Sustainable Brands ’09: Connecting Sustainability and Brand Value

sb_logo_09_withwhitebackground.jpgOver 650 business and brand strategists, designers and sustainability executives gathered in Monterey, CA last week for the Sustainable Brands ‘09 conference. The three-day event brought together attendees from all over the world representing a broad blend of industries and experience levels. The program offered equal measures of education and inspiration for everyone, from beginners on the path to those already proving the connection between sustainability and building brand value.
Sustainable Life Media (SLM) produced the conference, which this year attracted companies like: Adidas, Ben & Jerry’s, Clorox, Coca-Cola, Dell, eBay, Frito Lay, HP, Kaiser Permanente, Nestle Purina, Office Depot, REI, SC Johnson, NASA, Starbucks, Williams Sonoma, Yahoo and many other brand leaders, consultants and media representatives.

SLM compiled a wall-to-wall agenda of presentations, panel discussions, breakout sessions, a product and service expo, New Venture Exchange contest, workshops, happy hours (with sustainable wine and beer!), and theme dinners.
The Triple Pundit team co-sponsored a special one-day “unconference” where participants gathered around a theme and created their own conversations. No agenda, no PowerPoint, no speaker notes.

Connecting with Your Customers

SLM organized the content by key subject areas:
Meta Trends: economic, environmental, social and legal context in which sustainable brands will be built going forward.
Brand Communications/PR/Marketing Best Practices: Uncovering your brand story, what to say when, the unfolding eco-labeling landscape, using social media platforms to drive stakeholder engagement.
Sustainable Design & Packaging: Sustainable innovation strategies, tools, and resources.
Supply Chain, Sourcing & Manufacturing: The latest in supply chain innovation, NGO partnerships and sustainable manufacturing.
Your Business Culture as Brand: Empowering your workforce and instilling a sustainable mindset — from organizational change, to purchasing policies, to new workforce programs that translate in to a more sustainable brand.
Many of the sessions also emphasized making the connection with your customers, according to KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, founder and CEO of Sustainable Life Media:

Building a meaningful relationship with consumers was also a recurring theme throughout this year’s presentations. Increased transparency and authenticity remain critical for companies looking to successfully meet the growing demand for more environmentally and socially innovative product and service solutions. To reiterate what many speakers said this week, ‘it’s essentially about values plus value.’

Not surprisingly, the economic recession provided a backdrop for much of the discussion, but mostly as an additional driver for building sustainable brands. One of the conference presenters, Nathan Shedroff, said it best by quoting Hunter Lovins:

In a sustainable economy, sustainability is a competitive advantage. In a down economy, sustainable is a turnaround strategy. In a collapsed economy, sustainability may be the only basis for survival.

Triple Pundit will be posting highlights and impressions from the conference over the next week. And in the near future, SLM will be posting links to videos of the conference presentations. You can also search Twitter using the tag #sb09 to find all the discussion on the conference sessions.

Jim Witkin is a writer and researcher based in Silicon Valley focused on business, technology and the environment. His work has been featured in the New York Times and Guardian newspapers on topics that include: sustainable business practices, clean tech, the environment and next generation transportation technologies. He holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. Contact him at

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