By Sandra Pina, Partner and General Director of Quiero.
For three days, the French capital hosted the first Sustainable Brands event in France. Under the theme “Redesigning the Good Life”, over 2000 attendees came to #SBParis19 from the 23rd to the 25th of April at the Carrousel du Louvre, with the aim of identifying and applying trends in the business-sustainability-brand equation.
Quiero was present at this first Paris edition of the world’s leading community of innovators who are transforming the world of business. Sandra Pina, Partner and Managing Director of Quiero and Director of Sustainable Brands Madrid, took part in the #SBParis19 conversation, where she is also part of the advisory council, chairing the table “Beyond the product, make them feel good for good”, which analyzed the role of consumers when they become activists, together with Lisa Hogg, Director of Marketing EMEA at TOMS, Patricia Oliva, Global Vice President of Marketing for Evian, and Lisa Pike, Vice President of Environmental Activism for Patagonia.
We return from Paris with these seven trends, which we share in order to accelerate change. Although some of them are already essential in managing businesses, it is nevertheless worth going over them one more time:
-Courage and bravery: Brands, companies and their leaders need to be brave and bold, not afraid to become personal or even emotional. The leaders of this movement need to have a clear vision of their values and share them with their stakeholders. Danone’s CEO, Emmanuel Feber, urged brands to “establish a bold purpose and act consciously to meet it, or else they will lose all meaning as a company and disappear”.
-New exemplary leadership: Companies must provoke their customers and consumers, inspiring them into action and encouraging responsible consumption. This exemplary leadership is linked directly to the audacity and courage of business leaders who are not afraid to drive disruptive changes as a way to enhance sustainable innovation. Emmanuel Feber inspired us: “We can all be exemplary, we can’t hide behind brands, because people build brands and each of us can drive these changes”. Feber took part in the opening panel “Become a Sustainable Brand, be bold,” along with Erin Meezan, Interface’s Vice President and Director of Sustainability, who cited, by way of example, that the company’s founder, Ray Anderson, “set out to transform the business and reduce our carbon footprint by 70% to help protect the environment”. Chris Coulter, CEO of GlobeScan, said that “empathetic leadership is the only way to mobilize teams and people”.
-Trust: Trust is one of the main attributes demanded of brands, and continues to be key in business management. Trust means involving, informing and empowering consumers to drive change, since they are the true strength of companies. Without the trust of consumers and society, brands have little chance if they want to look to the long term.
–Transparency: Transparency is no longer something companies can shy away from. It has become a key business accelerator and driver of new consumers, especially among ‘millennials’ who demand it more and more, as we were reminded by Lucie Beudet, co-founder of Konbini, Xavier Guilbert, partner of Ubisoft, Stephen Greene, CEO of Rockcorps, and Solitaire Townsend, co-founder and CEO of Futerra. Transparency helps transfer the economic, social and environmental impact of organizations, and has become an accelerator of transformation.
-Urgency: Driving small changes to meet global challenges such as climate change, the fight against hunger and poverty or inequality is no longer enough, but rather we need to encourage systemic changes in order to address the challenges in an increasingly uncertain environment. Disruptive innovation is needed. Moonshots are needed. Sustainable Brands Madrid 2019 will address these changes.
-Empowerment: #SBParis19 empowered consumers as catalysts for sustainable development and how they can use their purchasing decisions to force brands to move towards positive social impact. An informed consumer can and is at present accelerating change.
Apart from these six trends, we came back from Paris with two powerful growing movements:
-The transformation of cities. Cities are the main area where sustainability can have an impact, as was shared by Jean-Louis Missika, the Deputy Mayor of Paris, Devita Davison, Executive Director of FoodLab Detroit, and Elisabeth Laville, founder and Entrepreneurial Director of Utopies. Their intervention focused on the need to move from sustainable cities to regenerative cities, which take their lead from nature. We need to commit to biomimetic cities, which function as true biological systems.
-Massive civil disobedience. Society is at one when it comes to climate change. Very few climate change skeptics remain, and scientific studies continue to show that the situation is worse than expected and that decarbonization of the economy is urgently needed. Here, citizen activism is turning into disobedience, as has been the case in the UK with Extinction Rebellion, a civil movement that encompasses citizens of all ages, classes and social conditions that have come together to demand political and corporate changes to save the planet.
The young Swedish climate change activist, Greta Thunberg, was naturally mentioned by many speakers at #SBParis19, stressing the mobilizing role she has played among youngsters around the world as they demand concrete political commitments from governments and businesses.