Last last year, more than 450 changemakers gathered in London, UK, for the first European foray of Sustainable Brands. It was a lively and stimulating two-day event that saw Junxion principals, Peter ter Weeme and Erin Barrett, attend.
The first Sustainable Brands conference was held with a couple of hundred innovators in New Orleans in 2007. Since then, the event has dramatically grown to host more than 1,400 people at the flagship conference held in California each year. And Sustainable Brands is on the move. In May 2013, Sustainable Brands Rio will be held in, you guessed it, Rio, while one week later it will land in Istanbul, the über-cool, trendsetting capital that’s on everyone’s must-see list.
Since its inception, the goal of Sustainable Brands is to inspire, engage and equip business and brand leaders to prosper by leading the way to a sustainably abundant future. They do so by offering news and views from thought and practice leaders, live and on-line events, peer-to-peer learning groups, a robust resource library, a solutions provider directory and more.
The London edition centred around the concept of “The Power of And.” The theme underscored that sustainability is an additive and enabling approach to business success. Indeed, more than ever, the brands and organisations that will succeed are those that recognise a dual role: driving business results and a sustainability agenda.
Some of the noteworthy plenary presentations included:
- New insights into untangling the gap between consumer attitudes and their behaviours
- The rise of the sharing economy (from airbnb to car sharing schemes)
- How various brands are engaging in choice editing, essentially rooting out products and services that don’t align with a sustainable future
- How to authentically embed sustainability into a brand promise and build market share in the process
- How customer engagement, transparency and product traceability are helping to shift consumer consumption patterns
- Quiet rules for shaping people-powered movements.
One of the most interesting plenary presentations came from Unilever, a major global packaged goods company. Under the banner of “Sustainable Living Plan”, Unilever is growing business while reducing its environmental footprint and increasing its positive contribution to the society across value chain—direct operations, suppliers, distributors, consumers. It’s a bold plan and one that has seen a lot of progress since being announced in November 2010.
Beyond the well-attended plenary sessions, the dozens of afternoon breakouts sessions were organised according to three main streams:
- Driving Value Through the Power of And
- Sustainable Brand Strategy and Communication
- Sustainable Design and Innovation
Again, some of the strongest breakouts included:
- How upstart disruptors like airbnb, Oat Shoes and Replenish are rewriting the rules of sustainable business
- Driving sustainable brand value through both product and corporate messaging
- Communications strategies for business and social change
- The role of ecolabeling and certification in sustainable brands success
Junxion client, Polly Gowers of Everyclick, was featured in a breakout session entitled, “The ‘New World’ of Marketing: Social Media, Radical Transparency and the Emergence of the Social Brand.” Polly presented how Everyclick’s “Give as You Live” programme is helping brands build values-based relationships with consumers. It does that by empowering them to parlay their online purchases into a powerful tool to raise funds for charities across Britain.
Clearly, Give as You Live struck a chord with participants, sustaining lots of discussion that continued as participants trailed out of the room.
It’s fair to say that much of the value of a conference is what happens outside the meeting rooms and Sustainable Brands did not disappoint. Coffee breaks, meals and social events were abuzz with spirited conversations, exchanges of business cards and the incubation of new friendships and professional relationships that will endure well beyond the event.
Even if you didn’t have a chance to make it to London, the good news is that Sustainable Brands has made most of the conference content (as well as that from their other events) available on their website. It’s worth your while to take some time to poke around the materials. You’re guaranteed to find something of value and of interest.
We hope to see you at another Sustainable Brands event soon. We’ll be there.