Does Sustainability Need A No-brainer Branding?

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Dr. Alexander Belyakov (ELP 2001)
How many of you have surprised a person you are talking to by describing yourself as an expert in sustainability? Great, if you're talking to a professional environmentalist or project manager who knows this stuff. What if this conversation is taking place ata party? Not everybody understands the term “sustainability”.  A few are even too confused to ask for the further explanation. Many even have misconceptions about this term "sustainability".

Some of my friends have visited my website, read everything about my activities, checked the links and then asked "why should I care about sustainability" or "Why should my company care about sustainability?"     What can I tell someone who is in doubt?

Sustainable development philosophy is a part of my life. I believe that creating harmony, consensus and helping society to sustain is the root of all true meaning in life, but it is not easy to achieve. I hope that I can be a part of the process that improves the quality of life everywhere. I believe in making a living by making a difference. I enjoy working with people and helping them learn something new that makes not only transitional, but mostly transformational change in their life. My passion is about future generations and positive changes in this world. Share your passion with your friends and colleagues, write a blog, become the "go to" sustainability consultant in your local area, take it to communities as much as you can.

How to convince not only your friends, but their bosses to do more for sustainable business? Does your boss understand not only about environmental, but also about the social and economic dimensions of sustainability and what exactly he or she does for employees? What can employees do? What can we say about employees themselves, their needs and views? Why are they motivated to act, if motivated at all? Why do businesses care about sustainability after all?

Let me share with you some experts’ opinions and survey results. It was a pleasure for me to attend a few events with Bob Willard, sustainability guru. He is also occasionally teaching at Ryerson University, in Toronto, where I am an instructor. Bob confirmed after his meetings with the business world that interest in this topic is growing. At the same time, top management recognizes that sustainability is more often about branding than about anything else.

Brand, trust, and reputation are the top driver of CEO's action on sustainability issues according to a survey of 766 CEO's (Willard, 2012, p. 5). The expert's testimony: “Owing to changes in the macro and micro environments, corporate sustainability branding has become more important in recent years” (Belz & Peattie, 2012, p. 186).

Brand differentiation is recognized as one of the greatest challenges among marketing experts. At the same time, benefits of a strong brand differentiator related to sustainability are increasing. Even a prospective job applicant is looking for brand and reputation because he or she identifies with companies as an employer.

There are tendencies that a sustainability-driven brand may influence the student’s college choice. Furthermore, nearly 7 out of 10 (68 percent) among 7,445 college applicants in the US already claim to prefer colleges or universities with a commitment to sustainability (according to a survey done by Princeton Review). "College-bound students are increasingly interested in sustainability issues," added Robert Franek, Senior VP/Publisher, The Princeton Review. Another survey discovered that 92% of students and entry-level job-seekers are looking for an environmentally friendly company (Willard, 2012, p.121).

However, you should care not only about environmentally friendly operations. I recommend we more often emphasize the “Triple-Bottom-Line” and  explain that sustainability is not “just” a green business. Some common myths about sustainability, including what green means in our context, are revealed by Demonic (2009). Sustainability should be presented differently. Read more on my site.

Feel comfortable to review some sources I already mentioned. Please read:

Belz F-M., Peattie K. (2012). Sustainability Marketing: A Global Perspective. John Wiley & Sons, 2nd edition.

Demonic, Michael D.  (2009). “Top 10 Myths about Sustainability.” Scientific American, Earth 3.0: Solutions for Sustainable Progress. New York, NY, USA: Scientific American, Inc.

Iovin J. The Princeton Review Releases Free "Guide To 322 Green Colleges". Retrieved from http://www.princetonreview.com/green-guide-press-release.aspx

Willard B. (2012). The New Sustainability Advantage. New Society Publishers.
With warm regards,

Alex.