Having a good product is no longer enough to win the purchasing power of young people. Post pandemic, brands that are seen to support sustainability in meaningful ways are those that are supported and promoted by the youth.

An online Sunday Times GenNext discussion, in partnership with Yellowwood, Gautrain, Brand South Africa, Pin Pop and Cliff Central discussed how brands can successfully integrate sustainability solutions into their business operations in order to appeal to younger generations.

Tshepiso Malele, acting country head of China at Brand South Africa, defined sustainability as the way to achieve business objectives while ensuring that there is long-term feasibility, contributing to improvement.

For Lipalesa Morake, senior programmes manager for strategic partnerships at Global Citizen, sustainability is about being authentic, especially around climate change. Authenticity is a key marketing currency and includes self-awareness and the willingness to make changes.

Malele agreed, saying the brand that stood out for him in this regard is the Johannesburg Stock Exchange which is playing an important role influencing all listed companies to become more transparent. To achieve this it is providing guidelines on how to pro-actively report on issues of sustainability.

For Thando Lukhele from the Junior Board of Directors, a stand-out brand in terms of sustainability is Cotton On given that it is supplying new clothes manufactured from recycled fabric. For her, a company that knows the country they’re in, acknowledges the needs of that country and acts transparently is one that is worth supporting.

Influencers pay a key role in helping brands to communicate sustainability messages. Lukhele pointed out the effect influencer Kay Yarms had on Dawn skin care sales in January, saying that the unpaid posts were seen as authentic and were trusted by her young followers.

Leemisa Tsolo, head of asset management at Attacq Limited, revealed that the firm is looking into a system which recycles clothes as part of their contribution to sustainability. The Mall of Africa, owned by Attacq Ltd, has won awards from the Green Building Council of SA for its environmental practices. Rainwater harvesting, renewable energy from solar panels and waste recycling are part of the sustainability process.

Quoting the proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”, Tsolo revealed that Attacq’s malls have involved both their employees and smaller tenant businesses in the sustainability process.

On how to appeal specifically to the youth on sustainability issues, Dillon Kahn, vice president of Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Paramount International Studios and Creative Services Africa at Paramount Africa, said that Comedy Central provides a platform for the youth to air their views, both behind and in front of the camera. A culture squad representing Gen X, Y and Z knows about their audiences, chooses relevant topics and presents shows such as this year’s ‘Beyond the Binary- Fluid Voices’: stories which counteract bias. The audiences in turn provide feedback, keeping the content current and authentic. Boundaries are inevitably pushed, said Kahn, and apologies issued for any offence caused unintentionally.

Brands that successfully market a sustainability message to the younger generation tend to be authentic, transparent and open to youth culture, concluded Morake.

The next Sunday Times GenNext online dialogue, The significance of data and analytics in your youth marketing, will take place on June 30 at 1pm. For more information, or to register, click here.

About Sunday Times GenNext

Now in its 18th year, Sunday Times GenNext is the leading youth-focused brand preference and consumer behaviour survey and event in SA.

Based on the result of this survey, powered by Yellowwood, the brands voted as “SA’s coolest” will be announced and celebrated during the annual Sunday Times GenNext Awards. Taking place on September 16, this year’s highly-anticipated awards ceremony will be a hybrid affair.

In an interactive showcase on September 15, 300 young people will gather to engage with brands through displays, activations and competitions at the Empire Conference & Events Venue in Parktown, Johannesburg. Should you be interested in showcasing your brand at this event, email Cortney Hoyland at hoylandc@arena.africa

Sunday Times GenNext would not be possible without the brand’s valued partners: the Gautrain Management Agency, Brand SA, Pin Pop and Cliff Central.