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Going Green – The (Undefined) Meaning of Sustainability and Why it Matters

Ujwal Arkalgud, EVP & Group Director at Lux Research

Ujwal Arkalgud

EVP & Group Director, Anthropology

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Jason Partridge photo

Jason Partridge

VP, Client Success

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Welcome to “Why Meaning Matters”—a Story Studio Network podcast hosted by Erin Trafford with MotivBase cultural anthropologist, Ujwal Arkalgud and MotivBase president, Jason Partridge.

Our hosts dive into the meaning of Sustainability and how it remains undefined. It has such little consensus amongst consumers that it hasn’t reached mainstream status. This creates challenges for brands and marketers to generate and display more tangible benefits. MotivBase studies meaning to find solutions to those challenges.

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Welcome to Why Meaning Matters. A Story Studio Network podcast hosted by Erin Trafford with MotivBase cultural anthropologist, Ujwal Arkalgud and MotivBase president, Jason Partridge.

Our hosts dive into the meaning of Sustainability and how it remains undefined. It has such little consensus amongst consumers that it hasn’t reached mainstream status. This creates challenges for brands and marketers to generate and display more tangible benefits. MotivBase studies meaning to find solutions to those challenges.

UJWAL [00:03:31] “At the moment we’re far from there because the meanings around sustainability are actually very diverse. They’re not converging fast enough. Even though the word Sustainability is mentioned a lot and talked about a lot, there’s not enough convergence happening on what it actually means. That’s the part that’s interesting for us.”

JASON [00:04:57] “I think the other problem is, that if I asked everybody to close their eyes right now and think about sustainability, everybody has a different idea in their mind.”

For the individual, impact on the consumer’s wallet, geography, and emotion are key to initiating action.

JASON [00:5:53] “It’s really hard to convince a large group of people to do something entirely on logic. And they need to feel that it is important for themselves as the individual and for that larger group of people.”

It’s the job of the team at MotivBase to study meaning so that they can help organizations figure out what is the tangible benefit of sustainability that can apply to the context of the brand, product, or solution.

UJWAL [00:09:34] “I can’t just say, ‘Hey, this is a sustainable product’. Not enough people agree on what it means. However, if I say, ‘Hey, by the way, if you buy my jeans, you will have saved 40% in water usage in the way this jean was manufactured’. Okay, that’s tangible. And I can compare this jean to the other one and go, ‘This is 40% less water’.”

What does the consumer get out of purchasing sustainable products? Basically, two things: Tangible benefits and a social science concept called Symbolic Capitial.

UJWAL [00:12:34] “… there are two sort of value systems at play, especially when it comes to sustainability. One is that tangible benefit, health, wellbeing, saving money. The other is the symbolic benefit. Both are just as valuable. And obviously, ideally, the holy grail is you deliver both.”

In the next episode, our hosts continue the conversation on the meaning of sustainability by taking a look at its deep relationship with the myth of “All Natural”. Stay tuned for episode nine of Why Meaning Matters. A podcast produced by Story Studio Network and iContact Productions for MotivBase- Decoding implicit meaning behind what people talk about.

If you want to contribute to the conversation, make sure you drop us an email at hello [at] storystudionetwork [dot] com. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to SHARE it, RATE it, and SUBSCRIBE to the show!

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