Sustainability: Reposition or Rebrand?

There’s been much valid discussion around whether the term ‘sustainability’ is a help or a hinderance in promoting engagement with the change agenda that it represents, here for instance.

I agree with much of what is being said, especially when it comes to engaging consumers/citizens, but we need to quickly move the debate forward to discuss what we do about it.

I’ve seen the social marketing and behaviour change community go around and around in a similar unproductive circle, with practitioners and academics ploughing through lengthy (some would say pedantic and self-serving) debates about how we talk about what we do.

Whilst I recognise the importance of the ‘branding’ issue, it is much more important that we (as a community) reach agreement on terms and vernacular and then make them our own through appropriate and consistent use. A community divided over what can be perceived as abstract semantic quibbling will damage our efforts to engage citizen-consumers with change more than using any of the existing terminology as it stands. Furthermore, whilst we are nit-picking our way through definitions, and the concepts that sit behind them, we are expending time, effort and energy thinking change, rather than doing change.

So, do we Reposition, or Rebrand? That is, do we decide for ourselves what the existing discourse ‘means’ and then consolidate the denotations and connotations through consistent and appropriate use (Wittgenstein, if anyone’s interested), or do we Rebrand altogether: a new start, a new name and clean set of connotations?

Either way, let’s do it quickly and decisively, so we can concentrate on the task at hand. Suggestions welcome through this website or


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