Because health is everything

Because health is everything

One of the best quotes I’ve ever heard about strategy is this:

Strategy is the stuff you say no to.

That’s exactly right. It’s so easy to say yes to all kinds of things in business … but being strategic requires saying no to many attractive-sounding options. When I decided after 12 years in business to focus our practice entirely on energy and the environment, it meant saying no to everything else. And at first it was really hard. What businessperson wants to say no to business? Eleven years later it’s clear the initial hardship was well worth it – we do far better work for better clients at a better profit than we did a decade ago.

A much better example of the power of no can be found in CVS. As most of you are probably aware, CVS said no to $2 billion in sales from cigarettes, a decision that went into effect about five weeks ago. I’m so excited about this move, and not just because we’ll all benefit from it. I’m excited because I live in a world where Sustainability VPs CONSTANTLY tell me, “If we’re really going to push sustainability, we’re going to have to prove the ROI. We’re going to have to show, in granular fashion, how this will immediately make us money in the short-term and the long-term. You know, the whole quarterly Wall Street reporting thing … if we can’t prove it makes money right away, we can’t get any time and money devoted to it.”

Yet CVS signed up for a sustainability strategy that will cost them billions initially.

Now, I’m betting some of you are saying to yourselves, “What? Health, you say? Health isn’t a sustainability strategy! And this is about business strategy, not sustainability strategy.”

My friends, they are one in the same. Our Eco Pulse research reveals year after year that health is the prime motivator for many American consumers to make more sustainable choices. In fact, the prime motivator for most Actives, the greenest consumer segment, to buy greener products is to protect their health and the health of their loved ones. And since most Americans haven’t fully locked in on their own definitions of sustainability, companies and brands are still in a position to define sustainability in a way that aligns with what the market cares about, what their brand stands for and what their internal culture will embrace. In essence, we all have an opportunity now to bake sustainability into the core value proposition of our companies and stake a market position on it.

Obviously, based on our ongoing polling, the market cares about health. And, obviously, it makes perfect sense for a pharmacy to align itself with health. I’m sure it took a while to get the internal culture to embrace that “if we give up $2 billion now, we’ll get it back 10-fold when we become America’s preferred health care provider.” But they did. And then they nailed it with their rebrand and their ad campaign, “Because health is everything,” which they use as a jumping off point to lay out all the ways in which they’re making better health accessible.

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Your company can do this, too.

I hope every VP of Sustainability everywhere forwarded an article about CVS’ decision to their CEOs.

And I hope every company everywhere follows suit and starts saying no. It’s truly the most strategic business/sustainability move we can all make.



Posted on

October 15, 2014

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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