Futerra Big Brand Debate – SB London 2013Posted by Intern in blog November 25, 2013
By Jennifer Earle
Systems Change vs. Behaviour Change
As it turns out, an invite to have a drink and an argument is one that attendees of Sustainable Brands London cannot refuse. Throw in the fiery topic of whether brands should be behaviour changers or system changers and you have yourself one eventful night.
After its huge success at Sustainable Brands London 2012 & San Diego 2013, round 3 of the Big Brand Debate was headed up by two brilliant volunteers. In the blue corner was Rachel Depree, Stakeholder Engagement Manager at BSkyB, fighting the case for brands as system changers. The opposing team championing brands as behaviour changers led by Sarah Greenaway, Senior Brand Manager for B&Q’s One Planet Home. Each team was challenged to conjure up their most compelling and indisputable arguments. And they certainly did not disappoint. Below is a quick summary of the arguments from both sides.
“We can’t solve our problems by using the same system we used to create them”
The problem of Behaviour Change vs. Systems Change is essentially one of ‘Me vs. We’. This requires collaboration and a holistic approach. #TeamSystemChange recognises that brands, people and sustainability don’t exist in a vacuum. They exist in a system. And there are fundamental flaws in the current one.
To tackle this we need to look to the long term. Channel our efforts into decoupling economic growth and environmental damage, much as the Unilever’s and M&S’ of our generation are striving to do. We are then confronted with an opportunity to look back from the porch of our retirement homes knowing that we changed the path of business. And we changed it for the better.
Relying on behaviour change alone will result only in pockets of change, a drop in the ocean of sustainability. And it requires us to reach 7 billion people individually. Systems change on the other hand can focus on far fewer influential people and organisations to design a system that rewards sustainable decisions. The bottom line: focusing on behaviour change on its own won’t work.
“It all comes down to people”
But the ‘system’ is just people. And when we engage people in emotionally intelligent ways we can achieve great things. #TeamBehaviourChange recognises the opportunities of grassroots change. The prospects of behavioural push, over systems’ pull. And the notion that, by changing the behaviours, the system will too inevitably change.
Like it or not, no one talks to us more than brands. They’re in our cupboards and pockets. And we’ve learnt some of our best (and worst!) daily behaviours from them. From flossing, to showering, to smoking, we see the commanding influence of brands.
Systems change is slow, complicated and full of compromise. Brands on the other hand can be fast and agile. They’re designed to solve problems and they do it well. They bring products, services and solutions to market that make real differences to people’s lives. And when it comes down to it, without behaviour change, systems change stands little hope.
So who won?
Well. After much debate, a few bottles of wine, and the odd passionately flung object from the audience, we had to conclude that both were deserved winners. The journey will be tough. We will need collaboration, a fool-proof business case, and a truck-load of innovation. And ultimately we’ll need changes in both behaviours and systems. But, if we succeed we’ll reap the sweet rewards of business and environmental longevity.
That’s our stance anyway. Whose team are you on?