Things I learnt at SBMadrid 2018

On October 8 and 9 I was at the conferences of SUSTAINABLE BRANDS Madrid. The event, organized in Spain by “QUIERO”, the consultant company of Sandra Pina and Jose Illana that, in this perfectly organized edition, has brought speakers from the level of:

  • The one and only Philip Kotler (insightful and inspiring at 87)
  • Lisa Pike from Patagonia
  • Julie Droulers from BodyShop
  • Antonio Espinosa, charismatic founder of AUARA
  • Cyrus Wadia Sustainable Businesses & Innovation VP at Nike
  • Susana Hidalgo, from REFUGEE WELCOME
  • Vincent Avanzi, who introduces himself as “Chief Poetic Officer”
  • Dr Phra Shakyavongsvisuddhi, rector at World Buddhist University

There were lectures and debates in which, rather than green washing policies, authenticity stood out, the desire to change the world of the speakers sharing ideas and illusion …

quote SB Madrid 2018 Buddhist

It is impossible to share the ideas and emotions of these days, but here I share with you my list of key learnings:

Dr Phra Shakyavongsvisuddhi, on his lecture: “what capitalism can learn from buddhism” leaves us with three striking reflections:

  • Buddhism: people before profit
    profit before people
  • Sustainable development is an oximoron
  • The ABC is:
    Aware of risks
    Balance your acts

Jeffrey Franks, IMF Europe Office Director, to the question of if he had to choose only one priority, he answered “we can not just choose one, but if we had to choose, we should address the climate change”.

Antonio Espinosa, impacted by a trip to Ethiopia after finishing his studies decides to “do something about it” and founds AUARA, a water brand whose benefits are intended to make drinking water accessible. From Antonio I keep these reflections:

  • Sustainability is “holistic commitment”: it is not about having a sustainable aspect, it is trying to be coherent in all the dimensions of the project.
  • “People do not buy things because they are sustainable”
  • “People are the key to success”

quote SB Madrid 2018 Lisa Hogg

Lisa Hogg: she explained the story behind TOMS, a company whose purpose was “using business to improve life of others”. Starting from the evidence that not everyone can buy shoes, the founder set up a shoe brand with a “one for one model”, that is, whenever a pair of shoes is sold, the company gives shoes to a person in need. Thence, similar models replicate: from sight repairing, ensuring safe births, getting drinking water or sunlight. The company has distributed 86 million pairs of shoes among other actions. “The more money we make, the more impact we have” concludes Lisa.

Sue Garrard former EVP sustainibility at Unilever makes this shocking comment: “I am allergic to CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY, that sounds like legitimate the rest of what we do”… Well I agree, there are companies that seek a Bcorp seal without trying to behave according to these values.

  • She commented that: “we start with individual purpose and we see how to match it with the company purpose”, sounds very idealistic from a Multinational company of this size.
  • Another phrase by Sue: “If you are not scared, you are not trying hard enough”

Bodyshop regains its activist dimension and has collected 8.3 million signatures against “animal testing”.

Philip Kotler confirms it by explaining that his new book is called BRAND ACTIVISM: the marketing guru who already signed our student books affirms that this is the future although he recognizes that “brands do not want to risk their business by taking a stake” (

Cyrus Wadia from Nike tells us the “moonshot” of the multinational: “DOUBLE THE BUSINESS, HALF THE IMPACT” it sounds like an authentic challenge (they want to double the business), but it’s impossible … although Nike seems to have had a powerful, real and sincere reflection, hence their three results:

  • Making “knitting shoes” from a thread of synthetic material avoids the losses that traditionally occur when cutting the material to make a shoe, here everything is woven in the shape of the shoe.
  • Presented another shoe model made of skin residue.
  • Cyrus wore a hoody made of PVC from recycled bottles.

Richard Roberts from Volans tells us their plans to accomplish pushing back global warming, not stoping it but reducing it... and his proposal is direct and definitive: “the new carbon economy” should “kidnapp” more carbon than it emits! Among other solutions:

  • What we eat has more impact than the cars we use. Passing the “meatballs” from Ikea to Veggie Ball for example would have a real impact on global warming. In other words, being less carnivorous already allows reducing the impact on global warming.
  • He explained that some constructions can be made with bricks in which carbon is stoked to remove it from the atmosphere.

quote SB Madrid 2018 Vincent Avanzi

Vincent Avanzi, who holds the “Chief Poetic Officer” position, has read to us a poem-manifesto-lecture about the future and our own capacity of doing positive things. From this I’ll share two phrases:

  • “The companies of the future should care about the outcome and not only the income”
  • “The future will be magic or tragic according to how we act in it”

And now we have to go from inspiration to action, which is not easy, but after being in these days, I have to admit that it is possible …

Knowing all of this, I invite you to contact us and have a conversation about how Little Buddha Brand Design can help your brands and companies to be more sustainable.

About the author: Bertrand Massanes | Managing Partner at Little Buddha
• Ex Managing Director at MPG art (Media Planning - HAVAS Media)
• Ex Marketing manager at Danone & Reckitt Benckiser Spain
• Ex Export Manager at Danone Paris & London
October 17th, 2018 | Trends

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