Using the Power of Brands for Good: Retail Sustainability & Environmental Compliance Conference

On September 29, Gary Knell had the honor of delivering the keynote address at the Retail Sustainability & Environmental Compliance Conference at the Gaylord National Harbor. Those in attendance included Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) leaders from major retail brands such as Abercrombie, Best Buy, Costco, CVS, Disney, Family Dollar, Fossil, Giant Eagle, JCPenney, Kroger, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Meijer, Petco, PetSmart, Publix, REI, Sears, Sephora, Staples, Target, Coca-Cola, Unilever and many more.

The concept of brand is integral to this group as well as sustainability. Appropriately, Gary’s keynote focused on the power of brands, having been at the forefront of three of the greatest non-profit, social good brands: Sesame Street, NPR and National Geographic. He addressed how many businesses, including those in the room, have to consistently reinvent themselves. Throughout the last century, National Geographic’s brand did just that, reinventing a brand begun by Alexander Graham Bell to now reach more than 750 million people worldwide.


Gary addressed the fact that brands can be improved through collaboration and partnerships. Through National Geographic’s partnership with 21st Century Fox, the revenue from our media properties provides an ongoing source of funding for our grantees to conduct research and bring their stories back from the field, in turn providing content for our media, creating a virtuous cycle. Over a century later, the National Geographic brand remains relevant because we’ve remained true to our brand while maintaining a sense of urgency to take action.

Gary closed his keynote by acknowledging that many retailers face business realities and have to adapt to ever-changing media landscapes. National Geographic forged partnerships when faced with the reality that we had limited resources to support the scientists and exploreres who fulfill our mission to help protect the planet. Our planet is at a crossroads and there is an urgency to act now. Our success stems from our mission to invest in bold people and transformative ideas; to further understanding of the world; and to build a global community. But we can’t do it alone.

The evening ended with an opportunity to network among other CSR leaders to potentially forge partnerships with an ultimate goal of promoting sustainable brands – to further science, exploration and storytelling for good.