Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Innovation at the Sustainable Brands '12 Conference

On day three of the Sustainable Brands ’12 conference the focus was on innovation. Thought-provoking and inspiring plenary sessions were delivered by Lance Hosey, President and CEO of the sustainability non-profit GreenBlue, Adam Monroe, President Stakeholder Relations, North America, Novozymes, Uwe Dreher, Global Head of Marketing, BMWi, Chris Yura, CEO & Founder, SustainU Clothing, John Lyell Clarke, President & CEO, Clarke, Toby Corey, CRO, Solar City, Mike McCarthy, SVP, CNN International, and Christian Maats, Founder, Oat Shoes.

Beauty and the Triple Bottom Line – Lance Hosey, President & CEO, GreenBlue

The morning plenaries began with a presentation by Lance Hosey, President and CEO of the sustainability non-profit GreenBlue, who spoke about how nature can be a powerful model for transforming business. Hosey drew examples from his new book, The Shape of Green, which made its debut at the conference, noting that the more attractive a product is, the more functional we assume it is. Systemic bimimicry can solves LCA product design and production issues, delighting consumers and making a more sustainable business model.

“In the end, we only conserve what we love,” said Hosey.

Using Nature’s Technology to Make a Cleaner Planet – Adam Monroe, President Stakeholder Relations, North America, Novozymes

Adam Hosey took the stage to talk about how we can drive radical innovation towards a better world by making industrial systems more like nature’s systems. Monroe urged attendees to consider that biotech is not just about therapeutic drugs – it can also be applied to tons of processes to save water and energy. If this were implemented, more than one billion tons of carbon dioxide could be removed from the atmosphere, helping to avert climate change and contributed to a healthier planet.

“For a healthy planet,” said Monroe, “Follow moms advice – mother nature, that is.”

Driving Radical Innovation in Mobility at BMWi – Uwe Dreher, Global Head of Marketing, BMWi

After showcasing BMWi’s new sleek video marketing their new line of sustainable luxury cars, Uwe Dreher, Global Head of Marketing at BMWi presented his company’s approach to sustainability. Although many might think that a product cannot be both luxurious and sustainable, Dreher said BMWi has managed to do both, not only in the vehicles themselves, but also in the production process. To achieve this, BMWi balances their portfolio, focusing on a thrilling performance, striking technology and an unrivaled customer experience. Understanding consumers’ changing needs and environmental concerns, BMWi is now offering a premium car sharing program in Europe to minimize waste and increase efficiency in all aspects of the BMWi experience.

“We strive to build products that appeal to ego and eco,” said Dreher.

Finding a Revolution in the Rear View Mirror – Chris Yura, CEO & Founder, SustainU Clothing

SustainU Clothing CEO & Founder, Chris Yura, took the stage, taking a look at history to show how our society has achieved sustainability in the past. During World War II, it was a time of scarcity and the Greatest Generation was forced to make do with less. For example, because the Japanese military controlled most of the world’s rubber production, people of the time had no choice but to recycle rubber and other materials necessary for winning the war. Yura also stated how the Second World War brought our society together, giving us a common purpose and desire to “save the world”, to take risks and even die for a cause. Unfortunately, when the war ended, we lost this way of thinking and personal sacrifice was replaced with self-interest. Today, our society is again facing a time of scarcity, especially for recent-college graduates who are finding it difficult to find gainful employment. Yura said he is hopeful for the future because young people today care more about causes than any other generation since World War II and businesses who whish to succeed will need to address this.

“Companies and brands need to be more transparent,” said Yura, “In the future, those that are using sustainability only as a marketing ploy will be weeded out.”

Engaging the Whole for Transformative Change – John Lyell Clarke, President & CEO, Clarke

Finishing up the first half of the morning plenaries, John Lyell Clarke took the stage, sharing the inspirational story of his company’s sustainability transformation. Realizing that he wanted his company to be more than just mosquito-spraying business, he new he had to try something different if he hoped for his brand to leave an impactful legacy. Although he was nervous of spending money on change amidst the 2008 recession, he took a leap of faith in the direction of sustainability, bringing together all of his employees to present his idea for a better direction for the company. Although not everyone agreed –several of his staff decided to leave – most of his employees embraced the new vision and moved forward with him. The road to sustainability was not always easy, but years later, Clarke was a company transformed – it saved $500,000 a year from its sustainability practices, have a wait list for eager seasonal employees and won its first Green Chemistry Award for developing an environmental mosquito spray. 

“You can’t just change your operations to become a sustainable business,” said Clarke, “You must also transform your culture.”

Overcoming Obstacles to Bringing a Revolution to Market – Toby Corey, CRO, Solar City

Solar City’s Toby Corey took the stage to talk about how we can drive a revolution in how we produce and consume energy. He noted that electricity contributes to 60% of greenhouse gases, therefore, if we hope to avert climate change, we need to embrace innovation to spur positive change. As our current path is not sustainable, we must drive a different paradigm shift. He cited Germany’s progress is becoming more sustainable – 50% of Germany’s energy come from renewable sources – in comparison to the U.S’s meager 2%. We need to promote fundamental change in the same way the lightbulb and the internet transformed the world.

“We have to figure out ways to provide game changer values in this space,” said Corey.

Media as a Force for Good –  Mike McCarthy, SVP, CNN International

According to Mike McCarthy, the media of tomorrow needs to shift from a simple neutral reporter of current events to a driving force for good. McCarthy showcased CNN’s Freedom Project as an example of this idea – it is CNN’s attempt to help free the world’s 30 million slaves. After showing an eye-opening video about how something as seemingly harmless as chocolate drives a life-crushing cycle of slavery in Western Africa, McCarthy showed attendees what the Freedom Project was doing to shed light on the issue to bring about positive change.

“Awareness breeds accountability,” said McCarthy, “Once people know about supply chain issues, they have to respond.”

A Revolution in Product Design – Christian Maats, Founder, Oat Shoes

Hailing from Holland, Oat Shoes Founder, Christian Maats, took the stage to share his personal journey of taking a seemingly crazy idea and turning into a bona fide sustainability innovation and how storytelling can be used as an effective marketing tool to create a unique experience around a product or service to create brand loyalty. Maats chronicled the story of how he came up with the idea of a 100% sustainable shoe and traveled the world in search of the right materials and suppliers to make the product a reality. Although many thought he was crazy when he told people about his idea for a shoe that would sprout flowers, his faith in his idea helped him stay the course until he ultimately succeeded. Now with his sprouting shoes a real success, he is looking beyond to develop other apparel that also bloom.

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