LEADING THE WAY FOR A SUSTAINABLY ABUNDANT FUTURE | SUSTAINABLE BRANDS 2018
A few months ago, I attended Sustainable Brands in beautiful Vancouver B.C. It was the first time the conference was held in Canada, and it brought together over 3000 senior executives, brand strategists, and sustainability experts with one common purpose: to shape a sustainably abundant future for all.
I knew this event was a great opportunity to surround myself with like-minded innovators who are not only co-creating a more sustainable economy, but also changing the shape of business. There were more than 300 speakers and panelists, so I put my laptop away and prepared to get inspired.
From day one I was immersed in incredible impact stories and case studies that showcased how profit, innovation, and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. There were interactive discussions, breakout sessions, plenary presentations, deep-dive workshops and networking activities filled with thought-provoking conversations about the future of business. Because regardless of what industry you’re in, a strong economy is dependent on abundant resources and healthy ecosystems.
Throughout the conference, I heard perspectives from leaders across diverse sectors with one commonality: a vision for what is possible when businesses innovate sustainably. I’d like to share a few of the brands that stood out to me as leaders for a sustainable future, where social impact is at the heart of business success.
6 sustainable brands to watch:
Recognizing that people spend an average of 95% of their lives indoors, REI launched its #optoutside campaign. The purpose? To encourage people to spend more time outdoors. The first iteration of the campaign happened in 2015, when the company closed its doors on the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday. Instead of urging employees to work and customers to shop, the message was clear: get outside and get back to nature. After winning numerous awards, the campaign evolved in 2017 through the creation of an experiential search engine that gathered user-generated content with the hashtag #OptOutside. Thousands of user-generated photos were used to create 20 short films, like this one:
Procter & Gamble (P&G)
P&G is at the forefront of innovative products that make our household chores more environmentally-friendly. Tide Cold Water laundry detergent, which has been engineered to help conserve energy, and Cascade Platinum dishwasher detergent which eliminates the need for pre-rinsing to conserve water, are just a few examples. Its innovative products like these that make P&G stand out as a sustainability leader. The brand also created a marketing campaign urging consumers to take Tide’s #QuickColdPledge, helping inspire them to change their behaviour and become more sustainable too.
BASF creates chemistry for a sustainable future. Its president Marcelo Lu talked about the importance of commoditizing sustainable practices and the idea that B2B (business to business) + B2C (business to consumer) = B2A (business to all). According to him, if you’re not able to address the concerns of all parties when you create a product, you’re not focusing on B2A. He said: “The fuel pushing purpose is innovation. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. But if you want to go the farthest, go with purpose and optimism.” Well said, Mr. Lu.
Danone North America just became the largest Certified B Corporation in the world, solidifying its commitment to placing purpose at the heart of its business. Emmanuelle Wargon, Danone’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Integration shared how the company’s vision: One Planet. One Health, creates a call to action for all consumers and food stakeholders to join the food revolution. What is the food revolution? A movement aimed at nurturing the adoption of healthier, more sustainable food and drink habits. She shared some of the company’s long-term priorities, which include impacting health locally, fostering inclusive growth and offering superior food experiences through innovation.
Listed as one of the most sustainable companies by the Swedish Index, Max Burgers is challenging the notion that a good burger requires beef (they have a variety of vegetarian options). The brand also innovates its product line and sways consumer preferences. The burger chain is launching the world’s first climate-positive burger menu which offsets 110% of emissions to help fight climate change. Committed to operating in a climate positive way, Max Burgers is also the most profitable restaurant chain in Sweden, outperforming both McDonald’s and Burger King.
Hilton has over 5300 properties and 80,000 employees globally. Recognizing their impact on the environment, they launched a global Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy, “Travel with Purpose.” The strategy focuses on five key areas of impact including preserving resources, respecting destinations, enabling business, creating opportunities, and responsible sourcing.
After the conference, I was left with the undeniable notion that being sustainable can and is profitable as long as it comes from a place of authenticity. In fact, companies that operate with purpose actually have higher sales, annual returns and brand awareness than those that do not. Brands that show they care about more than profit inspire consumer trust, and in today’s skeptical world, trust goes a long way.
These brands are all great examples of companies that have truly developed an ownable strategy that not only highlights all the ways that they are creating a sustainable future but also links it directly to the consumers they are working to serve.
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