Louise Kennedy writes: I attended the recent Sustainable Brands Conference in London, which brought together brand marketers, strategists and sustainability experts to discuss the ways in which brands and businesses can help to shape a more sustainable world. The Futures Company is a media partner of the event.
Watching the presentations, I realised that it would be possible to distil them into a set of ‘Top Ten’ Principles that can help brands build a more sustainable world and unlock new sources of growth.
- Think beyond the environment
Sustainability isn’t just about the environment. Social, economic and environmental are considered the three interconnected pillars of sustainability, and brands need to be aware of all three.
- Know your audience
It’s important to know your target audience and what is driving them. Few people are driven directly by sustainability. Brands that are most successful appeal to what people really want (e.g. saving money, looking good) and align sustainable benefits with this.
- Imagine the future
Brands and businesses need to think about what the future might look like. Think about where your category and consumer might be in 5, 10 or even 20 years’ time and how your business and brand will need to adapt to be sustainable and profitable.
- Reinvent your business
The sustainability challenges facing the world are huge. To reach a sustainable world you can’t take baby steps. You need to understand the systemic changes required in your business models to drive holistic global change.
- Be disruptive
The familiar ideas probably won’t deliver what you need. So be brave and try to embrace unexpected solutions. Don’t be afraid to innovate in order to lead.
- Don’t do it alone
It’s not just important for brands and businesses to communicate internally to share knowledge and skills. You’re likely to need to build external partnerships to help you achieve your sustainability goals.
- Be true to your brand
The sustainability initiatives should never be divorced from the brand. They need to be woven intimately into the brand story, reflect the brand’s purpose and speak in its voice.
- Lose the design stereotypes
Dated stereotypical images and references are fast becoming, well, dated. Brown packaging may seem like a good indicator today, but how will this resonate in 2030 when sustainability has moved up a notch.
- Keep it simple
The world of sustainability isn’t always easy to engage with. So sustainability initiatives need to be easy to understand and easy to action. By changing the language of sustainability, you can open up new audiences.
- It’s alright to be wrong
There’s no exact science to developing successful sustainability initiatives, so brands don’t always get it right first time. But they can also bounce back from mistakes; after all, that’s how you learn. And it’s OK to talk about what you did wrong. It shows courage and character.
A longer version of this blog post will appear in the next issue of FutureProof, which is published later this month. The image of the quilted flowers at the top of the post comes from the blog ‘A Prairie Home Quilts‘, and is used with thanks.