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The Future of Sustainability and the CMO Seat with GRC Advising Founder Geof Rochester

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

This is the Authentic Avenue podcast cover for The Future of Sustainability and the CMO Seat with GRC Advising Founder Geof Rochester

This is a link you can use to find Authentic Avenue, a marketing podcast hosted by Adam Conner, on Apple Podcasts. Remember to subscribe, rate, and review!

Today, I interview Geof Rochester. Geof is the Founder of GRC Advising, and is a globally known expert in the worlds of sustainability, purpose, and everything in between.

Previously, Geof has held chief marketing roles at Showtime, WWE, and The Nature Conservancy (during which time his office was across the street from this host's!).

Today, we talk about what it means to be a CMO, and how it overlaps with the Chief Sustainability seat. Can both coexist? We explore that topic, as well as how to ensure the word "sustainability" doesn't just become a brand buzzword (in the way that the word "authenticity," unfortunately, has).

What is posturing, and what is progress? We learn that here.

GRC is leading the charge in these efforts, and has some wonderful examples to show for it. See more:

Many of the recent guests I've had have been inspired by GRC's work. I encourage you to listen to the message that their founder offers here.

Enjoy! Full transcript below. Plus, the video version is right here:


LinkedIn (Authentic Avenue):

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TRANSCRIPT BELOW (powered by Descript; accuracy not guaranteed):

Adam Conner: I am here with Geof Rochester, who is a pioneer in helping brands become more. Purpose-driven I mean, I know I've talked about that before, and frankly, I even get a little skeptical of what truly is purpose driven.

How do you do it? Are people just posturing? And I have questions about all of that today. Um, Geof's a real deal. And I know that because I talked to people earlier this year and you listeners, and now. Saw interviews that I did with Jonathan Webb, from AppHarvest, with Romain Liot from Adore Me, both of those organizations supported and driven by Geof in this regard.

So first off, Geof, welcome to Authentic Avenue. Thank you for taking a walk with me for your, for these few minutes. How are you? I'm great.

Geof Rochester: And looking forward to our chat. Good.

Adam Conner: Me too, because I feel like I have already been in. Of the things that you've influenced. And now I get to hear it from the source.

So GRC advising is something that you have started. And I first I was thinking like, what does GRC is like, duh, Geof Rochester. So explain to me first. And let's just level set with that. What's GRC all about. And then I got like a ton of detail questions behind that, about all of these words, authenticity being one of them, purpose sustainable.

But we'll get into the weeds in a second. Let's start. What's due what's

Geof Rochester: GRC. So, uh, thanks again for hosting me. And before I get an a GRC, let me just take you back. And the audience may know my bio, but it's relevant to GRC. So I was born in Barbados. My dad was a diplomat to the UN. I grew up in DC, in New York, and then DC did Georgetown Wharton.

And then my career has been a very. Enjoyable, uh, challenging journey through marketing. I started in packaged goods, which is where everyone says you should start the OJI of brand management with Proctor that I was in the travel sector. I ran marketing for Radisson. I ran marketing for Comcast. I worked in marketing for Showtime.

I ran marketing for WWE. So if you just look back at that body of work, that CPG that's travel and hospitality. That's media and entertainment, the pipe, Comcast, and then content provider, Showtime and world wrestling. And then I made a huge pivot and worked at the nature Conservancy for about 10 years as their COO and then a managing director.

And that worked informs a lot of GRC. So when you look at GRC we're industry agnostic, we're a consulting firm. We're an advisory. I don't like to think of us as an ad agency. We get really into. We work with the CEO or the founder. We represent Adam brands for-profit and not-for-profit brands. And we work in two areas.

Actually we work in marketing and branding, and we also work in financial strategies. If they're looking to raise capital, et cetera, we advise them on their financial strategies. I've got a great team Akash who you know, is out of Miami, formerly New York, formerly London. Then there's a guy, Chris in London, there's a guy in Argentina.

And then we've got a team of about 18 people that come in with. That helps support across PR project management, social media, uh, ESG, et cetera. So that's the team and it's about getting brands and non-profits to tell a better story to have greater impact around social purpose.

Adam Conner: Well, I like that because that's been my mission in my own little way for the past several years now, it's been focused around one little word to me, authenticity.

I've blown that out as far as I can do it. And I know that. Uh, you, you have expertise and perspective there as well. And viewers, by the way, like if you're going and listen to this and just click on the GRC website and all that, um, they got a great team, they got some of the best networkers out there.

They got some of those people out there. And so, um, quick plug for that, but you mentioned that you have led, uh, you know, captain of the ship for a lot of these fantastic brands and all different sorts of industry. Um, starting in big CPG. I know that's where a lot of great marketers get their start to some of the best marketers in the world.

Frankly. WWE is part of that. Um, there, I'd love to have Stephanie on this show at some point, and that's just me. It's being depressed, CMO experience. Cause I think that they are great. I don't care if you like wrestling or not. Um, you probably don't market better than them. And so now you are focused on this purpose driven perspective.

You've described your journey has gone from having sold Cheetos to this. And I have seen that illustrated as two ends of a spectrum. And, and so I want to start here because like, obviously like purpose, sustainability, big, big things, ESG. I think there's a real risk that they get buzzwordy. And I want to ask about that in a second.

So today when you see like a big investment. A BlackRock or a firm, or even a Frito light because they do this too. Now coming out with reports every year on their sustainability initiatives, what they're doing. Um, you're one of the OGs here. You're your pioneer, you know, if they're BS and or not, cause you've marketed for all those sorts of organizations before.

Is this truly meaningful progress or some of this just posturing to look good until they finally actually get right and can walk

Geof Rochester: the, yeah, this is one of my favorite topics and I get this, I get asked this a lot formerly at conferences, informally at cocktail parties at my local bar. Yeah. I'm sure

Adam Conner: it's just like an elbow thing it's like, come on.

Are they

Geof Rochester: really, so I, I give these companies a lot of, a lot of leeway. Look, I believe in capitalism. Capitalism is not. You know, we we've talked about the failure of the healthcare system with COVID with, uh, capitalism and black lives matter. There's a lot of critiques of capitalism as there should be.

But I believe in the institution, I believe it should be evolved, not destroyed and start over. And so I take the same view to purpose ESG SDG. I give these brands and businesses a lot of leeway in that. I just want to see them start on. I don't expect them to get it perfect out of the gate. I think we should give them credit when they try.

And I think when we have this like zero tolerance, like the first time they make a mistake, we want to crucify them. We had the case with Gillette when they tried to do, uh, with the Gillette.

Adam Conner: I'm sure what you're talking

Geof Rochester: about. Well, so, uh, about two years ago, I think it was Gillette did a campaign about.

And boys and they were fighting for the size, all. Remember the Pepsi, Kendall Jenner ad. That was much gotten me into oblivion. Yeah. Yeah. And so what I don't want is if you were a CMO contemplating doing something like that, and you see the July headline and you see the Pepsi headline and you duck and cover, I don't want that.

I want people to realize that these brands are big. This is a new skill. They will get it right. One of the reasons why I'm so confident the employees will make them get it right. Forget about public markets and external. Chris, you talk to any 20 five-year-old. They, they are, they are very focused on these topics.

And these 20 five-year-olds are growing into these 32 year olds. That would be VPs, EDPs, et cetera. So I see the systemic change is happening. Yes, people will be inauthentic. But I think well-intentioned, and they will get it right over time, but it's not going to happen. You know, if you've ever worked with any brand you're launching, you know, the, the first launch of broadband, the first launch of HDTV, how perfect was that marketing message?

It took years to get it right to really convey the value proposition to the consumer side, treated the same way as with any new communications as with any new branding strategy. How many people get it perfect out of the gate. Right. New Coke, legendary

Adam Conner: failure,

recognize Malac campaign.

Geof Rochester: Right. And let, and yet last from an old G trust me, Coke knows what the fuck they're doing. And they blew that. Right? Yeah. So, so, so I look at this the same way. I am hopeful. I'm optimistic. I give people a lot of credit. What gives me confidence? It's. They will figure it out or they will die, right?

Because the consumers aren't having it. So this is a very different conversation than six years ago where it was kind of a go-no-go from my lens. What I've seen is every chief sustainability officer, every, uh, chief impact officer, every head of a foundation, they were alone. And no one cared six or seven years ago, they were off doing their thing.

The CEO cared the COO. Like, I don't want any part of this. I want Beyonce in my ass. I don't want to talk about social purpose. I don't want to talk about supply chain and traceability and these issues now the CMOs want it. And they're playing defense because their consumers are demanding it or they're playing offense and they want to de-position their competitors by leading.

Right? So now the conversation is different because the CMOs have. They have the skills and they have the budgets. So all of them are struggling to be clear. They're struggling with how to build this into the brand platform. But what I love is it's now moving into the brand platform. It's no longer on the periphery.

Adam Conner: I agree. It's good that it's moving from the periphery to center stage, um, brings a power dynamic up that I want to talk about in a second. Um, because you mentioned that six years ago, people really weren't caring about this. You were, I got a quote you from seven years ago now I've been in the, in the professional world.

Post-college for seven years. Okay. Just started year number eight and the entire time. In fact, most of that time I was working across the street from you when you were at nature Conservancy, right? In my first. 2014, you made a quote to sustainable brands that I know you're also a big part of, and you were talking specifically about the environmental movement.

And then today I know a lot of 20 five-year-olds they care deeply about that. I still know there's a gap between those that care about it. And those who say they're environmentalist, but regardless the, the, the there's a sea change moving in that direction. At that time, you made a quote and the quote is this.

I'm gonna read this off. Uh, the environmental movement will fail if we are not able to engage broader audiences, um, we're narrow cast, we're reaching just a certain percentage of the population and we need to build a big tent of support for environmental issues. Cat, seven years ago, a lot has changed since then people care more about this.

Where is that big tent propped up today, other than you and, and what you all are doing? Where are you seeing?

Geof Rochester: Yeah, let me jump in. So, so much of my thinking on the NGOs. And the environmental space comes out of nature Conservancy, very large organization. They're very smart people. One of the largest environmental groups in the world.

And what I love is they want to ground in every state, they have state offices, they're in 70 countries, so they know the pulse. They don't come up with big ubiquitous, one size fits all solutions. How you talk about climate change type system is going to be different. How you talk about it in San Francisco.

So they get those differences. And when I joined them in 20 20, 20 10, It was under the Obama administration and we still couldn't get federal legislation done on climate change. And there's a guy Glenn Prickett who was their head of a policy back then. And he said, Geof failure of national legislation on climate change was a failure of scientists talking to politicians, comma.

Nobody was talking to the American public exclamation point. And so things have changed, but in 2010 in oh five, When gore was talking and people were ringing the bell B where climate change is coming, they were talking up here. They were talking to degrees of, of, of, of, of change. And 50 years they were talking about pandas on ice flows.

Like no one cared, right? Yep. There's a group that I'll plug eco America that have been following messaging. They're like the marketing research arm of the environmental community, eco America. And they've been warning about this also in the warning. Back then. And even today you can take a scientist and pop them into a red site.

Let's be blunt. And that scientist wants to talk about climate change. I don't know if that community is going to listen to that scientist, but if a preacher, if their preacher or minister talks to them, if their local doctor GP talks to them, they're more likely to listen to those audiences. So here's another statistic that was prevalent in.

20 20 10 and is probably still prevalent today. It's grown to statistics. Actually, when you look at all philanthropic, giving Adam all philanthropic giving it's about $400 billion back then it was probably three 40. The environment gets two to 3% of all that giving. Now one would argue clean air, clean water affects a hundred percent of any pocket.

But religion, religion gets 33 cents on a dollar arts gets more housing, gets more education, gets more donations. Then the environment, because historically the environment is narrow cat. You know, I've always said, if you personify the environmental movement, is that person at a cocktail party. And this is a former trend is better today, but certainly in the, in, in 2000, 2005, 2010, the environmental movements reputation, if you personified it, it's that person at the cocktail party you want to, don't want to tell.

Because when you drive up, they're going to tell you, they're going to sculpture. You drove up in the wrong car, you're wearing the wrong clothes. You're using the wrong plate and fork. You're drinking the wrong beer, you're eating the wrong food. Right? So, so when you hear that, that movement is only getting donations, you know, is, is only 3% of the, of the pie of all donations.

They'll say that's wrong. And it's a failure of messaging. Right. So I've always felt that, uh, anything you believe in, you need to, uh, move mountains to make sure you're meeting people where they are. We would kid around back then in 2010 that the, the, the movement needed NASCAR drivers, its message in the states.

They needed Sarah Pailin right. As messengers. They don't need Jack Black and David Letterman because you're only going to talk to 50% of the. Right. So fast forward to answer your question directly, how do you build that big tent? You build it by unusual partners. Look at nature Conservancy. We worked with REI and Patagonia.

No argument. We should. I love doing deals with subway. I love doing deals with Macy's. I love doing deals with Harley Davidson. These aren't brands you associate with the environmental movement. Harley Davidson is incredibly philanthropic. We did a deal with them. People were like, what, what what's that all about?

But yet, are they not worthy? The fact that I'm riding around in a big ass motorcycle, gas guzzling motorcycle in the great outdoors, does that make me a bad person? Do I not want that person? Part of the conversation right. Fast forward, what I loved 2020 was a year where we found, we found our voices, corporations, influencers, and ordinary people.

We found our voices on racial justice with white lives. We found our joy voices on healthcare with COVID and in fourth quarter we found our voices on democracy. What does that mean when LeBron James, whereas a baseball cap that says vote, that's building a big tent when the super bowl in 2018, the guy that was one of the leaders of the host committee.

So the super bowl in Miami was hosted by the south Florida, um, uh, Superbowl host committee. They use their voice to talk about sea level rise, right. At a super bowl.

Adam Conner: So on a peninsula. Correct.

Geof Rochester: So part of building the big 10 is yes, my God sure. Preach to the choir, but spend less time preaching the choir, then finding innovative ways to deliver an innovative message in an innovative way from innovative, uh, messengers.

Right. And that's why I love that our society globally is irreparably changed. You see European football clubs talking about. Right. You see American sports, Tom on climate. These are the ways you build that big tent and it doesn't need to be preachy over the top messaging. I've talked to the people that run avatar, right?

I love, you know, when I was at nature Conservancy, I would call their brand team and say, I want a nature Conservancy to be a philanthropic partner for avatar. Go see the movie, donate to a nature Conservancy. If you're out there avatar, I still think. They would tell me the following Adam, every year they said, yes, we agree with you, Geof, this billion $2 billion asset.

This piece of content is one of the biggest public service announcements in history for the environment, but we don't want to screw it up. And if we added more preachy messaging, people would tune out, but light people engaging and the, and the messaging will, will, will happen. So that's a long-winded answer, but I'm very passionate about this big tent.

I think that, you know, I was happy when in this country, the environmentalist moved to talking about jobs and stop talking about, you know, pandas.

Adam Conner: Yep. Right now you get to lead the charge within that tent and making sure that you're meeting people where you are, man. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that from CMOs over the last couple of months.

I mean, that's, that's even a new term or phrasing that I have heard. That's where I want to go next. Talk about that power dynamic. I have spoken to hundreds of chief marketing officers, industry agnostic, just like the way that you work and for the longest time. And maybe it's still that way. Uh, I had witnessed it.

It's obvious the statistics line up with the fact that CMO tenures have shrunk over time. I feel like a lot of times they become the scapegoat for, for broader problems or, oh, it's all branding. We need to change the branding. And maybe part of that is true, but maybe part of it is that they're not getting the right buy-in at the executive table.

They need to find a better. Well, chief sustainability officer might've been in that seat that wasn't getting paid attention to six, seven years ago when people were concerned about putting Beyonce into the commercial, um, maybe now they're doing it, but maybe she's wearing a hat that says something else.

So where I saw that struggle before between the CMO and maybe the CFO or something like that, I wonder if it will. Between CMOs and these C SOS chief sustainability officers, because now the stuff that they cared about for so long, they didn't get any attention. Microphone time. Now is my guess, is that CMOs are going to want to get into that seat.

What does that do to the CSO role? I'm curious because does it, does it, does it combine, does it, does it stay separate? Like where do you, where do you see that going?

Geof Rochester: And here's a harsh reality and I've, I've been talking to people like sustainable brands and other groups about this for 10 years. When the CMOs wrap this, get out of the way you're not going to win.

So the best thing, someone who's got, the word impact, social responsibility, sustainability attached to their name. The best thing they can do is partner with that CMO don't believe in a heartbeat that you're going to be able to keep your lane. So here's another interesting example. I don't, I don't like all the new titles that have come up with marketing.

No, no. Now that now they make it seem like digital and regular marketing are separate. And so

Adam Conner: I was frankly confused by marketing and brand too. I was like, isn't that? Yeah,

Geof Rochester: exactly. Exactly. So, so people love to play around with these titles. I'm a purist and I'm an old guy. So, you know, when people talk about shared value and all this stuff, that's stakeholder theory, right?

So the macro level for a publicly traded company, there's this notion. Stakeholders of which shareholders are, what right? Your employees are another stakeholder. Your community is the third stakeholder. So when people talk about shared value and all these things changing now, we've had a construct for decades.

It's called shareholder theory. And I mean, stakeholders, stakeholder theory, and what's happened is the shareholders have become overweight. There's this notion of marketing and brand, right. Which is all of us. And so when people say, well, you're no, you're no longer a CMO. What we really value is a chief revenue officer.

What the fuck is a CMO doing that's driving revenue. Right? So, so in the same way, I would argue impact like art. So isn't is a COO, not an impact officer and then a separate impact person. I think the best thing that can happen. Is my framework is these are issues, the foundation, sustainability, ESG, SDG.

These are all things that were viewed narrowly outside of the traditional brand. Right. And all we're saying nowadays is if you're Nike, if you're Google, if you're Pepsi, how does your brand relate to those things? And the keeper of that flame as a COO. So if I were these other areas and I've seen it, I've seen this for three.

People would tell me literally, you know, Geof, I'm the fill in the blank, uh, head of corporate social responsibility, chief sustainability officer. I was scheduled to speak at a conference. The COO came in over the top of me, threw some dollars into conference for a sponsorship and they got my speaking gig where they don't pay attention.

They're never going to win that paddle. Right. And in a way I'm kind of happy that the CMOs now care, regardless of why they. Sure. So it may be sloppy and a little ugly short-term, but I think there will be an elegant solution over time where the CMO take these other areas, whether they report to them or not, and put them under the.

Right in a gracious way, not in a competitive way, in a gracious way. I think that's what will happen. It may be bumpy along the way, but it's inevitable because look, people don't want to hear about a shoe company called Nike that doesn't care, whatever that means and figuring out what that means is the purview of the chief marketing officer, working with these other departments.

Adam Conner: Okay. So if you're out there, you're a chief sustainability officer today go partner with the CML. I wonder actually, let me ask corollary to that. Should they aim to like, become a CMO? Cause they know that that's where the power is going

Geof Rochester: question. So here's what an example for all of your audience. Uh, someone I adore have massive respect for Bea Perez, Coke she's I think she's technically their chief sustainability officer.

She came from from marketing. I think she was their CMS. And Lou tar Kent, their chairman about eight years ago, had the presence of mind to move her over because he knew this was coming. And I'm sure he wanted someone leading sustainability who knew the company really well was a marketing genius and confined that point of integration.

So she tackles that job, unlike any CSO in the world, right. She brings the full force of marketing and branding of Coca-Cola and she brings the air cover of the. Now things have changed. I don't even know if she's still there. I think Mutare has moved on, but that was one of the first times where I saw someone flip the narrative as to what that sustainability role could be.

She'd go get her. I'll bring on the show. I'll be happy to, I mean, she said she partnered with will. I am on some stuff she partnered with Burberry on some stuff. She was killing it again. I'm not current, but.

Adam Conner: Well, I'll go, I'll go and hell, I'll go and do some research, uh, listeners, go check her out. What she's doing right now.

I want to ask about, um, some of your more recent work, Geof, because I know from firsthand experience that you've done a hell of a lot with that. Parvus, you've done a hell of a lot with the doormats. That's just from my interviewing. So I know Aztec very important fashion, very important. You're moving those industries forward.

I'm curious to know what industries you see out there since you're industry agnostic, um, desperately need change the most, um, towards the way that you are helping these ag tech and fashion

Geof Rochester: brands. Can we launch, let me launch. I just had the pleasure. I was invited by ice, select an ag tech fund to speak at a conference called cruise Sonia, Cru Cru, Sonia.

And what they were advocating for. So there, their sectors ag tech, they're a financial company, but they also invest in health tech and they live at the intersection between the two worlds. What does that mean? The conference Adam was focused on the following statistics. We as a country spend 1.7 trillion in all types of food ag, et cetera, grocery retail, you know, wholesale, whatever food, 1.7 trillion.

We as a country spend 1.92. In health care for diseases that are preventable through diet, we do not connect the two. Right? So that's three and a half plus trillion dollars. Right? That's somewhat argue is being used inefficiently. When's the last time you heard anyone talk about COVID and talk about the role of diet and preventing COVID.

We talk about vaccines. We talk about mass. We talk about social distancing diet is not a part of the COVID conversation. Only 10% of Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables, 10%. So if you're in the ag tech space, think of the volume opportunity. If we could get three out of 10 Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables, it would triple the available size of the market for the ag tech sector.

So what I see is I see a revolution coming in, help. Uh, one of the groups that I've come to know, and respect is Appalachian regional health in Kentucky, that the largest healthcare system in Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia, they have 13 hospitals, 90 clinics, uh, their CEO, Holly is terrific. Uh, I was with her last week and I think the notion of reinventing how we think of healthcare and the inclusion of diet, and we're starting to see it.

I was at my doctor the other day and I was. Pleasantly surprised we're in addition to some medications, he had recommended camomile tea and some other kinds of a diet based solutions. So I think that there will be come a, a tipping point, a flip of the narrative where there's a lot of pressure and inspiration inflicted on the healthcare community to talk a lot more about diet, nutrition, and exercise, you know, the notion of an unhosted.

Right. Not an institution that is solely focused or predominantly focused on fixing you when you get in an institution that has a laser-like focus on how can they help their community not go to the hospital in the first place. And I think, you know, you look at someone like Eric Adams, who is the, uh, you know, the, the presumptive next mayor of New York.

He's the Brooklyn borough president, Eric Adams. He was, he had diabetes. He was going blind. You went to a plant-based diet, reversed, his symptoms completely wrote a book about it, and he run, ran a democratic primary and he has a platform around what can this conversation look like in a major urban market?

Right. You know, Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London has pledged to be one of the greenest cities in the world. What's the role of diet in his vision. So I think there will be come a moment in our society, and I think COVID will trigger a lot of. Where we start as a civilization globally. And as a society in the U S to redefine our expectations of the healthcare committee, the U S is so shitty on this us there's a study, came out a week or two ago the U S ranked dead last.

Right. And so I think the notion of understanding is not about more money. It's about how the money is allocated. So I S I see, um, the healthcare system. Reinventing how they think about their business model. Yep. The reward mechanisms from insurance providers and their obligation as citizens. The last thing I'll say on that is great example of this conversation when CVS said done with cigarettes, right.

We need more of that.

Adam Conner: Sure. You know, what's interesting, as you were talking about that, I remember to what we were, what you said earlier in the show, which was that, you know, a while back, we were talking about. Um, issues related to the environment. And we were talking to only people who really cared.

Nobody was really listening. Whereas I see that today and I know this because in other parts of my pockets were on doing things in plant-based nutrition. Um, I even hear that and I'm thinking, okay, these are just like vegans talking to vegans. Right. They all get it. But how do you spread that message more widely?

I wonder if a similar change will happen over the next, it'll probably be five to seven or eight years. Unfortunately, it's too slow, but like to become. Important in these veins that you're talking about. So I think that's really smart and I'm actually going to go try to find people to bring on the show to talk about that in the healthcare world.

So that's very, very interesting. I appreciate that. Um, I got two more questions for you. First one, we might've answered already, but I'll go to it because, uh, LinkedIn put out an article last week about ESG, and then they're always doing that, uh, bales, put out a tweet, asking its followers to predict what the next business buzzword would be.

And you heard a lot of things like AI and hybrid and remote work and digital workforce. I said, and I responded to LinkedIn and tweets that I thought it would be some variation of ESG, some variation of sustainability. And it's just because I don't want it to go that way of, like, we know that when we say the word sustainability, people will flock to us because they think that we're doing the right thing.

Again, this is back what I said at the beginning. Is it posturing? What can big business do to ensure that it doesn't fall victim to buzzword status? Yeah. I,

Geof Rochester: I love this cause I'm not a big fan of buzzwords. I don't really care. I mean, everyone knows the best market in Merle is around emotional end benefit.

Right. And so I think we should get out of our heads with the kind of language. And I use those words also, ESG, SDG. I think we should focus more on the benefit to people. How is your ESG strategy at the end of this? Going to benefit your customers. I don't know the elegant answer to that, but, but the word I would think is normalized.

I don't want these to be exceptional, specialized conversations. I want, if you're Nike or Google or nature, uh, you know, app harvest or dormy, when you talk about your brand, when you talk about how you serve your customers, you are inherently addressing these issues, but you're not beating your chest talking about ESG.

I mean, yeah. That lives on your site that lives in your annual report. Uh, you know, I'll take out harvest harvest is focused on three things, food security. How do you feed 9 billion people, economic prosperity? There are greenhouses still built, you know, seven greenhouses over the next five to seven years.

Each of those will probably employ three to 500 people. That's meaningful difference. That's changing somebody's life, right in a, in a region that lost 50,000 jobs. And third they're increasingly focused on advocating for nutrition is preventative. Now I just said all that. I didn't say SDG or ESG. Right.

So I, I'm more interested in brands, um, telling stories about how they plan on helping people in their lives then using the words, ESG or SDG or benefit Corp or any of these things? Uh, yes, we can all do a better job of educating the consumer. About these terms, but in the end of the night, people, people are busy.

They're worried about their kids not getting COVID or getting their kids through school or the relationship with their wife or their job. And I think we shouldn't like be overly focused on these terms.

Adam Conner: Me neither. That's why I was so fearful of it beginning buzzword status, because I felt that that happened a little bit and hopefully it's passed, uh, with the word that I've obsessed.

Over the last couple of years, which is authenticity, right? I was like, shoot, is that going to become, I had the, uh, well, whatever I'll say it, because it, you could look at previous podcasts, uh, Linda, Boston cog. He told me that in 2019, middle of 2019, she thought that was becoming a dirty word, the Edwards, what she called it.

And I was a little shook because I thought, damn, am I focusing on something that's just going to get elevated or maybe decreased to buzzword status. But I, I think that. By normalizing regular discussions about issues, about progress. That like authenticity simply becomes a lens. And that's my idea of it.

But I want to close with this question because I do ask everybody what they think about the word specifically, how they define it. Reason is because I think I'm going to probably write a one word dictionary someday about this word, because I talk to so many people about it and I've never heard of the concept of a one word dictionary.

So I'm fascinated. So if I asked you Geof to close this out, if you turn to your own personal dictionary and turn to the page that had the word authenticity. Uh, what would that definition read?

Geof Rochester: I would replace authenticity with, uh, natural, uh, th the, the, the exposition of all this stuff in the brand needs to feel natural.

Can't seem forced. It can't seem artificial, so that's gotta be natural. It's gotta be like breathing air. You can be like tying yourselves up at night. To make the fit between the brand and what it is you're talking about. So I just, I have a very easy going approach to this stuff. Uh, you know, it's funny when you think of the, the, the null hypothesis of some of these concepts.

So are you saying you want to be an inauthentic brand light? Like no, no, no, no shit like brands want to be, they want to make sure whatever is, is, are talking about, is aligned with who and what the brand really is. I mean, authenticity permeates any brand from the logo. To how it manifests on the website to, to the topics that they talk about in an all hands internal meeting.

Authenticity is obvious. I don't, I never used the word authentic. Interesting.

Adam Conner: I, I love that answer because, you know, I used the word in this sort of medium in this conversation. I don't really use it too much in my regular speaking world. I will I'll use words. You know, not, not organic, but that definitely natural, real, I just real

Geof Rochester: realistic, good world.

But again, I don't think there's a CMO in a world where it's up in the morning thing. Oh, you know, I want to be in authentic. No,

Adam Conner: of course. Right, right,

Geof Rochester: right, right. Right. Of course. That's the goal. That is a true north for any brand, any business and look, and what I love is the new, the new power died. Is that when I grew up in business, I didn't think I could police anything that my company did.

Right. If I'm working for big fortune 500, the kids that work in these companies today are internal quality control. They're the first ones that will call BS on authenticity. So internal pressure that was not as prevalent in American business, certainly 10 or 15 years ago. That is absolutely relevant. Hmm.

Adam Conner: Well, that's fascinating. I I'm, I'm glad to have had a real conversation with you about this sort of thing about the posturing versus the progress about where the COC is going versus the CSO seat. That big 10. I'm glad it's been built up over the last seven years. Sorry that I didn't talk to you when you were across the street, but I'm glad that I've got you across the screen now and for all the Geof.

Thanks. Thanks very much for joining me.

Geof Rochester: I really appreciate it, Adam.


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