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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Issue Advertising and the Role of the Sustainability Officer

In the DC Metro earlier this week , I saw the adverts that Marc Gunther refers to in his excellent blog post, Washington’s Coal Wars. Marc describes the advertising wars between the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) and the ‘This is Reality’ coalition. These adverts add another category to the intersection between corporate sustainability and advertising. In this case ‘issue advertising’.

In these issue-based situations, the company or trade association wants to articulate the best possible sustainability perspective on its commercial position. The activist organization, ‘This is Reality’ coalition, wants to present the strongest possible sustainability counter arguments. And hopefully government is the honest arbiter, making decisions based on the best overall interests of the country.

What is the role of the corporate sustainability officer in these issue-based debates and within the context of our adversarial-based decision making system?

Some sustainability professionals are drawn to the social justice component of the role –while others perhaps want to be honest brokers and take an arbitration position. Many other sustainability departments sit within marketing or government affairs, suggesting more of a role of acting as a checkpoint and helping articulate the best sustainability position possible. In practice, I am sure that most of us have some of each in our role. Going further in defining the answer to this question will contribute significantly to external recognition of what it means to be a sustainability professional.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Kevin! Great article. I believe that the role of a sustainability officer is to help a company achieve its sustainability strategy (ideally aligned to its business strategy). Companies vary in their approach to sustainability and consequently the role of a sustainability officer. If sustainability officers had to follow a legally binding code, it could affect their role within corporations and not always for the best.