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Product, Service & Design Innovation

The latest products, services, design approaches and business models that are helping organizations of all sizes deliver on their sustainability ambitions and establish a new business as usual.

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Brands: Why Should It Be Up to Walmart to Tell Us If You Are Sustainable?

Walmart recently launched its Sustainability Leaders online shop. While I commend the company’s efforts over the past six years to elevate sustainability as an important attribute of products and their manufacturers, I feel that this launch is a bit misplaced. I am sure that it will be successful in terms of awareness and conversions, and I hope that the intent is genuine, but should Walmart even be the creator of the index? How about an independent organization such as the B Lab? How about the brands themselves?

Just in Time for St. Paddy’s Day, 24 American Brewers Call for Climate Action

Is your favorite beer helping to fight climate change? The chances just improved as, in the lead-up to Saint Patrick's Day — one of America's favorite excuses to drink beer — New Belgium Brewery, Guinness, Smuttynose Brewing Company and Deschutes Brewery join dozens of brewers in announcing today they’ve signed the Climate Declaration, a business call to action that urges policymakers to seize the economic opportunity of tackling climate change.

Ford Aiming to Revolutionize the Commute with New eBikes

Ford Motor Company is expanding its global Ford Smart Mobility plan with a new experiment to study how electric bicycles can work seamlessly with cars and public transport to deliver faster and easier daily commutes and help businesses operating in urban centers.

#ThrowBackThursday: Blue Box Re-Emerges with Zero-Waste Air Filtration Solution

In the lead-up to this year’s Sustainable Brands Innovation Open — our competition for startups poised to make scalable, sustainable impacts — we’re catching up with some of our favorite game-changing solutions from past years. This week, we have an update from SBIO 2013 finalist Blue Box.

Reformation Showing Fashionistas They Can Change the World Without Changing Their Style

Los Angeles-based fashion brand Reformation is helping to challenge the paradigm of wasteful “fast fashion.” Designed and produced in its factory in downtown LA, Reformation’s limited-edition collections of everything from ready-to-wear staples to bridesmaids dresses, all made with a cheeky attitude and sustainable or reclaimed textiles, are filling the wardrobes of celebrities and fashionistas across the country.

Starbucks Partnering with Washington Post Vet on New ‘Social Impact’ Media Company

The Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran is reportedly leaving his longtime post at the Post to form a new venture — a media company that will produce longform “social-impact" documentaries, with an initial focus on veterans’ issues, in partnership with Starbucks.

10 Ways to Demystify the Business Case for Net Zero

The energy shift in the world is now inevitable. To sustain life and livelihoods for 9 billion people by 2050, even if we didn’t count on living well (which we do, of course), we have 35 years to transform the global economy in order to decouple economic growth from high-emissions energy use. Phasing out emissions, especially those from carbon (CO2) - the primary cause of warming today - has to be a priority for business, as well as governments. There is growing evidence that a pathway to rapidly decarbonising the value chain goes well beyond ESG and reporting – it’s also a pathway to long-term growth, innovation, jobs and value creation.

soleRebels: Rising to the Top of the Footwear Industry Through Decent Work

“It was pretty basic. We self-financed. Five workers plus myself working inside a workshop situated on my grandmother’s plot of land inside our village of Zenabwork,” recalls Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, now CEO and managing director of soleRebels, one of the first global footwear brands to emerge from a developing country.“Right from the start of 2004, we aimed to create, grow and control a world class footwear brand that would bring even more jobs and prosperity for the workers by leveraging the artisan skills of our community.” Launches New Shop to Help Shoppers Find and Support Sustainability Leaders

On Tuesday, Sustainable Brands joined a couple hundred Walmart team members and industry influencers at Walmart’s eCommerce headquarters in San Bruno, CA to learn about an important milestone on the journey shared by those attending. What drew these players together was a shared interest in helping shift the world toward a sustainable economy — and an awareness of the key role Walmart has, and is playing, in spurring this shift along.

Beyond Incremental: Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan Takes Innovation to Scale

Once companies tackle the low-hanging fruit of operational improvement — carbon footprints, energy-efficiency retrofits and waste reduction — they are ready to address deeper sustainability challenges.

#BusinessCase: Big Savings Through Waste Reduction Enables Rapanui to Drop Prices

L-R: Mart and Rob Drake-Knight | Image credit: RapanuiAs more and more brands begin to tout their sustainability credentials, increasingly savvy and conscientious shoppers are looking for companies that are walking their talk, with products and practices that reflect an authentic commitment to doing better business.

Startup Develops World’s Thinnest Speaker

A startup called Soundlazer claims to have developed the world’s thinnest speaker, made from a new class of plastic polymer. With the ability to reproduce a large range of audio frequencies, the company says it can be used to deliver audio in tight or unique spaces.

'Soft Sustainability': How Brands Are Successfully Communicating Their Efforts by Steering Clear of the 'S' Word

Back in the late 1980s, Harvard professor Joseph Nye coined the term “soft power” to describe the US’s ability to influence the world through the marketing power of its global consumer brands and Hollywood’s razzle dazzle rather than the US military’s big stick.Today, as companies begin to shape a narrative that makes sense to the public, Nye’s language could well be applied to sustainability.Welcome to the era of Soft Sustainability.The term could be used to describe the approach of some of the world’s biggest companies as they seek to communicate their own sustainability work while also providing their consumers and greater community a roadmap to sustainable living.

Dow Pilot Program Shows Plastic Waste Can Be Turned Into Fuel

The Dow Chemical Company recently completed a pilot program aimed at showing how certain plastics such as juice pouches, candy wrappers and plastic dinnerware — which are not easily recyclable under traditional models — can be converted into synthetic crude oil for fuel.As part of the Energy Bag Pilot Program, Dow partnered with the Flexible Packaging Association, Republic Services, Agilyx, Reynolds Consumer Products and the city of Citrus Heights, Calif. to drive a collection pilot program meant to divert non-recycled plastics from landfills and to optimize their resource efficiency across the lifecycle.

Kuli Kuli Shines Through in Crowded ‘Super Food’ Market

The term “super food” has become trite in today’s health-crazed dietary marketplace — used to describe everything from kale to blueberries. The word is rarely used by dietitians or nutrition scientists because few foods pack enough of a nutritional punch to merit “super” status.But there still are a few deserving of the title — and a plant called moringa is one of them. The moringa tree is a plant native to parts of Africa and Asia renowned for its nutritional value — each leaf contains seven times the vitamin C of oranges, four times the vitamin A of carrots, four times the calcium of milk, three times the potassium of bananas and twice the protein of yogurt.

Nestlé USA Removing All Artificial Flavors, Colors from Its Chocolate Candy by the End of 2015

This week, Nestlé USA boldly committed to removing all artificial flavors and FDA-certified colors from all of its chocolate candy products by the end of 2015. The change will affect the food giant’s current portfolio of more than 10 chocolate brands and 250 products, including Nestlé Crunch, Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, Skinny Cow, Raisinets, Goobers, Sno Caps, 100 Grand, Oh Henry and Chunky. New versions of the products will begin appearing on store shelves by mid-2015, and will be identified by a “No Artificial Flavors or Colors” claim featured on-pack.

Report: Reusing and Remanufacturing Mobile Devices Can Cut CO2 by 50% While Increasing Sales

New strategies for reuse and remanufacturing of mobile devices can cut the carbon footprint of each device by up to half while expanding sales, according to a new report from the Green Alliance.A circular economy for smart devices identifies how laptops, tablets and smartphones up to five years old can be profitably recovered and resold in the UK, US and India. It describes six business models that companies can use to adapt to consumer preferences for lower cost, longer-lasting electronics and how reuse can bring the benefits of internet connected devices to new consumers in the developing world.

Why Social Design Is the Innovation Business Needs Now

"Business and social innovation live in separate worlds, and speak different languages. As the need to make humans more creative and society more resilient becomes central to corporations' ability to grow, it's time to change that. This is an invitation to learn how. Cheryl Heller, Chair, MFA Design for Social Innovation, SVATo put you at ease, if you are a good business person, this is about profit, not nonprofit. It's about creating markets, not philanthropy or charity or cause marketing. It's about using design to benefit people, both inside companies and in society, and in the process, strengthening business.

Closed-Loop Fabric Producers Still Ironing Out Wrinkles in Circular Textile Supply Chain

Interest is growing in new synthetic fabrics and textiles made from waste materials that have the potential to be used again and again. Designed from the outset to work within closed-loop supply cycles, Returnity and Econyl are perhaps the two best-known examples of branded products in this field. The level of innovation that is built into these regenerative fabrics is impressive – they outline a wealth of environmental benefits and savings. In the case of Econyl, there is a clear social value driver in terms of delivering a more community-minded, inclusive business model.

tonlé's Creative Approach Showing Fashion Industry How Zero Waste Is Really Done

Cambodian fashion brand tonlé is revolutionizing the textile industry not only with its ethical business model, but also a creative approach to zero-waste: The company incorporates even its smallest scraps back into “yarn,” which is hand-woven back into new fabrics, creating unique and delicately woven garments perfect for shoppers who are conscientious about how their clothing is made.Sustainable Brands caught up with Rachel Faller, tonlé’s designer and founder, to learn more about the company’s motives and impact.

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