Seven snippets from Sustainable Brands

The Sustainable Brands conference in London last week was another opportunity for like-minded businesses to agree violently with each other on how important it is […]

The Sustainable Brands conference in London last week was another opportunity for like-minded businesses to agree violently with each other on how important it is to put sustainability at the heart of business strategy, and for agencies to demonstrate that they’re just the people to help them do so.  But there were lots of interesting discussions, and here are some take-away thoughts:

#1 (Some) people care (a bit)

People by and large split into 20% really care about sustainability, 60% care if it doesn’t get in the way, and 20% don’t care.

#2 Retailer power

Retailers hold the key to persuading those people in the middle to choose brands that embrace sustainability. Retailers, like Sainsbury’s, attract customers by demonstrating the values those customers aspire to. They do this by doing things themselves (like Sainsbury’s sponsorship of the Paralympics), and by giving higher visibility in-store to brands that also demonstrates these values (like Sainsbury’s support of the partnership between Domestos and Unicef).

#3 Asia leader

Asia is leap-frogging Europe and North America on sustainability, because of consumers who see the tangible results of not taking social and environmental impacts into account, and governments who can take a more planned approach to sustainable development.

#4 Culture

A company’s approach to sustainability is governed by the culture of its key geography.

#5 One audience

There is only one audience now: consumers are stakeholders, and stakeholders are consumers. As audiences merge, the corporate brand becomes a key asset – and liability. This creates different opportunities and threats for companies whose corporate brand is already consumer-facing (like Adidas, Sainsbury’s and L’Oreal) and those where the corporate and consumer brands have been separate (Yum, Diageo, P&G).

#6 Sustainability strategy

Most companies get to similar strategies on sustainability. The difference, as ever, is in the speed and quality of execution, and that comes down to being brave.

#7 Sustainable growth

Growth will come from adding social value.  Businesses and brands that find ways to add social value will find competitive advantage, new markets and sustained growth.