Reckitt Benckiser: Brands must try not to ‘oversell their story’ on climate change

Reckitt Benckiser believes NGOs have a key role to play in ensuring brands behave authentically when it comes to climate change by holding up a mirror and getting them to think more deeply about their role and responsiblities.

Brands should embrace being called out by those with more experience about climate issues, such as NGOs or charities, according to Reckitt Benckiser’s executive vice-president of group marketing and category development organisation hygiene, Fabrice Beaulieu.

Speaking at the Festival of Marketing today (5 October), he explained: “There is a unique relationship between NGOs and companies like Reckitt, and companies can be called out from the outside or within the partnership.”

He noted that there is a “natural tendency” for marketers to “oversell a story” but says they should rely on those with more expertise to help build more authentic campaigns.

“We know our business and categories across the supply chain but when it comes to understanding climate [change], NGOs have a depth of knowledge that we sometimes need. That mirror held to our faces is priceless and helps us to commit in a way that is authentic and genuine and long-term,” he said.

His comments came as part of a panel discussion looking to address marketing’s role in the climate crisis. Beaulieu went on to explain that often companies trying to make a difference fall into two camps: ones leading the charge and others who are reducing their harm.

“I see two groups of brands. The brands that have, so far, worked on limiting the negative: reducing their impact and focusing on society’s commitment to plastic recycling, more sustainable ingredients, and less waste etc. That’s great,” he explained. “The other group is one of action, which have tried to create positive impact for change.”

He cited Ikea, which has been turning up the temperature in some of its stores by four degrees in a bid to the effects of highlight global warming.

“It has a stopping power and starts a conversation,” he said, adding that “simple stories of everyday life” can have the most impact.

How Covid-19 accelerated climate concerns

Coronavirus has accelerated fears among consumers about the climate crisis, according to Beaulieu.

He explained: “There is a rolling expectation for corporates and brands [but] that demand that was there before has stepped up a few notches. [There is] a ripple effect that there is more going to be done because it [is clear] there can be.”

His advice to brands was to react as themselves: “How can you actually put all these notions like sustainability [into your brand]? “[Ask] to what goal can it connect? There are a number of lenses to help you choose that. For example is it your brand’s history or it the technology and science [you use].”

He concluded: “Everyone should ask what can I do? How can I help? To the delivery of what goal?”

Fabrice Beaulieu was speaking at the Festival of Marketing, which is taking place online between 5 – 9 October. All sessions, including Beaulieu’s, are available to watch on-demand for those with a digital pass. To buy a pass visit