Being sustainable and making a profit (Dave Varty)
Dave Varty, co-founder and owner of the iconic private game reserve, Londolozi, is one of the fascinating keynote speakers set to take the podium at the upcoming, first of it’s kind, Brands & Branding for Good Conference (www.brandsandbrandingconference.co.za).
The conference will have a major focus on brand relationships with increasingly socially and environmentally ‘aware’ consumers, and will allow both speakers and delegates to reflect on the lessons of the past year, and focus on the demands and opportunities that lie ahead as the country moves out of the recession and into the excitement of 2010.
Londolozi is where the original sustainable conservation development model was conceived, and through this famous wildlife paradise, Varty and his family have completely changed conservation across Africa. “Sustainability was always in our DNA,” Varty explained, “Londolozi is a Zulu word that means ‘Protector of All Living Things’. We never set out to make a brand, but we were always authentic and original from the beginning and woke up later with a brand that was an international icon.”
Merging commercialism with sustainability is the new world order and brands that realise this now and fundamentally reassess their point of view will maintain their leadership positions in the years ahead. “As long as conservation is not money-making, it is not sustainable,” Varty said, and this thinking seems to hold true for all issues of sustainability, and money-making, for that matter.
Londolozi is a keen example of a brand that has weathered it all, from humble, small beginnings as family-owned game lodges in the seventies, evolving into an authentic and award-winning brand that is synonymous with conservation style and a people centred approach. An incredible journey that meshes lions, buffaloes and the savannah with the suits and ties of many a corporate boardroom, Varty has come full circle back to the original Londolozi, the founder of eco-tourism.
Amongst other themes, Varty will discuss the delicate balance and ‘double edged sword’ that exists between wild natural areas and the impacts of the commercial safari industry, investigating how this creative tension can be used to advance the green frontiers of South Africa. Importantly, he will also explore the differences between true sustainability, “green washing”, and what the future holds for maintaining our quality of life on this planet.
OgilvyEarth came out with a ground-breaking report where 2009 was referred to as the ‘Dawn of the Age of Sustainability’. The authors assert that in this new order, “sustainability is an economic issue, opportunity and imperative”, driving shared prosperity and offering a huge opportunity for brand reinvigoration and reinvention.
Publisher and conference organiser, Ken Preston, commented, “Interestingly, the research revealed that consumers are quick to point out that “green is a very different idea – about the environment, not people. They are interested in the sustainable economy, rather than the green economy. However, the two are not mutually exclusive: US President Barack Obama phrased it so well when he said: ‘The choice we face is not about saving our environment and saving our economy. The choice we face is between prosperity and decline,’” he quoted.
“The question came up: How focused are South Africa’s brands and what in this regard can we do to assist them to remain relevant to consumers whose values and behaviours are shifting to align with the goals of the sustainability agenda. Out of this, the idea for the Brands & Branding For Good Conference was born.”
Preston emphasised that the conference will not dwell on “green” brands but rather tie in to the very real concept of sustainability. “Branding is at the heart of the sustainability debate because it is the interface between the forces of production and consumption and, global economic downturn or not, consumers are influenced by social and environmental branding issues. Furthermore, there is no doubt that responsible brands are more attractive to consumers.”
Varty will take the podium alongside a high calibre line-up of overseas and local speakers that includes Seth Farbman from OgilvyEarth; Derek Carstens, marketing and commercial chief officer of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organizing Committee; Leslie Pascaud, director for Responsible Marketing Practice from Added Value, Paris; and Prakash Patel, head of Digital & Interactive from Draftfcb South Africa.
Chairing the first and second days of the conference respectively will be well-known though leaders Andy Rice of Yellowwood Future Brand Architects and Jeremy Sampson of Interbrand Sampson Group.
This is the ‘must attend’ event of 2009 for anyone involved in branding, image management, public relations, brand and corporate communications, external affairs, marketing communications, advertising and promotions, consumer insights and sustainability. Delegates fees are being kept at least 30% below the level of other less significant branding events staged over the past three years. And, included in the delegate fee of R 5 200 for the two-day conference is a copy of both Brands & Branding 2009 and Joburg! Towards 2010. There are also substantial savings for those booking early, as well as those making multiple bookings.
Taking place on 20th/21st October at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, the conference will offer a handsome ROI, inspiring and assisting delegates to place greater emphasis on sustainable initiatives and create business success through improved efficiencies, enhanced brand image and relationships with consumers and stakeholders.