The Sustainability Brand Conference 2010 in Montery California last week attracted over 700 leading
sustainability, brand strategy, product design and communications executives
from top global brands as well start-ups, NGOs to share ideas and green practices. Idea Couture's Head of Social Innovation Patrick Glinski was
speaking on The Future Vision: 3 Snapshots of the Possible. Patrick’s key messages for the audiences are:
- We need to talk to our customers more often.
- We need to communicate a message of improvement rather than perfection in our attempts to be sustainable. This was echoed in several other sessions, including Starbucks (who gave themselves a needs improvement ranking on their ability to meet their 2015 target of 100% reused or recycled cups).
- The future of sustainability in design is invisible. Sustainable choices are made by brands and built into products as part of the design process and supply chain.
Patrick also co-presented with Rob Kaplan from Brown-Forman where Rob
talked about the Jack Daniels American Forest program and Patrick presented the
design and implementation process from the Aviva Community Fund. Patrick top five take aways from the
- Organizations need to focus on innovations in sustainability. But from the outsiders perspective, most talks took the position that innovation is easy – a fact that we know at Idea Couture is simply not true.
- There is a strong economic impact that results from sustainable practices. But in selling through the idea of sustainability to the C suite, most sustainability practitioners focus on social impact rather than rationalizing financial impact first.
- Strategic sustainability (solving social needs within the core business, leveraging the assets of core business, and forcing innovation through impossible constraints) will be a major economic force in the near future.
- Being sustainable is no longer a significant differentiator for your brand since most organizations are including some form of sustainability / green / pro-social messaging as part of their value. No one is going to pat you on the back for following regulations.
- It's ok to be profitable by doing good. But unless you're transparent about your intentions, you're going to deal with a lot of doubt. Transparency is becoming a key factor of building trust with customers.
I guess the biggest myth in sustainability in business that there's no money to be made from sustainability or being seriously green. This is definitely true ten years ago, but not the case today. It should be part of any company's business strategy, not just marketing strategy. Sustainability innovation offers brand opportunities for both top and
bottom line benefits and build brand equity. Sustainability not only involves cutting down on waste and carbon, it many instances there are opportunities to support economic development for developing markets. Innovative companies have found they can resell used products and
materials that were formerly considered waste and help support micro-enterprises.