If I should share my experience at Sustainable Brands Barcelona 2016 what would I say? How could I explain what a Sustainable Brand means, what is this movement about, who is currently leading the way and what are the future perspectives? While I’m writing this summary I plug in my earbuds to the radio station, a composition by orchestra for Peter Pan sounds as a perfect queue to write the proposed questions with the view of adventure. Indeed this would be the best way to propone this subject: as a kid watching Peter Pan; humble, innocent, adventurous and passionate.
Sustainable Brands is an international community of strategists who are shaping the future of organizations worldwide with focused attention on understanding and leveraging the role of brands towards sustainability. These green warriors get together in different countries from around the world to battle one of humanity’s toughest threats: indifference and ignorance. They achieve this by sharing information towards change happening within their organization and worldwide.
This year’s Sustainable Brands Barcelona focused on HOW NOW: how to successfully innovate your brand for sustainability now. Tackling transversal issues throughout organizations towards sustainability such as: in the Marketing approach; how to escalate consumer engagement now? Or How to make consumers pay for sustainable products now? In the Human Resources approach; How to become a relevant company to work in for millennials now? Or Financially; How is the correlation amongst sustainability initiatives and financial results?
Koan Vikoren Sustainable Brands founder (a passionate, strategic dreamer that I had the pleasure to meet), addressed in one of her speeches how brands sit at the center of the ecosystem of our economy and they have the capacity to influence all aspects of the ecosystem that are needed to drive the shift that we seek for a flourishing future. In the same line of reference it was also discussed within the event how brands, business and organizations cannot flourish unless people and the planet flourish as well. If the planet lacks of wooden resources because of deforestation, then not only the wood industry will suffer but the landscape of that specific region and its biological systems; its communities and their dependence of these systems and furthermore the whole planet because of the benefit trees have on CO2 reduction and air harmonization. Organizations have to make sure that their business become sustainable in time and transcend not only as memorable brands, but as providers of flourishing life.
Not only natural resources are important to achieve this balance, but also people. As Maria Mendiluce, Managing Director Climate & Energy for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said in her intervention: Business cannot succeed in societies that fail. She addressed in her intervention the importance of the Sustainable Development goals as a strategic focus for the development of companies. Also she stated the importance of scaling up solutions and redefining value by enhancing collaboration. Collaboration can be understood in different levels. As an external collaboration there are alliances with brother industry companies towards the management of circularity models of less waste. An external level of collaboration can also be seen in stakeholder engagement towards awareness creation. Also, as external collaboration, companies can find solutions to internal needs of the company (R&D, communication, services..) by applying open information schemes towards co-creation.
In the other hand, Internal collaborations can be presented in the example provided by Markus Laubscher (Phillips Director Sustainability & Circular Economy) he said that Phillips wants to help each of the functions in the company understand what they can do together to add value to the whole organization. Companies that apply collaborative schemes of information share knowledge between the whole organizational structure providing with incremental benefits of not only empowerment within the company but also efficiency.
This year’s Sustainable Brands Barcelona particularity was the introduction of a guest country. Sustainable Brands invitation was given to The Netherlands, a country that is a front runner position in sustainability with a wide number of leading companies and brands. The Netherlands is also a leader towards the development of circular business models. Within this context day two of Sustainable Brands event was oriented towards providing business cases around entrepreneurship towards circular business models. Companies like Mud Jeans, Brambles, Ecoalf and Interface joined the conversation by presenting extraordinary strategies and perceptions.
…The music keeps on playing, adventurous soundtracks keep harmony and inspiration by my side and I dive deeper into concepts. In this particular deepened point is where I address William Mcdonough (Chief Executive of McDonough Innovation, pioneering in design for circular economy), and his concepts towards the way we see organizations functioning. Bill, highlighted that the common issue looking in the circular economy is concentration and flow: “unless we can concentrate and move we can’t circulate”. Within this context he presented 5 principles of Cradle to Cradle: material health, circular economy, clean energy, clean water and social fairness. For Bill, it is fundamental to celebrate the way natural systems grow and create. He focused his presentation on the necessity of putting “re” back in resources leveraging in the importance of material usage. At the same time he questioned our common views on this particular word (resources) by changing concepts in the way we conceive organizational schemes by creating relationships rather than resources. If we shift words, we would give them more meaning and by this, we would give actions more value; economic resources to economic relations because we want enduring long life “flowing” economies. Or natural resources to natural relationships, because once we relate to nature we can find the deep meaning and substance of being sustainable in time; and finally human resources to human relations: why should we consider people working in our company as a resource rather than establishing long life relationships with them?
The journey is ending, I am arriving to my destination in 5 more minutes. Just in time the radio announces “Back to the future” soundtrack orchestra. Perfect timing to question myself and reflect with a view to the future: If I did had the power to come back from the future with Marty Mcfly and Doc to this day; I would love to embrace this moment, as I am doing today. This instant of change and “revolutionary” ideas…and smile, feel grateful to have been part of this event, in creating discussion towards change and giving my hands, heart and intellect to the purpose of sustainability.
If the soundtrack is inspirational and it keeps getting flow into our lives, inspiring adventure and strength, let the music sound! I am sure, that without fantasy reality wouldn’t be more than a hard indigestible truth.
Maggie Crespo Mijares
Assistant Project Manager @Quiero
Creative, entrepreneur, visionary, dreamer.
I would describe myself as a fugitive: passionately illegal.
Peregrine of the path towards sustainability.