3 Lessons for Brands from Sustainable Brands London 2013

Last week, my colleague, Abbie Curtis, and I enjoyed a fantastic couple of days at Sustainable Brands London. Monday started with insights on declining trust in brands and the rise of feminine values, and Tuesday ended with lessons for intrapreneurs and how to be a successful change agent.
There was an abundance of research, advice and case studies in between. I’ve just selected 3 lessons for organizations that are trying to cement their position as sustainable brands. These stood out for me and were nicely summed up by Geraldine O’Grady from Mondelez.
First, find the thing your business can meaningfully focus on. For Mondelez this was their coffee farmer training centre. BSkyB gave similar advice – their Sky Academy leverages a brand that resonates with young people. And there should be a balance between the issues that really are crucial to long term business strategy and those that stakeholders perceive to be important. Take Starbucks and Jim Hanna‘s “damn paper cups!” – a tiny proportion of the company’s overall footprint but visible and important to customers and stakeholders. GlobeScan is working with an increasing number of companies on helping them respond to stakeholder expectations and optimize their positioning. 
Second, set your flag further down the path and set targets. These may be 2016 (as with Kering) or 2020 (Mondelez) goals. Ecover suggested taking it a step further, saying brands should “set impossible goals that are genuine game changers”. Other brands including Mars and Nandos use targets to demonstrate commitment to sustainability, even where they have made a conscious decision to not always communicate this to consumers.
A third lesson was to engage people inside and outside the business. This is something we at GlobeScan really believe in, via stakeholder intelligence and engagement. And the value of collaborations and partnerships came up over and over again. There are some obvious ones, but FSC encouraged us to “find uncommon collaborations.” Effective relationships with stakeholders are crucial to moving forward with any leading sustainability strategy.
And here are my three creative highlights: Natura’s Sou video – why do I need what I don’t need?; Dragon Rouge’s wonderfully inspiring Family of the Future 2030 video; and Innocent’s rocking chair test for what they leave behind.