Debunking the Myth of Sustainable Brands

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Debunking the Myth of Sustainable Brands

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Christine Arena's "Debunking the Myth of Sustainable Brands"


The 3BL Media blog roll is a select list of the most influential, respected, and authoritative voices in corporate social responsibility. Compiled from the 3BL Media staff’s extensive contacts with longtime CSR commentators, these bloggers offer relevant news, opinions, and ideas about all things CSR in one convenient place 

Monday, August 17, 2009 - 8:22am


Let’s face it: there is no such thing as a ‘sustainable brand.’ Achieving true sustainability means constantly thinking about ways of giving back more than a company takes from the environment and society. In essence, sustainability means creating tangible value for stakeholders. 

While brands are important corporate assets, the value they create for stakeholders tends to be largely intangible in nature. Brands themselves do not physically pollute, clean-up, employ, invent, invest, engineer, design, reach out, assist, collaborate and singlehandedly, they cannot save the world. Corporations and the networks, innovations and people inside them, on the other hand, can – and often do. 

Irrespective of how catchy the phrase ‘sustainable brand’ is, the fundamental issue remains: either a company is sustainable, or it’s not.

Some companies approach sustainability with an unparalleled level of innovation and fearlessness. I have written about such companies numerous times in books, essays and articles, which is why I am so disappointed to see many of them continuously omitted from the surveys, articles, and highly-touted lists pulled together and promoted by the corporate social responsibility (CSR) industry – particularly those citing the “greenest,” “most ethical” or “most sustainable” citizens or brands.

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