Sustainable Brands 2021

Travelling on my first business trip in two years filled me with excitement, some jitters, and a lot of hope. Venturing out into the world’s “new normal” dovetailed nicely with the theme of this year’s Sustainable Brands conference: driving business models that don’t simply “do less harm” but institute regenerative models that renew, restore, and grow.

My big a-ha moment came when I realized that the common thread within the important talk of agricultural renewal, circular farming, and climate change was people. People are nature, too, and our impact on the world can’t be underestimated. Karen Marchetti, Marketing Director, Global Baby Franchise for Johnson & Johnson succinctly summed up this notion by saying, “Healthy people make a healthy planet.”

It became very clear that brands must both be good and do good. Intention matters. Brands must transparently state their purpose and values and live them authentically, each and every day. A brand’s purpose must consist of both what a brand is good at and also what the world needs. Two-thirds of consumers engage with or purchase a brand based on its values, and 69% expect the brand to make good on the good it says it’ll do in the world.

We all know a consumer defines a brand by their experiences and interactions with it. Now more than ever brands need to rely on the power of connection and emotion, driven home through visuals and experiences. These are the unspoken ties that bind consumers to brands and create the most coveted resource: brand loyalty.

I was so inspired and energized by the brands in attendance, living their purpose in ways that matter to their consumers and their employees. The following brands’ approaches really stuck with me:

James Thomas, Alaska Airlines DEI director, shared the significant commitment to Diversity and Inclusion they have made:

  • Committing to having racial diversity in their leadership to mirror the diversity they have in their frontline workers by 2025
  • Updating current recruiting strategies to diversify the talent pool supporting education pipeline to uncover career paths for diverse talent within aviation
  • Creating a leadership development and sponsorship program to help attract and retain diverse talent

Vans’ Nick Street, VP Global Integrated Marketing, outlined several programs the brand has launched to authentically bring their mission to life and support the community they serve:

  • Providing a platform for high school students to pursue and explore their creativity for over 10 years
  • Contributing more than $1m towards sustaining creative programs to counter art education budget cuts
  • Creating a premier skateboard competition to inspire and grow skateboarding globally to support their commitment to gender equality
  • Constructing and donating state-of-the-art, VPS-certified park terrain skate facilities throughout the globe so people of all ages and backgrounds have a place to skate.

Taryn Bird, Sr. Director, Social Impact for Kate Spade, shared with the audience what they believe social impact looks like. Their brand has focused on empowering women and girls globally by putting mental health at the heart of their brand:

  • Investing over $2m in woman’s empowerment and mental health resources
  • Creating three pillars to support the initiative of mental health:
    Agency – focuses on decision-making and self-confidence
    Community – family & support network
    Opportunity – education & employment
  • Partnering with like-minded organizations like the Born This Way Foundation to provide self-care kits for women
  • The foundation’s annual kindness campaign, #BeKind21, calls communities to make kindness a habit by committing to 21 days of kindness, nurturing  112m unique acts of kindness in 2020

The most exciting part of attending this conference was realizing that Deskey shares the same passion to help brands live their intentions and put their values in action to truly make the positive impact they strive for and that consumers demand. We can’t wait to get started with your brand.

About the Author
Carolyn Fields Head Shot
Carolyn Fields

Carolyn is Deskey’s Director of Client Development. She is a lifelong learner, a keen observer, and has 74% less stranger danger fear than the rest of us. That’s why she goes to the most conferences.