The macro landscape of Purpose: a swirling rollercoaster of opportunities

By Maggie Crespo Mijares, Project Executive- Somos Quiero/ Sustainable Brands Madrid

The last couple of months have been a swirl of emotions. On one hand; corporate, entrepreneurs and leaders of opinions joined one of the most important events towards sustainability and strategy at Sustainable Brands Madrid 2017: Activating Purpose. On the other hand two weeks after this event, global political forces took one of the most shocking decisions of contemporary times having USA pulling back from a global climate agreement.

Life can be a surprising rollercoaster of opportunities, depending on how well you cope with movement, climbing and dropping down… In Sustainable Brands Madrid we like to consider the current global landscape of environmental, social and economic forces to be shifting the conversation towards a more challenging structure. This will only be achieved if the correct social actors are aligned towards one main common objective. In this review, we will consider three points of our day one session at SBMadrid 2017: SDGs, citizens and organizational leaders, as a triangular force actioning change.

The unprecedented private-sector engagement at the UN´s COP and SD Summits, have proven businesses understand their magnificent power of being change agents. The SDGs Global Goals if embraced and applied correctly can be the mobilizing coordinating and driving force for making sustainability become embedded within the organization by innovating and regaining trust of consumers. We are living in an important momentum: we have shifted from a sustainable definition that considered only the environment, to a definition that includes 17 important aspects. SDGs are a powerful tool for business because they are simple, everyone in the organization can understand the concept of the challenges and finally they are easily transmitted by being visually appealing. The most important effort on the road in aligning SDGs is to be constant on achieving goals. As Lord Michael Hastings Global Head of Citizenship of KPMG International, said in his panel intervention: to work with continuing argument and passion about dignity, justice and equality…

In the past years, we have been experiencing close relationships between the different players in our society: business, public institutions and citizens. As Teresa Ribera Director of Institute for Sustainable Development & International Relations (IDDRI) established in the conversation: business do not have the option to be sustainable, there is a need to operate in a sustainable context to last. To get there, there is a need of having people in the center. “Citizens as local players are the new set of policy makers that can provide with an approach to a deeper understanding of their own necessities.” Teresa also stated how globalization needs to take discussions and downscale them to local conversations to find “concrete, personal purpose, and local, personal interests.” As an example Teresa explains that the reason why an important commitment such as Paris Agreement succeeded, was because the negotiation was focused in a scale of direct impact to communities, and families. It created the desired urgency  and of action by placing people’s necessities at the center.

Within the corporate organizational scope, there is a pressing necessity of having leaders in business that show confidence on their capacity to lead change in sustainability. José Lopez, former Executive Vice President of Operations, Nestlé SA highlighted how people that believe that the business of business is business: are wrong. Brands are an excellent engine to prove them wrong considering the power of value creation and brand activism that they have. It is important to acknowledge that our current society is driven by transparency and accountability. Considering that the power and knowledge has shifted to consumers, only long-term brand value creation will be achieved by those who meet the primary needs of consumers while contributing to the wider society by amplifying an authentic purpose.

Wheels keep on turning, the motion is still going on within this environmental, social and economic swirl where, not even Trump will take our -clean- energy away. Currently there is an opportunity of unifying different actors in society to express their necessities. We are living a deeper connection between public, private and citizens towards one main sustainable goal. There is a rising level of compromise, in understanding each other’s capabilities, capacities and desires to drive productivity with one main purpose: thrive with a sustainable purpose.

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By Maggie Crespo Mijares

Project Executive at Somos Quiero / Sustainable Brands Madrid