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Sustainable branding goes beyond green

by uma
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By Peter Matthews of Nucleus 

For blindingly obvious reasons, ‘sustainability‘ is today’s ‘mot du jour’, but using it as a superficial green ‘wrapper’ is a foolish brand positioning strategy.


Certainly, brands that place sustainability at the core of their businesses can expect customers to respond positively, but to make opaque claims, without being fully accountable for those claims, is destined to fail. And for good reason.

‘Greenwashing’ is now being seen for what it is, with companies put on notice by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and others, because it misleads, causes confusion and sows discord around effective options for shifting the dial on Climate Change. Ultimately, greenwashing will damage the brands that chase short-term gain with false, misleading, overstated or unsubstantiated green claims.

So, when it comes to defining any brand’s commitment to sustainability, proof and transparency are required. Commitments beyond reducing harm to the environment, to creating positive environmental, economic and social value define the three dimensions of sustainability that next economy brands will be judged on.

Sustainability locks together environmental, social and economic change

Transport, for example, faces massive decarbonisation and social challenges.  Mobility brands need to be able to prove they are on the journey to net zero, reducing congestion and pollution and supporting positive social behavioural change, throughout their entire product lifecycle. How many can sign up to that agenda? 


One positive example is Hitachi Rail, whose mission to achieve net zero across its value chain by 2050 is founded on helping cities and transportation operators shift people away from cars and towards lower carbon transportation, by making public transport more seamless and convenient for passengers.

Electrification of rail is already having an impact. For example, Hitachi trains on East Coast Mainline has already disrupted air travel between London and Edinburgh. Between April and August, 57% of journeys between the two cities were by rail, compared to a pre-pandemic position of 35% for April-August 2019.

Some 66% of travellers chose rail over domestic flights in August itself, suggesting the trend may be set to continue.

This “modal shift” is the first pillar of Hitachi Rail’s decarbonisation strategy, alongside reducing emissions throughout its own value chain (including factories, supply chain and its products and services), and the decarbonisation of rail through batteries and electrification.

Accelerating consumer adoption of the most sustainable practices is a key role for digital brand creators, and should be the benchmark for all brands in the future. As such, defining a new brand strategy and naming architecture for Hitachi Rail’s suite of digital mobility services was a perfect platform to demonstrate this.

Branding a sustainable proposition

Lumada Intelligent Mobility Management is the suite that brings together Hitachi’s holistic vision for smarter mobility across three key areas: smart ticketing, mobility management and electrified mobility solutions, all managed through a real-time mobility platform – designed to help transport authorities, transport operators and passengers shift to more seamless and sustainable transportation.

Within that suite are a set of distinct offers for passengers, cities and operators. 

Understanding how mobility data is helping to accelerate change, enabling transport networks and operators to improve transport economics, reduce congestion and pollution, while meeting de-carbonisation targets, was the inspiration for a new smart mobility value proposition. We identified how a 360º vision could benefit society through the achievement of net zero goals. 


The ‘360’ concept inspired a series of numeronym brand names which are presented under the Lumada Intelligent Mobility Management suite banner. 

Until now, Hitachi Rail’s target audience has been transport operators and municipalities, but new passenger apps create a direct connection with the travelling public, so the brand naming and identity had to be designed to connect with consumers, too.

The solution is a scalable architecture that can grow over time, with the first two products establishing the scalable 360 naming concept

360Motion – a real-time mobility platform that provides operators with integrated data analytics across multiple transport networks to deliver network efficiency and value added insights;

360Pass – smart ticketing solutions, including an innovative hands-free smart consumer app, enabled by Bluetooth so passengers can travel across multi-modal transport systems without barriers, or any need to tap-in and tap-off.

The ‘360’ brand concept has been reinforced by a visual brand system using ‘circularity’ as the visual cue. This features a precisely calibrated bezel around the numeric mark, which is contained in a roundel. The brand is brought to life using animation, where appropriate, such as app splash screens.

The 360Pass smart ticketing app and 360Motion platform were launched in Genoa, Italy in July 2022. 

Working with Hitachi has confirmed our belief that we are entering an era where sustainability needs to become a core attribute of every new product or service, and brand propositions need to be based on facts and data, rather than advertising claims and marketing fluff.

For now, the focus has to be on enabling consumers to quickly tell the green from the greenwash, but those that are transparent in proving their credentials and communicate compelling sustainable value propositions will be the brands that stand the test of time.


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