Don’t create a ‘sustainable brand’, create a sustainable company

110310-stoiberI love Fast Companies Co-Exist website, it’s awesome. But I am struggling with a recent article, particularly in light of reading “Is sustainability still possible?” and my recent posts on the matter.

The title of the article was “10 Qualities That You Need To Create A Sustainable Brand” the article was wonderfully written and I still love the site. But I think it is playing in the sustainababble field, particularly when we use the word ‘brand’. I may be a cynical old engineer but as soon as brand is connected to the word sustainable I tend to distrust the rest of what is said.

If someone said ‘we need to create a sustainable brand’ I would immediately think that they want to post rationalise what they are currently doing into sustainababble – to be able to sell it using their marketeers. But if someone said ‘we want to create a sustainable organisation’ I would get a completely different perception of what they wanted to achieve – it would be values led, operations led and innovation led not marketing led.

So the 10 qualities?

Well the opening paragraph of the article is awesome.

“Carbon emissions are rising, biodiversity is declining, access to water is getting more and more constrained, and equity imbalances become wider. While individuals set forth to adopt new, purposeful ways of living, the challenge is for corporations and brands to change as well to help people live more sustainably.”

Apart from the separation of brand and corporations it sums up exactly what we need to do.

And the 10 qualities are spot on.

1: INNOVATION CAN BE A TOOL FOR OPTIMISM

2: CORE VALUES SHOULD BE YOUR #1 DRIVER

3: LIVING SYSTEMS THINKING MEANS EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED

4: NOT EVERY DECISION SHOULD BE BASED ON FINANCIAL RETURN.

5: DOING THINGS THE RIGHT WAY IS DIFFERENT THAN DOING THE RIGHT THINGS

6: LOOK AT LIMITATIONS AS A SOURCE FOR CREATIVITY

7: HUMOR CAN BE A DOOR OPENER

8: TRANSPARENCY

9: EMBRACE ISSUES BEFORE OTHERS POINT THEM OUT FOR YOU

10: KNOW YOUR STORY

The only one I would add based on my recent posts would be

11. DEFINE AND MEASURE WHAT YOUR SUSTAINABLE CORPORATION IS

At Cundall we used One Planet Living as our definition and measurement system for us being a Sustainable Organisation. On top of that we are just about to start define our impact using Ecological Footprint analysis to benchmark our company in how many planets would be needed if all organistaions like ours operated the way we do. It will be interesting to see how many planets we currently use! Contact me if you would like to know more about what we are doing s.wild@cundall.com

Put authenticity before Your Story

In summary, be careful of how you tell your story.

Authenticity is ever more important in the world of green and sustainability – lack of authenticity will mean you fall into the danger zone of sustainababble, taking the fool’s gold medicine.

Be authentic. If you don’t think you can truly say you are a sustainable organisation, don’t try and create a ‘sustainable brand’.

And in the same way as its important to admit that as a person you are a sustainability hypocrite its important for corporations to admit their own hypocrisy. Cundall is a sustainability hypocrite – we are doing a hell of a lot but I don’t think we can say we are a truly sustainable corporation, after all who really can?

5 Comments on “Don’t create a ‘sustainable brand’, create a sustainable company

  1. Simon, I totally agree with your comments, in fact there have been a number of examples of companies trying to position a brand or product in the green space, and unless its reflected through their entire range and organisation it generally fails. This doesn’t mean however that marketing doesn’t have a major role,I believe communication of sustainable companies and actions is crucial.
    Cheers
    Grant Hall .

    • Hi Grant. I absolutely agree. Marketing is fundamentally important to any company . It tells the story. But it needs to be authentic and with integrity. Simon

  2. I reckon there are ‘four pillars’ of a sustainable company. They are: operations (energy and water efficiency etc on site); policies (you cant be advocating against a carbon tax); products (difficult for a producer of cluster bombs to claim sustainability status; or for that matter a co like chicken feed selling plastic crap); and internal cultural alignment (i.e the principle of sustainability is embedded in the business, KPI’s etc).

    Got those four in place – or evolving toward – and you can expect to build growth on a platform of sustainability. But, have one missing and the roof will cave in.

    • Hi Robbie.

      Thanks for the comment. I definitely agree that you need all for of those in place, and then you can tell the story of being a sustainable company.

  3. Pingback: You need to run a sustainable business to build trust « SIMON WILD

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