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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Forum for the Future

Forum for the future. 12th September 2011, New York.

Action for a Sustainable World…

Forum for the Future is a non for profit organisation that works with businesses and has been doing so for over 15 years.
This year they collaborated with the Guardian Sustainable Business
To host an expert panel discussion, Q&A and group discussions. The panel was made up of Ian Yolles Chief sustainability officer, Recyclebank; Freya Williams Senior partner, director of strategy, Ogilvy Earth; Sally Uren Deputy chief executive, Forum for the Future and Jeffrey Hollender Co-Founder Seventh Generation, sustainability author and activist.

The role of brands as change agents is growing rapidly. Brands can have more power than any international organisation by sheer force of the number of people they touch. With that power comes responsibility – and the potential for brands to act as agents of transformative change.

Here are my bite size notes on the topics of the evening!

Who is going to create the change?
The business sector- they have the power and the freedom that the government and the consumer do not have. The government’s financial model is still a very short term one. Businesses have the opportunity to create long-term financial models that can incorporate sustainability as an investment rather than a cost.

The system in place is wrong- good products are expensive and bad products are cheap. So it rewards companies and consumers for behaving badly. What can big brands do to make a difference? We are too worried about being less bad rather than being good.

We have to work from the inside. We have to work on behaviour change. The consumers have been resistant to guilt and to reason and so to reach the mainstream consumers we have to use the same methods that we have always been using because they work. We need to use mainstream advertising in sustainability. SUSTAINABILITY IS AN OUTCOME NOT A MARKETING STRATERGY.

Language is a problem- sustainability suggests that we have to get to a stage of sustaining where we are- but this is not how we should be thinking- how we are got us into this mess and we have to learn from it and adapt to a new way of being. We need to get back to social currency, social value is a large part of the monetary value of a commodity or service.

You can’t leave it to consumers- if Steve Gibs would have let consumers lead we would have never got his innovation. He told us what we wanted.

EDUCATION- we need to educate consumers- especially the young ones- they are the citizens of tomorrow.

How to get sustainability into your brand:

The price is a major issue- we have to kill the sustainability tax. We need to change the price at the back end so the mark up is not passed onto the consumer. Large companies have to see it as an investment and not a cost. Take Heins Mayonnaise as an example- they changed their eggs to free range – their product was more expensive to make but the cost did not go up. As it was the same price but it was better- the sales went up which covered the initial cost. M&S and their carbon neutral bra- they did nothing to the marketing or the price- they just added the label and it went from the 16th best selling bra to the best selling bra within a week. It did not take much to change habits.

P.S. WE ARE SUSTAINABLE is such an important marketing plan. We do not want people buying our products because they are sustainable but because it is a good product. It should not be a trend.

Value is subjective- if a customer values a product they will invest in - it is up to us to put value on the product.

You have to get off the escalator and take the stairs! You will still reach the top- it might take you a little longer and a bit more effort- but you have control of how you get there and are healthier at the end.

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