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SUSTAINABILITY Trend or necessity?
Design and brand strategist, John Mellkvist, is a specialist in sustainability. Along with his clients, he wants to help create companies that are not only strong and clear, but also sympathetic. In this article he talks about why you cannot ignore sustainability work, where you should start and what the pitfalls are.
Hi John! Why should companies and organizations place sustainability high on their agendas?    
"Customers are drawn towards companies that do the right thing. Sustainability is an important issue that everyone needs to consider. If you stand on the outside, customers will not want to stick with you, so it is a matter of survival in the long run."
What do you see in our environment that drives the sustainability issue at the moment?
"When the news is gloomy, it's worth thinking about how many great innovations were born in times of distress. Hard times can act as a springboard for inventiveness. The world's currently most innovative companies have expressly adopted utopia as a business concept. Tesla, Facebook, Virgin and Google operate interesting developments for a better world." 
"The concept that 'everyone can do something' is an insight that is growing rapidly. We also have the business model, 'Third Way Commerce', with TOMS Shoes in the lead. For every pair of shoes you buy from them, they will donate a pair of shoes to charity. For the customer, this creates a sense of doing good."
Tell us more about utopia as a business concept!
"It's about companies that use utopia as a vision, and strive to do good things. Google and Facebook have ambitious projects in many areas. They point out the major global problems and deftly paint the image of a world that works better than today. One problem is to provide connectivity to the Internet in the non-connected areas of the world, using balloons, and solar-powered drones. They see the Internet as a precondition for a healthier and fairer world."
We mostly talk about ecological sustainability, but what else is included in the concept?  
"In addition to ecological sustainability, I usually talk about economic and social sustainability. We see a new feminism that is geared towards positivism and to strengthen women's self-confidence. An example of this is the project 'HeForShe' fronted by actress Emma Watson."
 
"Also emerging is a more nuanced picture of the elderly. They are needed in the workplace and provide different values ​​than younger people. Just look at the soon to be 95-year-old style icon Iris Apfel, or BMW, which has adapted its assembly line to allow older people to work there with softer mats, seating and custom-made shoes for the senior workforce."
"For a long time, corporate charity has begun after the company has been around for some time, and has started to generate profits. But now, you'd rather start a business with philanthropy as a core idea and then create profitability by doing good. All this is part of an increasingly nuanced pursuit of a sustainable development for the world."
Are any of these types of sustainability more important than others?
"No, it is rather that the three variants interact. The overall insight is that people need more than just products. Basically, it's about equalization. Today, we can quickly acquire an international outlook, and when doing so, the inequalities in the world rapidly emerge. This means that more people can, and want to, get involved."
What is a common pitfall when companies work with sustainability?

"You must overcome the buzzword factor and find a natural way to sustainability. If it feels phony, you have taken the wrong path. If a company's sustainability efforts are not perceived as genuine, clear and obvious, the company is perceived as being false."
JOHN MELLKVIST'S BEST TIPS
Get started with your sustainability efforts and make them profitable
• Analyze how the industry in which your organization operates works

What are the problems and Achilles heels in the industry? Start digging there to identify where the focus should lie. Study other industries where sustainability efforts have worked well.

• Let sustainability be the foundation for the organization's identity and business

Remember that the customer buys into the company's efforts to improve the world, so you have to make this the experience complete. An inspiring example is the Swiss company Freitag, which recycles truck tarpaulins for their bags and wallets. They are doing something rather than just talking about it.
• Create a satellite project

Develop a new line of products, or the equivalent, and do it well. The small product line will become a spearhead that spreads to the entire company. You can get additional help from a trustworthy individual who acts as spokesperson for the concept.
 
Denim brand G-Star made the acclaimed collection "Raw for the Ocean" along with Pharrell Williams as a way to highlight the problem with all the plastic found in our oceans. It opens up the possibility to steer the whole company in a certain direction.

About John Mellkvist
A recognized design and branding strategist, whose trend spotting insights can be found in the trade press and lifestyle publications. John is a popular inspirational speaker and often comments on new market trends and brand issues in various media in Sweden.
To be continued...
Don't miss the final part of our focus on sustainability! 
On March 15 we will follow up with an article from semiotician Karin Sandelin who tells us how to communicate sustainability with images. You will see lots of visual examples of what works depending on the issues you want to emphasize.
 

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+1 917 501 2801 or info@johner.com.
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