Livio Dainese: "How do brands make me understand sustainability as a normal person and want to be part of it?"

Wirz launches a competence center for sustainability. The sparring partner is none other than the Institute for Marketing & Customer Insight at the University of St.Gallen. talks to Livio Dainese from Wirz and Prof. Dr. Johanna Gollnhofer from the HSG about the "how" in sustainability communication.

Prof. Dr. Johanna Gollnhofer from HSG and Livio Dainese from Wirz. Why is Wirz launching the Competence Center for Sustainability?

Livio Dainese:  We are basically more of a silent agency. We prefer to do. But since we have already done a lot in the field of sustainability communication, we know about the uncertainty of companies regarding the "how". The public eye rightly looks critically at products, offers and services that write sustainability on their foreheads.

How did the collaboration with HSG come about?

Prof. Dr. Johanna Gollnhofer: We act as a sparring partner. As a university, we do not, of course, offer any consulting or services, but we help to give the topic a sound, theoretical foundation. We benefit from the agency's know-how and Wirz can theoretically support its workshops on sustainability communication. We are working with Wirz on a study on the topic that will be published next year.

So what are the biggest sustainability challenges that customers face?

Dainese: A company has to make a choice. They often put on clothes that don't fit them perfectly. Consumers see that immediately and then the company is not credible. Only ruthless honesty can help. That's where we help.

Gollnhofer: It is always a process. What company is 100 percent sustainable? But if my consumers believe that I'm making a sustainable effort, then they view it positively. But if they don't believe me, then they quickly accuse me of greenwashing. It all hinges on this pivotal point of credibility.

Gollnhofer: You also have to ask yourself what is relevant for my target group. Sustainability is a word that everyone defines differently. For some, sustainability means animal welfare. For others, sustainability is more about production chains. Customers have to ask themselves, what are the sustainability goals that fit well with my brand and are also relevant to my target segment? It's about breaking down the abstract word into something concrete.

Is the topic of sustainability still on the corporate agenda? At the moment, completely different topics dominate reality.

Dainese:  Of course, the focus has shifted at the moment. You can see that. But the commitment remains. Personally, it's incredibly important to me that we all keep at it. There will always be crises, without minimizing the current situation, but that can't exempt us from taking action.

Let's come back to the Wirz Competence Center? What do you offer customers with it?

Dainese: On the one hand, we offer workshops where you learn how you can, want and should position yourself. That's a crucial foundation, but positioning alone doesn't move anything. We can also provide the communication. This is where we make the difference, because we know exactly what works out there and, above all, what messages and tonality the target groups respond to.

AK: How do you feel about the word sustainability?

Dainese: The word is omnipresent and means everything or nothing. I think the big difficulty in communication is how do you talk about sustainability without it seeming heavy and giving people a guilty conscience? That's the big task of communication, to get across the essence of what the brand wants to say so that I, as a normal person, understand it and want to participate.

Gollnhofer: I agree. Sustainability is transported seriously and with difficulty. And we all know how to motivate people. Through lightness, through wit, through fun. I have the feeling that brands often lack the courage to approach the whole thing in a more playful way.

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