It was fantastic to be back in person at the 2022 Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Global Summit – held in Dublin this year. We were there with our leadership team to host discussions with industry leaders, and our exhibition stand was front and centre of the Summit. We were delighted to meet with so many friends old and new, and showcase how PA is bringing ingenuity to life for our global clients.
It was a great opportunity to discuss the findings of our recent leadership research, exploring the ways of leading that make a tangible difference to the health and happiness of an organisation and wider society. We even collaborated with Olympic gold medallist Dr Anna Watkins MBE, OLY, to demonstrate the award-winning innovative rowing machine we designed and engineered with Hydrow.
As ever, this flagship industry event was thought-provoking, inspiring and energising. With ongoing global crises, the Summit’s 2022 theme of resilience and responsible growth opened up key discussions that went beyond survival alone. Our three main takeaways are:
Global crises are stressing food supply and amplifying issues of hunger around the world. Retailers and brands want to find ways to help solve this challenge, beyond passing the cost on to the consumer. The world's largest food brands and retailers are exploring the role they can and should be playing in averting widespread hunger.
Moreover, the industry recognises there’s a ‘crisis continuum’ – while constant change is often seen as the new normal, we’re now in a period where those changes present risk to human life. The need to be adaptive and agile is self-evident but productive disruption is more important than ever.
In recent years, the industry’s priorities have been around how to improve e-commerce, foster consumer loyalty and embed their products in the fabric of customers’ lives. Now, the questions brands and retailers are asking show bolder ambition. Leaders are asking how might their organisations have a positive impact on the health of their customers and their children. What might their role and responsibility be in equality of health outcomes and access? How does my brand’s very existence bring a net positive impact on the world? It was encouraging to hear from new voices too, with teenage activists from campaigning organisation Bite Back 2030 talking about the influence of social media and marketing in helping people make healthy food choices.
Brands and retailers are also thinking bigger in terms of collaboration. They’re looking for ways to generate productive disruption outside their own company, their own industry and their own geography, in particular by digitising their systems to enable the sharing of valuable data across entire ecosystems
The challenges faced by brands and retailers are complex and systems-based. There’s no simple answer. Instead a more likely outcome is a portfolio of solutions involved in achieving sustainability and responsible growth. Getting the make-up of those portfolios right will take ingenuity and expertise. Take the issue of plastics waste, for example. Recycling alone will not be the panacea we hoped it would; nor will new business models, refill systems or even new materials in isolation. The key question is how to use the solutions available in the correct combination to address the problem in a way that’s the best fit for a particular brand or organisation.
These insights reflect a welcome sense of an industry focused, like us, on achieving a positive human future. One note of caution though, is ensuring that individual organisations remain proactive in maintaining momentum around environmental sustainability, social sustainability, health and wellness and increasing supply chain transparency. Last year it was great to hear brands and retailers recognise collaboration was key to improving these areas, but this year that idea had a different tone. While we heard many organisations stress that they couldn’t address today’s challenges alone, there’s a danger that by making something everyone's responsibility, it becomes no-one's responsibility. Deep consideration should be given to what each of us can do in our own sphere of influence, while also bringing impact in a collaborative environment.
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