Building Connections Inside and Outside an Event

Author: Barbara Palmer       

Lincoln Street Art Park is home to sculptures, murals, and shipping container classrooms. Sustainable Brands conference participants volunteered time to work at the park. (Photos courtesy of Sustainable Brands)

Best in Show 2019: Sustainable Brands
June 3-6, 2019Cobo Center
Detroit, Michigan
3,000 attendees

First among the many reasons that Sustainable Brands gave for choosing Detroit to host its 2019 annual conference is that the city, home to a deflated auto industry, offers a microcosm of the sustainability challenges that face cities, as well as inspiring and innovative examples of ways to respond. Some were on display at the Cobo Center, where Detroit entrepreneurs exhibited high-protein flour made from crickets and shoes and wallets upcycled from automobile seats. But the conference also offered participants the opportunity to get out into the city and participate in community activities alongside local residents, said David Fiss, CMP, Sustainable Brands director for business development, partnerships & event strategy.

Attendees could sign up for an afternoon working at the Lincoln Street Art Park, “kind of a Burning Man art park,” Fiss said. A formerly abandoned industrial site, the park is now home to sculptures, murals, and a classroom built with shipping containers. During the work project, a partnership between the footwear and apparel brand Timberland and a Detroit nonprofit, Green Living Science, participants painted a mural with a local graffiti artist, installed a green roof on the classroom, and mulched and planted park grounds. Conference participants also were invited to plant trees at a local park with the Arbor Day Foundation.


Best in Show 2019: More Inspiring, Creative Ideas for Events


Both activities were opportunities for attendees “to get outside and do positive work,” but also, by working in smaller groups, the events helped create communities within the larger conference community, he said.

At the conference, Sustainable Brands launched a “Brands for Good” initiative, in which a coalition of high-profile brands — including PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Target, and Visa — made commitments to embed environmental and social purpose into the heart of their brand promises. Combining social and environmental purpose together is key to success, Fiss said. “It’s really a call to action for the whole world.”

Barbara Palmer is deputy editor at Convene.

Detroit offers a microcosm of the sustainability challenges that face cities. That’s one of the reasons Sustainable Brands chose the city for its annual conference.

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