Sustainable Brands – leading an evolution of changePosted by jeff in blog June 13, 2012
Our latest thought leadership Planet Brands was recently launched at two incredible gatherings of sustainability professionals – Surdurlebilir Markalar (held in Istanbul) and the longstanding US conference Sustainable Brands held this year in San Diego.
Both events highlighted that even across markets which seem as different as Turkey and the US, brand communication is an essential tool to reinforce more sustainable behaviours. From the early successes of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan to interesting new start ups like the foursquare-esque eGood, Sustainable Brands offered great examples of how businesses are using sustainability to enhance products and services.
I was honoured to present at Surdurlebilir Markalar where I spoke about three key points:
- Brands are powerful agents of change
- Great brands are authentic and inspire us
- Change is a journey from inspiration to innovation
These themes were present across the various sessions held at both conferences.
Brands are powerful agents of change
For the past few decades most in the sustainability community have believed that businesses are the cause of the world’s problems; that governments, NGOs or pressure groups would be the solution. At Futerra we see brands as extremely influential catalysts who offer potential for change.
Over the course of the two conferences we heard countless case study examples of how established brands – and exciting new start ups – are taking on today’s challenges and making change happen. Great achievements, like Chipotle‘s success in supply of naturally raised pork across their growing restaurant chain, demonstrated that although the change may seem difficult, it is possible. And its good for business.
Great brands are authentic and inspire us
We are all influenced by brands. They are part of our lives, much more than our governments. Each one of us gives meaning to the brands we see around us every day. The really great brands, the ones that we cannot live without, command loyalty because they remain true to the values they share with their customers.
Authenticity was certainly a key element stressed across the conferences – kicked off by Simon Mainwaring‘s keynote at the opening of the San Diego event. Brands who are best at engaging employees and customers on sustainability do so by demonstrating why sustainability is relevant, and leading through their intention.
A highlight example of this was Molson Canadian’s presentation of their brand promise – “made from Canada” – resulting in their incredible Red Leaf Project with the goal of “restoring Canada’s awesomeness”. This clearly aligns their intention with their values and the values of their consumer, and touches an audience that may not typically engage with sustainability.
Zappos was a delight to find at the San Diego event. The brand is an undisputed leader at using culture and values to deliver business results. Their Downtown Project will see the brand relocate offices to the heart of Las Vegas, bringing infrastructure and much needed regeneration to the area. It’s a different sustainability story to the typical analysis of the material impact of a businesses product – but one that completely resonates with Zappos’ core values.
Where authenticity was absent was in Coca-Cola‘s presentation of their recent partnership with WWF to raise awareness of the diminishing habitats of polar bears. While the campaign may have raised nearly $2 million for WWF, this was simply cause related marketing that will certainly struggle to deliver long term benefit to the Coca-Cola brand.
Change is a journey from inspiration to innovation
The world we live in demands change to overcome our current challenges, but lessons from business can help us. And those lessons can be shared to help every brand use their power for good.
Unilever were mentioned repeatedly at both Sustainable Brands events as best in show. The FMCG giant knows that change takes time, and have used the intention that sits behind the USLP – to reduce their impact while doubling the size of their business – to not only make a difference but also to gain competitive advantage.
The Futerra team have outlined the steps from inspiration to innovation for our clients. We’ve created this journey through our experience of helping brands like Unilever to deliver change from within their organisations. While many at the Sustainable Brands conferences were still looking for proof that sustainability can deliver return on investment, our position mirrors that of Unilever chief Paul Polman – this is a long term game, adding asset value to your business. The short term bottom line is there, but to really see the benefits that sustainability can deliver, you have to expect a journey.
As the brilliant Hunter Lovins decreed at Sustainable Brands in San Diego, revolutions are violent – do we all really want to be a part of a revolution? Brands are delivering change to their businesses and society through an evolutionary shift lead by their intention and values. Every brand has this potential for change – the true Planet Brands will not only lead the charge, but will see benefits for their business and their customer.
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June 14, 2012
Eloquently and inspiringly put Jeff! Brand evolutionaries of the world unite!