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Sustainable Brands 2011 — PLAY ON indeed! Creating Change through Rewards & Play

Play On indeed.  What a fun time I had last week learning about how brands, big and small (mostly big) are plotting to save the world by getting us all of us to play our way to a shared sustainable future!  This concept is called “gamification” and motivating people to do good and then rewarding them for it is the name of the game.  Take the Toyota Prius, for example, which “gamifies driving in an environmentally conscious manner” through it’s green dashboard (software, that is).  During the week we heard from over 120 of the players in this community, including “born greens” and “big brands” — consumer perception of which I learned a lot about in Annie Longsworth and Sandy Skees‘ presentation of the 2011 ImagePower Green Brands Survey.

The closing ceremony for Sustainable Brands 2011 (SB11) nicely wrapped up a wonderful week.  Honestly, this is always one of my favorite parts of the event, and not just for the chance to win a Specialized bike (though that would have been nice)!  This is when we learn about the wonderful accomplishments that KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, Sustainable Life Media (SLM‘s) Founder and President, and her team made in terms of “greening” the conference and the local community.

The event’s Executive Producer, Marianne Condrup, began the wrap-up by expressing her gratitude to everyone who came and spent the week together at the conference, as well as to staff and team of volunteers who made this year the best yet.  Sustainable Brands conference takes 6-8 months to produce and this year’s event broke records for attendance with a total of 790 attendees, 200 of whom registered during the last 2 days of the conference.  Nothing like waiting till the last minute, Marianne joked that folks who want food should register a bit earlier next year.  (I must say, I always got plenty to eat and never saw, nor heard, of any lack of food for attendees).

SLM partnered with Monterey Institute to create a green team for the conference.  This year’s team achieved a 90% diversion-from-landfill rate, so that only 10% of the “waste” from the conference went to the landfill, while the rest was recycled, reused/up cycled or composted.  Last year, the Sustainable Brands green team implemented composting at the hotel, which has maintained that program ever since.  This year the SB11 green team did a pilot city-wide composting program, on which KoAnn promised to keep the community updated.  The SLM team thanked the city Monterey for allowing them to come in and shake up its routines.

All about shared value — these examples show how we work to create shared value:

Simon Dunne from Specialized took over the stage to donate bicycles to the Seaside Boys & Girls Club.  Since one of Specialized’s goals is to get 10, 000 bikes into kids’ hands, Simon’s afternoon session was appropriately titled, “A Hands on Experience with Brand Activation for Good,” which involved attendees in building bicycles for local kids.  Simon encouraged all of us to work on closing the gap between providing great advice and inspiring action, as Specialized aims to do through its First Gear program.  After Simon, we heard from the Boys & Girls club folks, and got to see some pretty psyched kids.  Then came the SB11 Innovation Award winners, One World Futbol Project, whose co-founder, Tim Jahnigen, shared how inspiring it is to be in such a select group of peers who are putting out so much effort to do such good.  He explained that One World Futbol Project is working with 2 local YMCA chapters to make initial contributions of their indestructible One World Futbols.  One of the YMCA representatives shared that their soccer registration just opened, so the timing could not be better.  The final local non-profit that directly benefited from Sustainable Brands 2011 was Girls Inc of the Central Coast , which the One World Futbol Project also supported through a donation of balls.

KoAnn closed by saying that this week was incredible on so many levels, it really was “A dream, manifest . . .”  Since before she founded SLM, KoAnn envisioned a community of people who are committed to creating the future we’re collectively striving to create.  She said what many others in the responsible business community often express, that  business is uniquely equipped to efficiently create value and that brands are helping redefine what value means.  She emphasized the importance of being leaders and taking risks.  She reminded us that happiness is what unites us as humans, and it doesn’t come from stuff, but from our experiences.  One of the lessons KoAnn learned during Sustainable Brands 2o11 was what happens when you remove obstacles and take people’s fear away — this gives them agency to be their best.  KoAnn suggested that we define a brand as “a platform for purpose, a promise delivered.”  And with that — and a promise delivered on another wonderful Sustainable Brands conference — we parted ways to return to our normal lives, a bit more enlightened, inspired and ready to play!

Sustainable Brands focuses on big brands largely because the bigger the audience, the larger the ripple effect.  The “Born Greens” and “Big Brands” have to learn to get along if true systemic change is to occur across industries.  The better we can play together working towards common goals, the more likely we are to achieve those goals, which is to everyone’s advantage.  Game on!

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