Building brands in a changing society

Judging Canada’s Progress by our Conferences

My Twitter feed has been lit up over the past couple weeks with tweets about #SBLondon, the Sustainable Brands conference being held in London, November 27 to 28. It’s the first global offshoot of the Sustainable Brands event based in California, an annual conference that brings together brand strategists, non-profits, designers, and social responsibility experts to debate how sustainability can help build business and brand value.

I attended the 2010 conference and found the content so thought-provoking that I became a contributor to the Sustainable Brands newsletter, writing on the topics of brand leadership and communicating sustainability (A New Toolbox For Today’s Brand Leaders, Giving Green Brands The Credit They Deserve, Is Your Brand Sustainable? Be Social.).

I’m envious of those attending the London installment and can’t help but be disappointed that the conference’s first international foray wasn’t north to Canada. I’m not surprised, of course, given the size of the Canadian market relative to the US and UK; our still-developing sustainability sector; and our small portfolio of homegrown global brands.

In fact, Mark Lee, executive director at the consultancy SustainAbility and fellow Canadian, made that very point at last year’s Canadian Business for Social Responsibility Summit. Canada is not at the vanguard of the sustainability movement, he said in a follow-up interview: “Brands have carried a tremendous amount of the leadership in this space, and Canada doesn’t have big global consumer brands.”

We do host some worthy conferences in Canada on sustainability, including the CBSR Annual Summit and the Globe Series, which focuses on business and the environment. However, we still lack regular large-scale forums where marketers, communication agencies, and sustainability experts can share ideas and discuss the issues.

Perhaps as Canadian marketers increasingly appreciate the connection between brand and sustainability, we’ll have a sub-industry worth throwing a conference for.

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