The European Brand Institute and UNIDO jointly held the 16th BRAND GLOBAL SUMMIT under the motto "BRANDS FOR SUSTAINABILITY" from September 30th to October 1st, 2020. Leading decision-makers from business, science, international organizations, politics and diplomacy from all over the globe participated in the BRAND GLOBAL SUMMIT at the Vienna International Centre. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic this year’s Summit was an online event.

Before the opening of the BRAND GLOBAL SUMMIT on October 1st, Gerhard Hrebicek and LI Yong, Director General of UNIDO formally exchanged the Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation, which was signed on March 16th, thereby establishing a framework for further expanding the existing partnership in the framework of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


Following the press conference, the Brand Global Summit was officially initiated. International journalist Sarah Kelly moderated the event and led online participants through the panels.

In the course of the opening dialogue, which focused on the value of brands as intangible assets and their impact on both individual firms and entire industries, Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento, Managing Director of the Directorate of Digitalization, Technology and Agri-Business at UNIDO highlighted how sustainable brands perform better and contribute to growth and SDGs: “Branding does not only have an impact at the level of individual firms but also for entire industries, countries and regions, supporting intellectual value addition, enhancing productivity and international competitiveness”. During the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, branding fosters resilience and helps businesses establish continuity. Together with the European Brand Institute, UNIDO provides a jointly developed service model, Branding for competitiveness and sustainable growth, that has already generated a number of success stories worldwide and across a variety of industries. Gerhard Hrebicek, founder and president of the Brand Global Summit continued: “We see how sustainable use of branding by UNIDO is a success. Brands can be carriers, which help us withstand the crisis.”. In that regard Farrukh Alimdjanov noted: “It has already generated a number of success stories worldwide and across a variety of industries, with UNIDO project beneficiaries (local manufacturers and MSMEs) engaging in umbrella branding that leads to improved productivity, competitiveness and market-access that goes beyond national borders.”. Margarete Schramböck, Federal Minister of Digital and Economic Affairs in Austria added: “A mixture of branding and digitalization is a vaccine in the form of digital learning and working from home. We can make sure that we create new jobs via digital transformations and nobody is left behind.” 

Discussing Brand Investments for Sustainability, keynote-speaker Weixi Gong, Investment and Technology Promotion Division and Coordinator at UNIDO Investment and Technology Network opened the panel by explaining how to create sustainability through investment in brands. Herbert Kovar, Managing Partner of Deloitte Austria, Stephan Unger, Professor at the Department of Economics and Business at Saint Anselm College in Boston, USA, Baybars Altuntas, Chairman of WBAF, Wolfgang Schiketanz, SCA Advisory of the Brand Global Select Fund, YANG Wei, Vice President of Royal Town Planning Institute in the United Kingdom and WU Guangquan, President of Shenzhen Federation of Industries discussed challenges and tools needed to better support and attract investments in and for brands. Stephan Unger laid the foundations by defining brand value as: “A well-known brand can actually charge premium relative to its competitors or generic brands.”, leading to: “Brand and intellectual property create economic value and therefore sustainability.”. Herbert Kovar continued by saying: “Intangibles-rich firms, which are most often SMEs, routinely encounter problems obtaining debt finance. Overcoming the barriers to lending against IP assets is essential at a national, European and global level.”. Showcasing the successful project of Milton Keynes, YANG Wei concluded: “If we can consider branding from the strategic and the sustainability perspective, we can create USPs and help our cities and countries thrive for generations to come!”

In the Future Talk, which focused on how to move forward during and after these difficult times, keynote-speaker Bobby Calder, Kellstadt Professor of Marketing at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management defined brand purpose as: “Brand purpose means linking the brand to a purpose in a way that strengthens the brand and makes it possible for both stakeholders and shareholders to benefit from the same investment.”. Monika Racek, CEO of ADMIRAL AG mentioned: “Having a sustainable brand is a key value driver. Having a sustainable brand means having a trustful brand!”. In regards to the financial sector, Andrea Gaal, member of the Supervisory Boards at Raiffeisen International talked about focusing more on sustainable practices: “Banking is seeing sustainability as a priority, to promote more energy efficient practices, acknowledge the social impact of the industry and also raise ethical questions when it comes to applying new technologies like artificial intelligence.” Hannes Kirchbaumer, Digital Marketing Expert, once again highlighted the importance of brands: “Branding has never been more important than now, because brands and clients are much closer than ever before.”. Patricia Neumann, Country General Manager at IBM Austria described IBM’s ambitions and goals throuroughly: “What we try with technology is to help clients on their way and there you can combine business and sustainability to become faster, more service-orientated, more client-focused and do things that really help to solve the big problems of the world.”

On the evening of September 30th, the Vienna Brand Gala Reception took place at the Vienna City Hall on the invitation of the Mayor and Governor of Vienna Michael Ludwig. Together with Gerhard Hrebicek, President of the European Brand Institute, Ernst Woller, President of Vienna City Parliament, Bernardo Calzadillo-Sarmiento, UNIDO Director and H.E. Loipa Sánchez Lorenzo, Ambassador of Cuba welcomed national and international guests, such as H.E. Lourdes Victoria-Kruse, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic, Ambassador Ernst Peter Brezovsky, Renate Altenhofer, Managing Partner European Brand Institute, Herbert Kovar, Partner Deloitte Tax, Alexander Biach, WKW, Peter Drobil, Bank Austria und Gabriele Stanek, Gian Paolo Spadola, WKW, Hannes Kirchbaumer, CEO Radiant Pig, author Ranya Nehmeh, Aysegül Baykal, Deputy Director Schoellerbank, Werner Neuwirth-Riedl, Managing Director Finpoint, Bibusa Wißemann, CEO sensXafrica, Hjörtur Smarason, Founder Astronaut Leadership School S.A.L.T., Francine Beleyi, Founder and Digital Strategist nucleus of change,  H.E. Justina Mutale, Africa Goodwill Ambassador, H.E. Gloria Navarrette, Ambassador of Chile, H.E. Elizabteh Bogosian, Ambassador of Uruguay, H.E. Juan Carlos Ojeda, Ambassador of Uruguay, as well as UNIDO Managers Weixi Gong, Bashir Conde, Farrukh Alimdjanov and Carlos Chanduvi, a.o. The international guests experienced a special cultural atmosphere, created by the live music from the fabulous Orquestra Ibero-Americana de Viena, led by Maestro Fernando Zonta.

In his welcoming remarks, LI Yong explained how brand management can be vital to inclusive and sustainable industrial development. The Covid-19 pandemic affected the entire world and changed the way we work. Branding is therefore an important tool for companies to be innovative both offline and online. The experience from the current crisis also allowed Gerhard Hrebicek to highlight that “Sustainable brands carry us through the crisis and will emerge stronger from the crisis as profiteers. Investments in brands support the ‘economic recovery from the Covid-19 induced downturns’, create growth and secure prosperity."

Nikolaus Hirsch, Vice President of Marketing Sales at HIRSCH The Bracelet, Anna Nesterova, CEO of Global Russ Trade and Alexander Biach, Deputy Director of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce and Industry then provided detailed insights and practical examples for the effective use of brands and IPRs in different economic sectors, showcasing that, even during an ongoing pandemic, an established brand will help businesses through the crisis. Nikolaus Hirsch emphasized the importance of connecting with the customer and the impact on brands: “As soon as you get in touch with the person who actually buys your product, you generate a bond and you also generate brand leverage. This is something that we could use more in the future to enhance our products and our brand.”

The panel Brands for competitiveness – creating sustainable growth, led by Farrukh Alimdjanov, Industrial Development Officer at the Department of Digitalization, Technology and Innovation at UNIDO showcased multiple success stories and shared experiences on the use of brands as an effective solution to create job, improve the quality of products and services, achieve higher productivity, support economic diversification, and to attract investment. The best practice examples were then presented by Robert Harutyunyan, Chairman of Development Association of Light Industry of Armenia (DALIA), Nigina Ikromi, Chairwoman of Creative Development of Tajikistan, Ebe Muschialli, Associate Industrial Development Officer at UNIDO and Michael Nokokure Humavindu, Deputy Executive Director at Industrialization and Enterprise Development at the Ministry of Industrialization at Trade and SME Development.

In his closing remarks, Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento commented on the 2030 Agenda: “We maintain the framework and our determination to move on and to use any possible tools to achieve the SDGs”. Concluding the Brand Global Summit 2020, Gerhard Hrebicek summarized his final thoughts: “Through digitalization every small company becomes a global player. We should really enable them to use these tools of branding, so we have to democratize this system. If more than 90% don’t use it today, something has to be changed. There should be more access!”

(c) Katharina Schiffl (c) Dico Creative Agency

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