How Sustainability Impacts Country Brands and Soft Power – Podcast Ep. 13

How does sustainability impact country brands and soft power?

That’s the question which I address in this 13. episode of the Place Brand Leaders podcast: based on a recent panel discussion and a presentation I gave at the Global Soft Power Forum in London two weeks ago. Featuring Costa Rica and New Zealand.

Essentially, the conclusion is that place branding and sustainable development are two sides of the same coin. Both are strategic activities aimed at enhancing and future-proofing a location or destination. And without sustainability (caring for one’s own community and the world at large) at the core of policies, there will be no strong, positive reputation.

As Dr Jonathon Day of Purdue University put it:

“Place branding and sustainability are both strategic activities that build and maintain important community assets. They are mutually supportive activities.”

Correlations between the Good Country Index (new edition just published) and the Nation Brands Index illustrate this. To be admired (image, reputation) you really need to be admirable and do the right thing, as Simon Anholt would say.

Professor Oliver Zöllner of Stuttgart Media University:

“I think sustainability absolutely impacts a nation’s brand and general perception abroad. Germany is a good example of a country widely regarded as a mover and shaker of eco-friendliness, which had a deep (and positive) influence on Germany’s brand power for quite a while.”

Another key aspect is that country brands are not something that can be developed by some government agency in a capital city office. It is really the actions of the persons and companies within the country which need to back any claims, walking the talk.

In the case of New Zealand, Fonterra is a good example, as it is the largest company and one directly involved with selling produce that benefits from the country-of-origin effect.

To conclude with Professor Day:

“The best (nation) brands reinforce and celebrate the actions of people and companies undertaking sustainability. These brands celebrate the environment or culture and heritage. In doing so, they generate strong justification to maintain and support them.”

With thanks to all TPBO panel members who participated and shared their thoughts on this crucial question.

More information on sustainability and place branding in An Insider’s Guide to Place Branding (Springer, 2021) and (on sustainability leadership in tourism) on

More podcast episodes here

Publisher, coach, advisor. Founder and editor of The Place Brand Observer. Believes in the power of sustainability and storytelling to connect people, to spread ideas and to make this world a better place for all. Author of An Insider's Guide to Place Branding (Springer, 2021). Founder of the Sustainability Leaders Project.
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