After extensive senior-level B2B experience, including timber and emerging tech, KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz experienced the impact a purpose-driven company can have on both people and profits. She started a management consultancy built around the notion of purpose-driven profitability. From there, she founded Sustainable Brands in 2006. Sustainable Brands’ mission is to “inspire, engage, and equip business leaders and practitioners who see social and environmental challenges as an essential driver of brand innovation, value creation, and positive impact.”
Today, the Sustainable Brands member network is vast and includes 3M, PepsiCo, P&G, and AT&T. The collective focus is “to progressively become more sustainable as a business. Members commit to
publishing a materiality assessment and reporting how they are reducing negative environmental, social and ethical impact over time.”
When asked about what’s changed in the world of sustainability, KoAnn noted that, at a time when everyone thought government and NGO’s were the answer, she recognized the power of business to innovate and solve complex problems. Plus, she feels “market drivers will inevitably make it profitable to be sustainable.” She believes the turning point was in 2017 when critical mass turned corporate sustainability from a race to the bottom to a race to the top. Partly because companies were seeing changes in the consumer base. Research showed the majority of mainstream consumers were saying they want to live a sustainable life.
That’s why more and more businesses are seeing sustainability as an opportunity. But, of course getting there hasn’t been easy. In the last century business focus was on efficiency, so siloes were created to enhance maximum efficiency. “But” as KoAnn notes, “sustainability is an integrated problem so we need a solution set that involves interweaving social and environmental issues. We need more organic solutions. All parts of the operation have to be aligned. Our assumption is that companies know how to innovate.”
KoAnn feels brands sit at the center of the economic ecosystem, with Sustainable Brands aimed at brand leadership first. In 2006, “nobody was thinking that way.” So, she had to bring together three disparate groups:
1. A sustainability or CSR pro. These are the individuals who were familiar with the
problems and with the risk
2. The brand strategy or marketing chief
3. R&D or innovation teams, because in the end innovative solutions will be required
She has a lot more to share, especially about Sustainable Brands’ sub-brand “Brands for Good,” and an
interesting case about a company that had a massive sustainability image problem, Philip Morris. So stay
tuned for Part II.