Day 3 – I’ve been convinced. We, the sustainability industry, are growing up. It’s not pretty and we don’t know what our collectively and future-defined selves will be, but we’re definitely in it for the rest of our adult lives. We’re not going away. But there’s a few things that we need to think about as we approach adulthood:
1) Stop being so defensive. No industry was born perfect. Every new sector had to go through the growing pains of discovering what they stood for and what they didn’t stand for. Sustainability is no different. So accept imperfection and keep charging forward. We will never be pure – let’s own that and figure out how to make it work for us.
2) Embrace our humanity, but let’s be a little more ruthless. We’re beginning to uncover mainstream acceptance for the financial rationale of doing good. We love the warmth of what we’re doing but if others need to hear facts – let’s stick to them to progress the industry. We like rainbows and unicorns but fairy tales have ceased to dominate Wall Street.
3) One size does not fit all. If sustainability is the umbrella industry (think “high tech” 20 years ago), then maybe we need to actively promote the many paths to sustainability that people, products and businesses can choose. As fair trade, sustainably made, clean energy and other sustainable endeavors mature, evangelizing each unique practice will be made easier and the desire to analyze and compare the value of each over the other will fall away.
4) Re-invent our messaging. Flip the framework. As marketers we are failing miserably in moving the adoption curve. Granted the message is as only strong as the product but we must work more closely to strategically effect education and behavior change.
This year’s conference may be coming up a bit shorter on the oxytocin front but it is clear that the energy and enthusiasm is still in full supply.