Day 2 of the Sustainable Brands conference down in Monterey and there is relatively little new news. Well, at least no new revelational news. I don’t know if this is a bad thing or just the status of an industry going through natural growing pains, but I am disappointed by the lack of provocative discussions (perhaps its the format?). We are still trying to figure out how to simplify the consumer message of what is inherently an incredibly complex thing and still acting as if transparency and accountability were new concepts (Enron anyone?).
Perhaps what I’m reacting to is our inability to recognize that we are stuck and that we need to flip our perspectives, re-frame the questions and acknowledge that what we haven’t figured out is a serious barrier to adoption. Aren’t we supposed to be ingenious, inspired innovators down at this conference? Admittedly, we come to this conference for the comfort and inspiration that comes from working with others of like-mindedness. But perhaps we are guilty of being lazy, expecting each other to do the heavy brain work instead of basquing in our vacuum of do-gooder intent. But thus far we haven’t admitted to ourselves that we’re stuck and there has been no frank “panel discussions” that confront us on this issue.
It is not all terribly mediocre. There have been a few interesting conversations and themes in the conference which does mean that some progress is getting made. There were a few, just a few, who touched on the field of legal and financial mechanisms as a means of regulatory approaches to governing market-based solutions – thank you Jay Coen Gilbert of B Lab and Hazel Henderson, author of Ethical Markets. And the theme of low impact via local consumption (CSA’s) and local investment (Slow Money) came up as more evolved mechanisms for engagement.
I guess the good news is that despite the fact that 52% of all “green” special issue magazines sell less than their standard counterparts, there are no indicators, as presented by Chris Coulter of Globescan, that we are reverting back to pre-sustainability mindsets. In fact, perhaps despite our marketing attempts, there is very strong evidence that sustainable operating practices are in fact driving brand equity which means the market is responding, if only subtly.
But the blush of romance feels like its dwindling and perhaps this emerging trend is hitting its difficult teen years. Like the .com era did. Which is not bad news it just means that we’re in the throes of the reality of hard work which never feels very sexy or warm.