Sustainable branding is upholding a purpose-driven statement

Sustainable branding showcases the effective integration of economical, environmental and social issues into business operations.

It’s the behaviour of your company and its people that form your reputation, and your reputation is your brand” – Dave Allen, CEO of Enterprise IG (global brand agency)

Sustainable branding can be a powerful market differentiator for a company. Having a green consciousness gives clarity to your company’s vision and values, making a strong statement that people identify with and appreciate.

Sustainable branding to increase brand value and to generated demand

You do have a choice, a clear choice. You can remain stuck in the yesterday-thinking of “value”, “cost-effectiveness”, “quality”, and “performance”. Or you go can further, connecting your company’s “what”, “how“, and “why” to the needs and desires of your clients, potential future clients, and the larger world.

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Brands with purpose are increasingly the norm. While social responsibility and sustainability might have seemed like nice-to-dos just a few years ago, business practices that demonstrate these values is now increasingly expected. Companies that don’t actively engage in important issues will get left behind in today’s world of evolving priorities.

Sustainability is an opportunity to cash-in as a leader. If your company can make the transition from passive observer to thought leader, there’s the potential for a tremendous upside.

Recent history in the corporate world has some interesting lessons in this regard. Honda increased sales in their ground-breaking fuel-efficient cars when other manufacturers were struggling in the mid-2000s. GE saw an increase in its brand value by more than $6 billion when was launched by then-CEO, Jeffrey Immelt.

Specific to the A\E\C industry, there are also some current day lessons to be learned from analyzing aspects of successful firms. In Architect Magazine’s 2014 rankings, each of the top five firms also ranks in the top 10 for sustainability. Perhaps more interesting, in the top 10 firms based on business rank, all but three also rank in the top 10 for sustainability.

Yesterday’s brands were about quality and safety, today’s brands are about identity, and tomorrow’s brands will be about societyCoca-Cola‘s Tom Forge

Sustainable branding in action: Types of sustainability brands

It’s important to understand where you company places along the sustainability continuum. From there, you can chart a course of improvement to fully realize the benefits of sustainability.

Recently, Verdantix published Rethinking Sustainability: Brand Risks and Opportunities, which identifies five very interesting archetypes of how companies communicate about sustainability.

  • Purists make sustainability synonymous with the corporate brand, (eg. Patagonia).
  • Explorers integrate sustainability into the corporate brand, aim for a wide audience, and embed sustainability in their business-as-usual communications, (eg. IBM and GE).
  • Advocates have active sustainability communications that are distinct from their normal corporate communication, (eg. McDonald’s and Samsung). Most companies fit into this category.
  • Reactionists are firms that take a more passive approach to sustainability and mention it mainly in reaction to crises.
  • Nothingists as the name suggests, do not communicate about sustainability at all.

Where does your company fall into the spectrum?

Showcase your commitment to sustainability with green business certification

Green business certification by a third party provider will accurately showcase your commitment to being a purpose-driven business.

Green business certification gives an accurate assessment of how your brand stacks up against key sustainability determinants. You’ll be able to track your progress and follow a formal structure and guide to set clear sustainability goals.

At the Green Business Bureau we pride ourselves in helping our clients develop and execute an effective sustainability program. GBB’s EcoAssessment and EcoScorecard host over 500 environmental and social initiatives businesses can use as a structured roadmap towards a greater purpose. Once more, on signing up for GBB, you’ll receive your very own Green Seal of approval, which is a vital brand differentiator that helps you communicate that your business stands to be ethical and sustainable.

About the Author

Julia Craighill


Julia Craighill is the founder and president of Ensight. She is a driven, award-winning sustainability expert committed to helping organizations build value through green strategies. With more than three decades of experience in architecture, construction and sustainability, she collaborates with her clients to align green goals with business goals. A frequent speaker and prolific author on issues of sustainability and resiliency, Julia is known for her solid, pragmatic guidance that helps organizations make the leap from good intentions to long-term, profitable performance. Since starting Ensight Consulting seven years ago, Julia has helped dozens of companies, from large multi-national corporations to a two-person yoga studio, reduce their environmental impact and demonstrate corporate responsibility.

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