10 Take-aways from Sustainable Brands

Picture 4Working with the concept of large-scale applicability, here are the top 10 things I learned at the Sustainable Brands conference earlier this month in Monterey:

1. Consumers trust brands more than they trust the government.

(Annie Longsworth, Managing Director, Cohn & Wolfe)
Republicans and Democrats meet at the checkout. Brands have a colossal toolkit to affect positive change. They’re working from a current level of high consumer trust.

2. 4  motivators in consumer behavior: Status, Altruism, Safety & Value.

(Mike Kraft, Senior Manager of Environmental Sustainability for Clorox)
Kraft used these principles to help turn Clorox’s Green Works line into the #1 consumer choice across every category of natural cleaning products.

3. Sustainability needs to be expressed honestly.

(Duke Stump, North Star Manifesto)
Consumers are highly skilled at sniffing out inauthentic brands and campaigns. Be authentic, be transparent, be honest.

4. The movement begins inside the company.

(Duke Stump)
Business initiatives need to stem from the company’s value-system. Creating an environmental campaign around saving the rain forest when you’re a cruise line or cereal manufacturer lacks internal (and customer) resonance.

5. Consumers are willing to pay 60% more for Fair Trade products.

(Rob Cameron, Fair Trade International)
Fair Trade Certification has become a brand, which draws its strength from its multilateralism. Many brands can be a part of this umbrella designation.

6. 76% of people will spend the same or more on green products in the next year.

(Annie Longsworth)
If you solve the top consumer obstacles to buying green–price, limited selection and limited availability–3/4 of consumers will be attracted to your product.

7. 83% of people want a label that tells them where their was grown and produced and clearly lists all ingredients.

(Annie Longsworth)
Given the bombardment of claims, certifications and nutrition information on our consumer goods, I’m surprised that consumers would look for additional (and esoteric) product information.

8. Interest in personal health correlates to interest in health of the planet.

(Thomas Oh, Director of Marketing, Frito-Lay)
SunChips connected its message of healthy, whole-grain snacking to environmental sustainability and appealed doubly to its target consumer.

9. 88% of people interviewed say the business sector should play a role in contributing to social and environmental change.

(Andrew Winston, author of Green Recovery)
Brands have consumers’ trust (see #2) and dollars (#4 and 6) and now consumer expectation for a product that’s both of value and of values. Business is now a powerful vehicle for social and environmental improvement.

10. The top green brands are found across sectors and aren’t ‘granola.’

Toyota, Walmart, Burt’s Bees, Green Works, Procter and Gamble, Ikea, Disney, SC Johnson, Toms of Maine and Dove.
(Annie Longsworth)
Your brand does not have to be organic, unprocessed or carbon-neutral to be a sustainability heavy-hitter. Social and environmental responsibility is not reserved for the benevolent; it’s just smart business.

Sustainable Life Media is a fantastic resource for sustainability news, trends and best practices, and they put on one heck of a conference.

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  1. Rex Worth June 27, 2009 at 1:57 pm #

    Wow, you have some really interesting data here. It’s terrific that almost 90% of people think businesses have a responsibility to social and environmental change. I wasn’t able to attend the conference, but it sounds very valuable. Great site. I took a look at the other posts and really enjoyed your recent interviews with Give Something Back and B Corporation.

  2. Lily Khouri June 27, 2009 at 2:11 pm #

    Surprising that people trust brands more than the government. I know that some brands command high levels of consumer trust, but I also know many Americans who are brand skeptics and sensitive of being manipulated with marketing. You make a great point that if this is the case, brands are a top asset for change.

  3. admin June 29, 2009 at 11:45 am #

    Rex, I was (happily) surprised by that statistic. I knew that many customers like to act altruistically through their purchases, but I figured it was around two-thirds at most.

    Glad you enjoyed the interviews with Mike and Jay. Let me know if there’s someone particular you’d like to hear from.

  4. admin June 29, 2009 at 11:47 am #

    Lily, you say it well: Brands are now a powerful asset for change. We’re approaching the tipping point when companies will barely exist or launch without some type of social or environmental responsibility mission. We’re not there yet, but the wind is certainly at our backs.