Sustainability Branding: Is good enough?

What use is strategy without communication? Spurred by this realisation, we have expanded our service offerings to include all manner of sustainability communications.  Headed by Georgina Combes from Futerra in the UK, Incite is partnering with some of South Africa’s top agencies to provide effective communications that inspire employees, customers, suppliers and board members to get serious about sustainability.

Incite partner Nicola Robins’ presentation at the Branding for Good conference in October last year was considered a little edgy but seeded some great conversations.

Zoom Advertising's The Conscious Brand

An edited version of her presentation follows:

While I am certainly grateful for the invitation, this is not a conference I would have imagined myself talking at one day. Branding is not my thing; being good… well frankly, I am a deep sceptic. When I was a small girl, my father told me a nursery rhyme that went:


There once was a girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.                 And when she was good, she was very very good, and when she was bad…she was phenomenal.

Like all good girls I probably laughed to please my dad; but I understand it now.  There is nothing more powerful than a human being acting from the depths of their passion. This passion is what arises when we do something that is unqualifiably right for us.  Goethe wrote of Dante’s passion for Beatrice – the one and only thing Dante knew in his dark night was that truth was in her direction. It is the most powerful force in the world.

And that’s the thing with sustainability.  In all my days of trotting around corporate corridors, I never met one person who was more passionate about being good than making money.  And equally, I never met one person who actually rocked up to work in the morning and said: “Let’s destroy the world and create rampant inequality today.”

We inhabit an economic system of perverse incentives.  We are relentlessly driven to short termism and consumed by a consensual delusion that material goods can satisfy non-material needs.  Neither of these assumptions is particularly useful, and of course you branding folk know far more about each of them than I do. But I would like to suggest that for many of us old sustainability hacks, a reasonable dose of scepticism would significantly enhance the appeal of branding for good…

Download the full paper in PDF here:


Nicola Robins is a Partner at Incite Sustainability.


About laurenhermanus

Coffee drinking philosophy reading film loving person with an interest in all matters related to development.
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One Response to Sustainability Branding: Is good enough?

  1. Joanna says:

    I love this article – says it like it is! Brilliant.

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