In the twentieth century, marketing became a new driver of change in society. Beyond the awareness that the products we consume are marketed to us; we should also be aware that marketing processes also determine the political leaders we choose, where we invest our savings, where we go to learn, whether we take care of our own health or support a range of social initiatives. At the same time, fairly traded products have been one of the great recent success stories in marketing. The term fair trade was created in 1985 by author Michael Barratt Brown. Fair Trade organizations moved away from selling handicrafts to focus on agricultural commodities and the difference that fair prices could make on the producer communities. The success of Fair Trade companies over the last 2 decades has partly been driven by the increasing sophistication of their marketing which instead of appealing just to consumers’ ethical values, sought to compete against mainstream competitors in terms of product quality, pricing and packaging.
Did you know that the average American consumes about 43 times as much as the average African? There is also very good evidence that the average cat in Europe has a larger environmental footprint in its lifetime than the average African. Given these statistics, one may think that the issue of sustainability concerns the developed nations and has nothing to do with us here in Africa. However we are among the people most vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as floods, extreme storms and droughts. Africans are also among those least responsible for climate change. There is therefore need for us to change the way we think about sustainability.
Corporate Africa is best placed to pioneer this process. Companies in the developed countries are now considering sustainability as a way of business creation and innovation, and a catalyst for change.