that it was millennials and Gen Z that just cared about what sustainability meant - every kind of consumer now is more conscious,” James said.

So, how can leaders position their brand more sustainably? It’s about doing what you say and saying what you do, according to James.

“Everything needs to be backed by action”

What does that mean in practice? Showing that you care about the impact your business has on the world around it.

Brands need to approach sustainability “holistically,” James believes, taking into consideration all stakeholders that a brand connects with including people and planet.

“It’s sustainability with a capital S. We need to be thinking more holistically and every business now I think, thankfully, has begun to take that more seriously in how they act on behalf of customers and how they act on behalf of anybody else the business impacts,” he said.

“Brands need to make a meaningful difference”

Not only do brands need to step up in terms of their sustainable impact, but they also need to make “a meaningful difference” in the lives of their customers and society more broadly through behaviours and actions, James added.

Increasingly brands are taking these responsibilities seriously by responding, for instance, to world events such as war, environmental catastrophes or social injustices with messages of support or action.

This set of behaviours and sense of brand accountability is what James describes as “long-term sustainable brand value” and is much broader than the role of a brand in the past.

“Brands have a role in terms of the personal, collective and functional benefits they bring to people. So functionally a brand or a business has to deliver the goods,” he said.

“It also must think about the well-being of that consumer or that family. And then on top of that, collectively speaking, what's its role in the world? I think that is more true today than it's ever been before”.

For more on this story, watch an edited version of the full interview in the media player for comments on e-commerce innovation.