Unbeatable view from Amtrak Cascades on our way to Sustainable Brands in Vancouver, B.C.

This year was the first PRPOSE attended the Sustainable Brands Conference. It was also the first time the conference was hosted in Vancouver, BC. Which gave us an excuse to take the train — one of the best ways to travel, especially on the West Coast where you hug the water nearly the entire way.

It was an incredible event — one that inspired some new friendships and connections, and demonstrated just how much sustainability can be a movement that holds many diverse interests, organizations, and goals.  It’s far bigger than climate and the environment and because of that, carries broader lessons that can be applied to any business. Some of our biggest lessons that we plan to integrate into our work and lives include:

  1. Be clear. Identify the primary purpose of your brand, organization, or business and make it easy for people to understand. “Sustainable” is a big word. What does it mean to you?
  2. Be bold. Don’t be afraid of taking a stand. You can’t be all things to all people, but you can be the right thing to some people. When you have the opportunity to stand up for those people, do it.
  3. Be open. Good ideas can come from anywhere. They can come from large national businesses like Target or Proctor & Gamble and they can come from a single soy bean farmer.
  4. Be vulnerable. Some of the best interactions were with people outside of the official conference presentations — from fun runs organized by the conference event managers to impromptu happy hours that brought together women in CSR. These were events that were planned with faith that people would show up — and they did. And they loved it.
  5. Be creative. This means entertaining the crazy ideas as well as the well-vetted ideas. It means being open to trying to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing our planet today and never saying “it’s too hard” or “it’s too big.” Remove the word “can’t” from your vocabulary.

There were so many examples of all of this playing out over the three days we spent in Vancouver. From the adaptive clothing line for ALL children launched by Target to the visioning sessions where we tackled complex issues facing agriculture in small groups, to the presentations from leaders across the world who were unafraid to challenge our ideas of sustainability and stretch us to think of ways we can learn from each other through creative design that impacts not just our planet, but our social systems, our healthcare, and our economic inequity issues.

The bottom line is simply this. Our environment is about more that climate — it’s also about people. Our health, our happiness, our connections with each other, and our ability to thrive. If we are working towards any of those things, we are working on sustainability.