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Leadership – Now, More Than Ever

KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, CEO & Founder of Sustainable Brands, addressing the audience at SB'20 Yokohama

A letter from KoAnn Skrzyniarz, CEO & Founder of Sustainable Brands.

I am just back from 3 weeks of travel in the US and Asia. Needless to say, in light of the unfolding coronavirus crisis, it’s been one of the most insightful periods of travel in my career, and I was continually reminded in new ways what leadership looks like in today’s changing world.

While in Asia, I enjoyed participating in our 4th annual event in Japan, where we convened a record 3,300 business and civic leaders for a rapidly maturing conversation about the power of brand to lead the way to a better world — all in the shadow of the Diamond Princess as it waited to disembark its passengers. Fortunately, after 3 weeks since the event, there have been no cases of anyone in attendance having become ill or testing positive for the virus.

At our 6th annual conference in Thailand, we explored the potential for local brand solutions and action in response to the global challenges we face.  We established a top chef led skills training program in a local prison, got out in the countryside with the bees, explored new sustainable fishing techniques being deployed in a local fishing village, and progressed our Sustainable Seafood manifesto established by participants last year by setting up a certification program for the region in partnership with a local university. 

Record attendance and the depth of ‘engagement to action’ we saw at these events both signal the growing recognition, importance and power of our work together.

Back in the US, I travelled to Minneapolis for 2 days of deep discussion with two of our corporate member companies. While there, I had the opportunity to participate in a strategic planning session as well as co-lead a meeting for 200 leaders across one organization that is involved in unfolding a stepped up and far more progressive sustainable brand/business strategy than we’ve seen to date. 

During my travels, I’ve had the opportunity to be in conversation with dozens of global brand companies, agencies, consultancies, government officials and NGO’s — all of whom are recognizing two things: 1) global social and environmental challenges are having an increased impact on business stability, and 2) as a result, these issues need to take a more central place in discussions about business and brand strategy — not someday in the future, but today. And they are! More than ever, I’m seeing the companies we engage with recognize both the path — and the opportunity embedded in taking the lead through smart strategic planning and action to align all parts of our economic ecosystem around the needs of the future for all.

Over the past 15 years, our community has been dubbed the “Home for Courageous Optimists”.  Many have told us that in SB, they have found their tribe. We are, collectively, a diverse community of resilient brand leaders who have realized for some time now that the future is calling. We recognize that the challenge of leadership is to craft new rules of the game — to reset the system so that those brands that are optimized to deliver regenerative products and services, to help build regenerative communities and to support regenerative lifestyles and families will be the brands that win in the marketplace of tomorrow.

As a community, we thrive by coming together to share in a fully immersive experience, rich with presentations and dialogues from adjunct thinkers and practitioners — but also with hands on training and interactive simulations — hot seat debates and a lot of fun and games. We aim to help inspire and equip –and to help you build relationships that stick and become the building blocks used to create the new systems and solutions of tomorrow.  For this reason — and of course for the sake of the many around the world who are already being impacted, and will be by this pandemic — we hold hope that the COVID-19 outbreak will be fully contained by June, so that we can continue to bring this future creating community together to build on the knowledge and expertise it has been developing together for more than a decade. And we hope you will make plans now to join us — just as we continue to ‘act as if’ by continuing to design a world-changing experience for you in a compelling new venue in Long Beach, California.

That said, in collaboration with our Industry Advisory Board, we are carefully monitoring unfolding news about the virus daily, and are creating contingency plans as we speak in case the changing situation precludes the sensibility of our convening face to face in June. To date, registrations continue on track against our record setting goals, and we are grateful for those who continue to step up daily to make plans to attend.

You can trust we will continue to keep the best interests of the whole at heart, and we will be in touch regularly to inform you of any adjustments to our plans. Furthermore, to give comfort to our guests, we’re extending our standard cancellation policy for SB’20 Long Beach to honor requests for a full refund up to 30 days prior to the event start date, and a 50% refund within 30 days of the event start date. And we will continue to update our plans to best support our collective capacity to drive forward together against our shared purpose together. We will continue to update our website on a regular basis. 

In the meantime, I want to thank you for your interest in our work, and promise you that if you’ve come to a Sustainable Brands event in the past, when you come again, you will find a renewed experience that is grounded in the latest best practice and thought leadership. If you are considering joining us for the first time, you will be welcomed with open arms, and quite likely, come away fundamentally changed, as has been the experience for so many who have become part of our tribe through the years.

While the seas ahead will undoubtedly be bumpy, we see a future full of joy and delight.  It will not create itself, however. It’s up to us to be the leaders that will make it happen.

I look forward to seeing you soon, to welcoming you to our family of courageous optimists, and to working together to continue to set the pace of brand and business leadership for a regenerative future.

KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz
CEO & Founder
Sustainable Brands