Sustainable Brands’ mission is to “…inspire, engage, and equip business leaders and practitioners to turn social and environmental challenges into drivers of brand innovation, value creation, and positive impact.” In the beginning, the focus was on helping guide and nudge sustainability and CSR leaders to see that they could be a more strategic asset to the company by making the case for embedding their work into the core of business and brand strategy.
As KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, Founder and CEO of Sustainable Brands, notes, “in 2006 and 2007, many business execs began to see the potential and rushed to market to claim their commitment to ‘going green.’ She believes that, for the most part, their intentions were good but acknowledges that, at the time, they didn’t know what they didn’t know, and many of them were criticized for “greenwashing.”
As Sustainable Brands – and its community – evolved, “[it] saw business executives stop talking about [sustainability], but [these executives] kept learning. So now there is a lot more knowledge and substance underneath the work, and [society has] swung toward more ‘green hush’ as we call it, which also doesn’t serve brands or the movement best.
Today, consumers are becoming a lot more savvy about environmental and social challenges and expect brands to be part of the solution, and the banking and investor community is getting more involved,” Skrzyniarz noted. “Those companies who aren’t communicating about their efforts honestly and transparently are likely leaving money on the table.”
Over time, Sustainable Brands has broadened its mandate from inspiring and engaging business and brand leaders, to equipping them by creating useful frameworks and tools to help drive sustainability into the core of business and brands strategy across the organization, and to help enable consumer behavior change through the power of brand influence and collaboration.
KoAnn says that making the case for the importance of the connection between CSOs and CMOs has been a core ambition since Day 1, and we are finally making great progress! ” The organization’s Brands for Good initiative was created as a brand extension designed to provide tools to marketers to help brands collaborate on normalizing the nine most impactful consumer behaviors that together ladder up to help mitigate climate change, protect our limited natural resources and enable social resilience in a rapidly changing world. Brands For Good offers innovation workshops, playbooks, research, – a complete set of tools for companies.
Brands for Good is really designed for, and aimed at, the CMO and her/his team. KoAnn feels “the marketing community now recognizes the challenges they are up against and the mandate they have to matter more to their customers today by addressing pressing issues that are feeling more front and center for all of us.”
Suffice to say that Sustainable Brands has become a major force in guiding the business community to become better brands that align around the ambition to help drive good growth. behind and also in providing actionable tools for activating and measuring change.
Finally, when asked if companies might simply look at a Sustainable Brands partnership as a badge or a promotional device they can exploit, KoAnn was quick to point out that while some might start that way “..they quickly learn that’s not the way to think about us. It doesn’t take long for them to figure out that authenticity and forward progress across the organization is necessary.”
Of course, this can lead to unexpected opportunities. “Phillip Morris, for example, had approached Sustainable Brands on a number of occasions because they had established an internal ambition to change who they were as a company, and no one else seemed willing to work with, and help them.
So we created a new platform called the ‘Voyagers Program’ designed for companies like that who are reputationally challenged. Or, in a market that is inherently unsustainable to help support them through the process of what we would call ‘creative self-destruction to leverage their people, resources and core competencies in new ways to become a company that is better for society”
It was eye opening and a genuine joy to meet and listen to KoAnn, and to see the work that is being done to energize sustainability as a pathway to healthy growth for the future.