How to Build an Authentic, Sustainable Brand

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Sustainable Branding, The Shakedown, Sandja Brugmann, sustainable meetings, sustainability
Sustainable Brand; Photo Credit: Intel Free Press/Kee Seng Heng

Sandja Brügmann is a sustainable communication expert, conscious business and leadership advisor, international speaker, author and Women Leadership Achievement Award recipient 2017.

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CEO and founder of Refresh Agency and The Passion Institute, she has worked with the global business community to create strong brands and extraordinary leaders with an ambition and focus on growth, sustainability and social-good change for the past 15 years. In this Shakedown, Brügmann discusses how companies can build a more sustainable brand and how meeting planners can incorporate that philosophy into their events.

What is your No. 1 piece of advice for companies looking to build a more sustainable brand?

My No. 1 piece of advice is to be authentic, and this requires doing work internally within the company. Each key founder, leader and stakeholder needs to dig deep within to identify the values that drive their decisions from a deeper purposeful place. This requires a process over time of sustained commitment to expanding understanding, perception and consciousness, where deeper perspectives and motives are explored. To this process, you apply business strategy, creativity and tactics to identify the interception of values, purpose, solutions and business opportunity.

Business leaders need to ask questions like: ‘How can we make the world a better place through our business?’ or ‘How can we solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges environmentally and socially?’

Answering these questions requires inner processes of working with new perspectives, understanding business as a driver for both environmental and social positive impact and how this drives business revenue. It’s a new way of thinking about business success that requires an understanding of the living ecosystem that sustains all life and thus all business. While you take on more responsibility as a business and leader, it’s infinitely more meaningful to know that your life efforts contribute to driving a change in how people and business interact with the living ecosystem.

Sustainable brands, sustainable business and the conscious leadership driving this real needed change will require leaders to tap into deep courage, vulnerability, strength, intellect, intuition, collaboration, clearing projections and live from a deep set of values. From this place, the business vision, mission and purpose can be built.

This is important to do initially and avoid costly mistakes that might push consumers, talent and stakeholders away rather than attract them to your business. People are quick to sense when you are an inauthentic ‘me too’ and are simply slapping on a green-washing campaign or visual identify, without the real substance and behaviors to back it up. People are verbal about their opinions, and if they sense you are trying to make a buck off fakevertising, it can have detrimental costs to your brand. So, just do it the right way from the start.

People are quick to sense when you are an inauthentic ‘me too’ and are simply slapping on a green-washing campaign or visual identify, without the real substance and behaviors to back it up.

The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals is a good place to look to explore in which area(s) your business, products and serves can strategically set in to make real positive change and drive business with clarity and success. And, hire experts to help drive your transformational business strategy and leadership change process.

How can meeting planners incorporate a more sustainable focus into their event?

What I am experiencing with events and conferences that I attend is a real need to understand the full spectrum of an event. To me this means making an event more environmentally sustainable and more enriching for people. Sustainability is not only banning the use of plastic bottles and use recycled paper cups and napkins. It is creating the framework for human creativity, innovation and full-life experience to flourish and thus drive business solutions that are resourceful and make a real difference for people and the planet.

What about the air and lighting in those environments, where business associates often spend days to get business done? They’re often terrible for intellectual, emotional and spiritual presence. Think creatively and find alternative ways to create an inviting presence for your attendees and speakers that is life-enhancing. Select vendors that are sustainable and purpose-led for catering, laundering, cleaning, location, printing, food, beverages, lighting, sound, staging and logistics.

Personally, being an introvert, I would like to see the event industry consider that a vast portion of their (potentially untapped) audience is introverted. Most events are created for extroverts. How can we think in broader terms to be inclusive of people’s personalities, so we can awaken the potential in each individual?

What expectations in regard to sustainability do you have when attending events like Sustainable Brands Copenhagen?

Sustainable Brands is a client of mine. I consult with them on their European corporate communication and PR. I know the company and leadership team behind Sustainable Brands well. They are drivers of the sustainable business movement globally, and they are inspiring to work with.

As a brand leader, if you want to maintain your leadership position, you need to stay innovative, creative, collaborative, agile, and embracing change. I hope to see Sustainable Brands doing exactly this and thus continue to attract inspiring business leaders and companies sharing their expertise, perspectives, know-how and cases—and to always pose the question: ‘How can we continue to push what’s possible through sustainable business to be of truly good in the world?’

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