Published 4 years ago.
About a 5 minute read.
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Whether you're unsure how to find the right path, think you've done enough, or are just need help to go further — it’s become clear to us that sustainability executives and their C-Suite colleagues need more assistance with understanding and connecting all the dots.
Becoming a truly sustainable brand is not easy. The path to “Mount
Sustainability,” as Ray Anderson famously called it, tends to be long,
winding, messy and even discontinuous at times. Along the way, progress can
easily stall or plateau — and it often does, for a variety of reasons.
After talking to hundreds of business leaders within the global Sustainable
Brands™ community to investigate why they aren’t making faster progress on
sustainability, we found the vast majority of them fall into one of these three
(1) companies that are confident of their way forward in concept but are unsure
how to proceed in practice, due to confusion around potential solution providers
and partners to choose from;
(2) companies that are NOT confident they know what next steps should look like,
having trouble committing to a course of action or feeling ‘lost in translation’
somewhere along the way; and, my favorite camp,
(3) companies that think they are doing enough, either blissfully unaware that
they haven’t ‘arrived’ yet or unwilling to ‘go all the way’ to begin with.
At their core, all three reflect fundamental problems of orientation and
navigation. Whether the problem is not knowing how to find the right path,
thinking you are at the destination when the path continues further; or missing
the right equipment to go forward, even though you see where the path is going —
it’s become clear to us that sustainability executives and their C-Suite
colleagues need more assistance with understanding and connecting all the dots.
That is why the Content Council of the Sustainable Brands Advisory
Board — which
features execs from Iron Mountain, Danone, Procter & Gamble,
Campbell Soup Company, World Resources Institute, Oxfam, Valutus
and Natural Logic, among others — pulled together its collective wisdom, as
well as research insights from a number of other thought leaders, to create a
comprehensive new orientation and navigation tool: The SB Brand Transformation
Think of it as a friendly guide that lays out the entire sustainability journey
and allows any company to assess the maturity of its efforts in five critical
practice areas — Purpose, Brand Influence, Operations & Supply
Chain, Products & Services and Governance. With its intentionally
accessible vocabulary, it can serve both as an on-ramp to early-stage
practitioners, and as a North Star to intermediate and advanced practitioners.
Furthermore, it comes with a self-assessment test that assigns a score between
Level 1: Conventional Business and Level 5: Sustainable Brand in each of
the five areas. The main idea is to help executives put their current
sustainability efforts in context of the whole picture, understand where they
are, learn how to set smarter goals; and from there, engage key stakeholders and
find the right collaborators in order to reach new levels of environmental and
“For the first time, we have a roadmap that demonstrates what happens
holistically in each chapter of a company’s sustainability journey,” states
Kevin Hagen, VP of Environment, Social & Governance Strategy at Iron
Mountain. “It allows you to plot where your company is today and plan a faster
path to the next phase while maximizing the benefits right where you are.”
At this point, you might be asking, “So, what exactly is a ‘sustainable brand,’
then? How would we know one if we saw one?” After boiling down the best existing
thinking to a practical formulation, we found that it essentially comes down to
satisfying five key characteristics, one for each of the five practice areas
mentioned above. Thus, in short, a sustainable brand is one that:
Has a clearly defined, articulated and embedded positive environmental or
Leverages the power of its brand influence to drive a systemic shift toward
a sustainable world through its interactions with all stakeholders.
Operates in a way that ensures the health, resilience and flourishing of
society and the environment.
Delivers products and services that result in sustainable outcomes across
the whole value chain.
Demonstrates continuous strong commitment to transparency, integrity and
leadership in governance.
Needless to say, there is a lot of detail and nuance behind each of these
high-level statements, and that is exactly where the meat of the Roadmap kicks
in — giving not only a detailed view of the aspirational destination, but, more
importantly, painting a user-friendly picture of the whole journey in all five
areas. Along the way, it also connects and systematizes many of the most helpful
existing tools and frameworks out there — in the spirit of an all-encompassing
meta tool, all in an effort to enable faster win-win progress for everyone in
the global Sustainable Brands community.
“We believe the SB Brand Transformation Roadmap has the potential to become an
invaluable tool and the main portal that companies and individual brands will
use to establish and build on their sustainability ambitions and strategies over
time,” says KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, CEO and founder of Sustainable Brands.
“I’m beyond delighted with the response we’ve received so far from Fortune 100
companies who are seeing tremendous value in the Roadmap.”
A number of Sustainable Brands Corporate Members have already begun using the
assessment. Jim Sullivan, VP of Sustainability and Strategy at SAP,
calls it "a very useful approach for internal steering and benchmarking
conversations, and we look forward to sharing further results of real-world road
And Virginie Helias, VP for Global Sustainability at Procter & Gamble, says,
“The SB Brand Transformation Roadmap will allow our brands to assess where they
are along their sustainability journey and where we can make advancements. It is
a holistic tool that looks at all aspects of driving positive impact on society
and organizing for it.”
Should you want to explore further, we invite you to attend The SB Brand
Transformation Roadmap℠ workshop — along with ensuing sessions to help you dive
deeper, no matter where you are on the journey — at SB’19
Detroit, June 3-6.
Published May 1, 2019 12pm EDT / 9am PDT / 5pm BST / 6pm CEST
Dimitar is a senior sustainability and regeneration strategist, educator, executive advisor and mentor. He currently holds the following active roles: Advisor and Co-Lead, Global Content Strategy & Thought Leadership at Sustainable Brands; Senior Strategist, Content Development & Product Innovation at Sustainability Hub Norway; Executive Advisor at rePurpose Global; and Senior Content Advisor at Integrate2033. He co-led the creation of the SB Brand Transformation Roadmap, a comprehensive navigation tool mapping the whole journey from business-as-usual to a sustainable brand, and co-designed an accompanying assessment process that measures progress in five dimensions: purpose, brand influence, operations and supply chain, products and services, and governance.