Refreshing the sustainability narrative for an informed audience


A clear commitment

As the second largest supermarket in the UK, Sainsbury’s sells  food, clothing, general merchandise and financial services connecting with millions of customers every day. ‘Live Well for Less’ is the company’s commitment to help make customers’ lives better and easier, every day.

A comprehensive sustainability strategy underpins this commitment through the company’s focus on health, sourcing, the environment, community and colleagues.


Refreshing the sustainability narrative for an informed audience

Sainsbury’s had decided it wanted to hold  a half-day event at which the company would outline progress on its sustainability strategy. Around 140 external opinion formers, including key partners and suppliers, along with 60- 70 colleagues were expected to attend. The last such event had been held 18 months previously. The format included a keynote speech by the CEO , Mike Coupe, presentations by subject specialists and a facilitated Q&A session.

The audience would be highly-informed and have attended similar events put on by  competitors and other large blue chips. We wanted them to leave this event;

  • Convinced by Sainsbury’s continued and energetic commitment to the sustainability agenda,

  • Clearly understanding the positive impact Sainsbury’s planned to make and the context in which it sees sustainability contributing to the growth of the company.

  • Positively surprised by some of the innovative ideas/ partnerships as well as having a clear sense of the company’s future ambition in this arena.

In addition, it was also expected that, in the months following the session, the narrative structure would be used by the Sainsbury’s leadership as the framework for engaging internal and external audiences on the company’s sustainability strategy.


The task given to Fortitude

Fortitude Partners were asked to develop a narrative structure for the whole session. This included Sainsbury’s response to relevant key megatrends such as income inequality, its alignment with, and commitment to, the SDGs and progress across key issues relevant to Sainsbury’s own operations and its customers. In addition, and based on this narrative structure, we were asked to write a 30 minute keynote speech for the CEO.


What we did

Based on existing materials and research, we determined the key themes focused around the key megatrends. We then outlined a strawman structure that would amplify the themes and  populated it with relevant examples, facts, insights and aspirations.

To ensure the keynote speech had personality, passion and gravitas, there were certain elements where we sought the CEO’s input and perspective not only as Sainsbury’s CEO but also as a major business leader.  This included a vision of the role of business in society and the role the SDGs will have in driving change in organisations. Finally, based on previous speeches and presentations, we agreed on the tone and style we wanted to adopt.


The outcome

Based on feedback from attendees, the session was judged to have been a great success. In particular, hearing directly from the senior management on the sustainability aspirations of the company was appreciated especially supported by clear and ambitious commitments.

Beyond the session, the company now has a narrative structure with supporting proof points, that  can be used and appropriately adapted by others in the Sainsbury’s leadership team to their internal and external audiences.