Substantial growth potential in branding biodiversity

Written by Malin Håkansson

Maintaining biodiversity is no longer an obstacle for business, but rather a prerequisite. Environment and sustainability issues have always had a serious streak of responsibility and conscience. It has been considered boring and backward. Until a few years ago. Saving the world requires cooperation. As Nobel memorial Prize in Economic Sciences winner Elinor Ostrom finds in her studies of common property resources, it is only if we work together and interact with ecosystems that we can maintain biodiversity. She contradicts Hardins theory “Tragedy of the commons”, saying it is up to us, in these parts of the world where we have a choice, to lead the way towards a sustainable future.

Considering not only our present, but our future, has become up to date, and as it seems the trend is here to stay.There is also a substantial growth potential in branding biodiversity. One of the worlds leading food companies, Unilever, is (certainly triggered by their rival Proctor & Gamble, but still) on the train. They announced late november that they are introducing a plan for sustainability, arguing that both consumers and retailers demand a tenable model of business.

“Economic growth is not enough if it is obtained at the expense of the already over-utilized resources of the earth and of peoples health” argues CO Paul Polman. The interest from leading brands in the project and competition Sustainable Brands 2011 has, according to the project manager Erik Hedén, been “surprisingly large”.Volvo, Vattenfall and BMW are just a few. Already existing and thriving in the UK, Futerra communications agency just set up an office in Stockholm, Sweden, consisting of some of the most forward thinking, experienced coworkers in Sweden today. Under the strap-line “Branding biodiversity” they make business out of communicating carrots instead of a whip. “You can’t sell sausage by marketing it as pig carcass” says one of the founding consultants, Kaj Török, to Miljöaktuellt. Among their clients in Sweden are Skanska, Siemens and Greenpeace.

Perhaps are they all inspired by head of WWF, Jason Clay, and his fenomenal speech on how big brands can help saving biodiversity earlier this year? But taking the step a bit further is for exampel Mistra with their programs Future fashion and Future forests, supporting biodiversity and ecosystem services, and not only considering them in their business.

So now, all we need is honesty, firmness and commitment. Talking big is not going to do the job. For example Unilever still markets Becel, which is full of additives. It is harder to find a natural ingredient in the margarine. And Vattenfall announced just weeks ago that they are extending their lignite mining. They all have a lot to live up to.


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