Last month’s Sustainable Brands conference in Istanbul was a fascinating melting pot of people, ideas and cultures – in one incredible city. I was privileged to share some of RY’s thinking with the crowd and grateful for the opportunity to hear from a number of interesting speakers and practitioners. Here’s what I took away from it…


Community is where you make it

I spoke to lots of people that felt dismayed, despondent and downright angry about the rise of populism and nationalism in countries that are directly affected as well as those that aren’t.  Those of us who still believe in truth, tolerance and openness must stick together and look beyond geography to find others who share similar beliefs. Whether we like it or not, brands have become political, and must have a point of view.


Attention is short: use it wisely

Thomas Kolster – moderator extraordinaire and founder of Goodvertising – spoke eloquently about the power of ‘giving a damn.’ This brought me back to a topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently: attention.  We don’t have enough of it, and we don’t always use it wisely. Imagine if we were more careful with our attention. What could we change if we dedicated even 10% of the attention we waste every day to thinking about creating something better? Then consider how that could scale on the brand and organisational level – what could we solve if we focused our collective attention?


Changing the contract shifts the conversation

Sustainable Brands, in its broadest sense, aims to find a better way of doing business. Keynote speaker, Jenny Andersson, delivered a thought provoking perspective on  how to drive people’s appetite for change in large organisations.  She painted a vivid picture of a new approach to employee-employer contracting – one that shifts from authority to autonomy – where both parties sign a ‘letter of understanding’ that spells out mutual obligations and expectations.  It’s a thrilling, if slightly scary, concept – and one that could prompt more intelligent, soulful ways of working in the future.


The customer isn’t always right

Thanos Belalidis was another highlight for me – speaking about people’s contradictory expectations in the wake of Greece’s economic crisis. On the one hand, they didn’t trust big brands and organisations; on the other they expected them to step in and help as the government failed. It starts with listening – but it’s also about a clear, credible demonstration of care.  Striking the right balance every time is tough, but there’s a clear role and expectation that brands must step up, act with conviction and make a difference to the communities they work in. 



In conclusion

It was a brilliant conference at a crucial time; a time when the world needs brands to have a purpose and stand for something. I’ve spent most of my career talking about the relationship between brand and sustainability in its broadest sense, and it’s brilliant to see the momentum that a movement like Sustainable Brands can create. So, ask yourselves, what more can your brand do to make a difference?

A big thanks to the Sustainable Brands team for being such generous hosts. You can find out more about who I heard from at the conference on Twitter

Also, find out about some upcoming events we have in the works here.


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