Once again, more than 1,200 sustainability professionals are gathered together to share, inspire and connect at the Sustainable Brands conference. The air crackles with energy and ideas, visions for the future and new possibilities.
Here’s one provocative idea I’ve heard with deep implications for today’s companies: brands could be the new global superpowers. Around the world, from Greece to Syria, Egypt to America, we’re seeing countless examples of citizens losing faith that their governments have the best interests of their people at heart. Whether it’s corruption or deep political polarization, seriously pressing issues like health care, education and the environment often aren’t being addressed in any serious way.
This creates a leadership vacuum, and we know that nature hates a vacuum. Some people — in particular, people at this conference — are now calling on global companies and brands to step up and fill the leadership void, and take on new social responsibilities on a much larger scale.
This is a defining moment for capitalism, where the primary focus – at least until now – has been to maximize profit. As Umair Haque, author of The New Capitalist Manifesto and Betterness, says, it’s time for a shift from busy-ness to better-ness.
Thus, international companies and brands are becoming more responsible for the social well-being of those they serve. Their licenses to operate are becoming dependent on their ability to truly make the lives of those they interact with better in real, tangible ways. They’re becoming political entities, and that means looking at the world in an entirely different way. It means thinking about the fact that consumers can now vote you out of office just as easily as they’ve overthrown Middle Eastern dictators.
And you know what happened to them.
The call to serve, to elevate the human condition and to create true well-being is being issued, and brave, forward-thinking brands are responding. Those brands are using their scale, economic might and innovations to raise the floor, benefiting everyone. I think they’ll become the thriving brands of the future, because they re-invented themselves at a critical moment and made the transition to sustainable brands.
Rise to the occasion. Re-invent. Re-position. And reap the rewards that come from being the leader.