The challenge

Many of our partners have committed to big, bold sustainability ambitions and are pushing the boundaries of sustainable business and innovation. At the same time there is lots of debate about the role of brands in helping people to live more sustainable lives. We set out to explore with them: how can companies use their brand power to shift us onto a more sustainable path AND create brand value as they do it?

What we did

Forum brought together a group of leading brands to explore this question. Since 2012 we have run a series of roundtables and workshops for sustainability and marketing practitioners. The Sustainability and Brands Roundtable is a forum for over 20 brands to swap experiences, know-how and propose solutions in a confidential, non-competitive space. Household names like B&Q, Innocent, John Lewis and Burberry have explored how to engage their marketing team on sustainability, created compelling campaigns designed to resonate with mainstream consumers and delved into case studies showing how brands are activating sustainability now.

We designed sessions to support brand marketers and their sustainability colleagues to progress on their individual challenges. We harnessed the power of the brands around the table to give them new insights and strategies to take forward in their organisations.


The companies we worked with now are clear on the opportunity that sustainability offers brands. Through diagnosing and then working on their individual challenges, the roundtable members have forged much closer working relationships between sustainability and marketing teams and, as a result, opened up conversations in their organisations that would have previously been off limits.

They have discovered how to use their brand personality to really connect with people on issues that can seem technical or abstract if not communicated right. Brands have been inspired through case studies and expert speakers that have given them the confidence and the tools to start activating sustainability through their own brand.

And, they have forged a strong network of leading brands that are ready to lead the consumer on sustainability in 2014.

What’s next?

The Sustainability and Brands Roundtable has identified some of the critical issues that brands need to overcome to scale up sustainable lifestyles. In 2014 we began tackling these challenges through a series of "brands platforms".

ROI | What is the return on investment for Brands that embed sustainability?

The risks of getting sustainability wrong can seem to speak louder to brand managers and marketers than the benefits of getting it right.    This platform, launched in August 2014, is enabling participating brands to identify the return on investment ‘cases’ that are most relevant for their brand, and to generate fresh ideas and the means for driving those cases into action.  They are pooling resources to do the research they don’t have the time or funds to do on their own.

Format: scoping research | research | launch findings

With: Forum for the Future, The Marketing Society, Boots, BSkyB, TUI Group (formerly TUI Travel), Jaguar Land Rover, The Rainforest Alliance

For: sustainability professionals and marketing directors

Exploring the opportunity | What is the future of brands and marketing, and how can my brand respond?

Digital technologies are changing the face of brands and marketing.  This platform, launched in November 2014, enables brand and marketing professionals to debate the changing role of marketing in business, and to consider how prepared they are.  Listen and participate in a rousing, high profile debate that explores the opportunity of sustainability in a digital age.  Is marketing about doing things that the consumer will value and that make money or does it have a bigger role or purpose in society?  Discuss.

Format: research | event | follow-up bespoke support and advice session

With: Forum for the Future, Ogilvy Earth, L’Oreal

For: marketing directors, brand managers, marketers and pairs of sustainability and marketing professionals that want to understand how they can collaborate together.

On the launchpad

Being Brave – How can big business can be bold and authentic about sustainability while avoiding greenwash?

Pioneering sustainable businesses are a brave and beautiful thing.  So why is celebrating this often a nerve-wracking experience?  Team up with other pioneering businesses that want to celebrate the great they’re doing to create a sustainable future. 

Get in touch with Gemma Adams if you’d like to find out more about any of these platforms.


“This has been one of my favourite learning experiences because it’s so interactive and there’s such good expertise in the room – from all the different brands, from Forum for the Future and from communications specialists.

"Before joining the Roundtable I was struggling to think through how to enhance our sustainability brand, having meetings internally and with agencies.  It has helped me cut through all of that and we’re now making real progress.” 

Rebecca Edwards, Brand Manager | TUI Travel

“You grapple so intensely with your own issues to day-to-day, the value is in the input stimulus, the fresh perspectives and the new and exciting support.  I had a ‘eureka’ moment when we were discussing how to influence consumer behaviour....We’re acting on that now.”

Nicola Pearson, Commercial Direct | CafeDirect


Related links:

Partners involved in this project

Project Videos

Sustainability and Brands 2012 Roundtable
Network webinar - Sustainability and Brands - Why, What and How


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