Since forming Mission Critical Creative, we wondered where we would find our tribe. In early June, Hae and I attended the Sustainable Brands 2018 Conference in Vancouver, BC. As a Bay Area creative agency, we selected this conference with the intention to connect face to face with business and nonprofit leaders “whose mission is to improve lives”. Would our yet-to-be discovered tribe be at this conference? Yes, indeed! We were thrilled to find a broad spectrum of folks who work to improve lives. The event was the perfect cross section nonprofits organizations, entrepreneurs, and big brands. Because the conference is so varied in content, we met people who work for big brands such as P&G, Target, LG, LUSH; nonprofit organizations like Women’s Funding Alliance, Read Global, Greater Good Science Center; and small to midsize companies like EO Products, Rivanna Natural Designs, and Causegear.
Let’s back up because you might be wondering what is Sustainable Brands? As defined on their website:
“Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands is a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have a unique role to play in both focusing corporate energy and also influencing culture. We seek to enable the success of better brands that are helping shift the world to a sustainable economy by helping them embed purpose-driven environmental and social innovation into the DNA of their business so that sustainability becomes a core driver of business and brand value.”
The 2018 SB flagship conference was a 4-day event where approximately 2,500 participants from 30 countries, 300 expert speakers, 100 sponsors, could attend 12 conference tracks. In between plenary and breakout sessions, attendees could attend an expo called the “Activation Hub” or take part in an “Innovation Lab” where design thinking methodology was used to solve a problem. Plenary sessions were chock-full of big brands like Ikea showcasing their commitment to not only sustainability practices but also reporting about how they are activating programs toward social good. (Some left out the not-so-flattering details about their challenges, but we hope this type of presentation will become more transparent at future conferences).
The Good Life
The underpinning of the entire conference was “Redesigning the Good Life”. Before attending we wanted to know what that meant. We found out that in 2017, Sustainable Brands launched a three-year initiative exploring the definition of the “Good Life” and what that really means in today’s society. The research posted on their website states, “The elements that define the ‘Good Life’ today include: having less of a focus on money and status and moving more towards a pursuit of a simpler, balanced life that is rich with connections to people, community, and environment”.
The Good Life concept is broadly about having a purpose in business that is greater than profit. According to 3M’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Jean Bennington Sweeney, “Purpose-driven business is a powerful approach for overcoming our greatest societal challenges and driving business growth.” Dr. John Izzo, thought-leader and co-author of The Purpose Revolution started the conference off by asking us to “Be Bold, Be a Giver, Be Curious and most importantly, Be Encouraging”, because sustainability work and all that it encompasses is a tough row to hoe. He defined a sustainable brand as:
- Purpose Beyond Profit
- System-Wide Brand Influence
- Regenerative Operations
- Net Positive Products & Services
- Transparent & Proactive Governance.
What is the #1 takeaway from all of this content? Hope. I found hope in that there are business leaders making decisions not just about profit but also about how their organizations impact the planet and the collective social good. People want to support purpose-driven organizations and businesses. If the amount of content, sponsors and conference attendees are any indication, sustainability is finally becoming a mainstream concept.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be reporting on some of the branding case studies, thought leaders in design thinking and experiences we had while at the conference. In the meantime if you’re interested in learning more about purpose-driven companies or about the inspiring founder of Sustainable Brands, Koann Skrzyniarz. Check out these links: