Jeremy Osborn Tina Nguyen and Hope Freedman
Published 1 month ago.
About a 11 minute read.
Image: Green Bronx Machine's Stephen Ritz teaches kids about food | Green Bronx Machine
At SB’23 San Diego, several rich discussions centered on the growing number of efforts successfully educating and engaging various audiences on more sustainable behaviors, lifestyles and careers.
Image credit: Monstera Production
A Monday morning workshop shone a spotlight on K-12 education and its role in
equipping our next generation of changemakers. Today's sustainability leaders
and professionals are setting long-term sustainability goals that may not come
to fruition during their careers but are essential for the next generation's
healthy lives and livelihoods. It's crucial to prepare and empower the next
generation to successfully carry on and improve upon the world’s current
sustainability goals — not only for the sake of their future well-being but
because today's youth are eager to know how they will positively contribute to
the climate crisis and help secure a healthy and sustainable future for
Expanding upon the recent launch of Discovery
Education's groundbreaking Sustainability
— an initiative committed to scaling up sustainability education — Coalition
member and Nucor sustainability specialist Luke
Johnson raised the
following question: “Beyond enhancing social impact, what other business
objectives can we collectively address through this opportunity?”
Despite substantial modernization within the steel industry, a lack of exposure
to these advancements might lead younger generations to hold outdated views of
the industry — potentially preventing interest in pursuing careers within it. As
the US’ largest steel producer, Johnson said Nucor has made noteworthy
strides in sustainability — for example, by sourcing scrap metal for
manufacturing and providing Environmental Product Declarations. Equipped
with a wealth of valuable, real-world knowledge to impart to young students, the
company has partnered with Discovery Education to develop digital learning
content that incorporates authentic work experiences — including sustainable
manufacturing technologies and career success stories — tailored for the K-12
audience, to not only foster early brand and industry awareness but also enable
Nucor to nurture a pipeline of emerging talent.
Working with school districts throughout the nation, Green Bronx
Machine founder Stephen
Ritz highlighted the numerous
accomplishments of the nonprofit’s urban farming and nutrition programs in
underserved communities. The program provides mentorship, education and hands-on
experiences that imbue K-12 youth with the skills, passion and knowledge they
need to become catalysts for transformative change in the food industry. Ritz
recalled the point when the nonprofit realized the strength of corporate
collaborations and strategies to “engage corporate America to scale up in a way
that brings lasting value.”
Whether it is nonprofit education programs or corporate-backed, customized
the need to create and feed K-12 youth acutely purposeful, sustainability-based
education is vital to equip future leaders with the knowledge and skills needed
to drive transformative change.
Lauren Lake, Director of Social
Impact and Strategic Alliances at Discovery Education Inc., captured the
sentiment around this intersection: “What we’re hearing from both industry and
education sectors is that we need to be educating our kids around
— they are desperate to know what their role is in their future.”
Image credit: Vivobarefoot
In this Tuesday afternoon panel, two brands shared case studies of novel product
innovation that tick the boxes of both sustainability and regeneration. As
momentum around these aspirations continues to grow, we are seeing substantial
shifts in brand value propositions and ways these values are delivered through
product innovation. This frequently leads to the emergence of entirely novel
product categories that engage with consumers in unique ways — and often require
consumers embracing unfamiliar experiences or behaviors.
Moderated by Narrative Matters founder
Tom Idle, the conversation centered on two
products that demonstrate the marriage of product innovation and sustainability.
Asher Clark, co-founder and
Chief Director of Shoe Design at
Vivobarefoot, shared the company’s history.
As a fiercely independent family business with a multi-generational cobbler
pedigree (Clark, as in Clarks), Vivobarefoot has
pioneered “regenerative footwear.” Based on the simple truth that shoes are
‘trashing’ the planet and our feet, the company mission is to reconnect people
to the natural world by focusing on natural health. Clark emphasized that the
way shoes are traditionally manufactured in offshore supply chains creates a
“shoe-shaped problem” that hinders humans’ movement and mobility. A certified B
Corp, Vivobarefoot has sold 1 million pairs of shoes and repaired 45K pairs of
shoes via its ecommerce platform. Clark shared that the company has developed a
“foot-shaped solution” to the footwear industry's wasteful ways with
— a radical, scan-to-print, circular bare-footwear system that reimagines how
footwear is created. VivoBiome is a fast, digital, simple, personalized,
on-demand proposition that uses 3D printing, 3D knitting and robot assembly for
bespoke footwear using only the material needed, when needed. Additionally,
VivoBiome’s platform includes foot scans and gamification to inspire creator
engagement, learning and community amplification. The company’s platform
collects consumer feedback on fit, wear, value and performance; and integrates
Darcy Shiber-Knowles, Director
of Operational Sustainability and Innovation at Dr.
Bronner's, recounted the company’s narrative as a
family-owned and -run soap maker. Now in its fifth generation, Dr. Bronner’s
upholds its founder's vision by crafting products of the utmost quality that are
socially and environmentally responsible; and commits profits to the creation of
a better world under the company ethos, “All-One!” As Dr Bronner’s loyal
customers are naturally concerned about plastic and the climate, Shiber-Knowles
said the company realized it needed to analyze the impacts of the plastic
bottles that contain its popular liquid soap products. A lifecycle analysis
revealed that paper cartons have the smallest single-use package lifecycle
impact; so, in July, the company unveiled a single-use paper carton
Shiber-Knowles said it’s intended to “be a behavioral awakening for consumers
that that they have all the containers they need.” The brand is experimenting
with consumer messaging, such as “Fill up your own bottle, whatever it is.” Dr
Bronner’s continues on a path to a more sustainable packaging future: including
100 percent PCR plastic bottles, new paper carton containers, and encouraging
consumers to refill at local stores. To achieve the latter, the company launched
the world's first Dr. Bronner’s refill
at five Jimbo’s Naturally stores. Though the refill unit is not plastic free, it
is circular. The refill option has been well-received so far by consumers and
currently only cannibalizing older packaging options by about 10 percent.
With respect to challenges, Clark commented that selling the notion that shoes
make our feet weak physiologically and kinetically continues to be a challenge.
He maintained that “the genesis is making individuals aware that mobility —
standing, walking, running — is a skill for a modern lifestyle.” While
Vivobarefoot has a rational proposition about footwear and feet, it has become
about the “reconnection to be innately human,” as expressed in the company’s
mantra “We are nature and nature is us.” Clark emphasized that this is a
poignant purpose because, as this became crystallized in 2012, “human health
contributes to planet health.” For challenges facing Dr. Bronner’s,
Shiber-Knowles shared that while the company pioneered 100 percent PCR plastic
bottles in 2003 with 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic packaging and is
proud of turning waste into bottles and not pollution, it has become clear that
Dr. Bronner’s “can’t recycle our way out of the plastic crisis.”
To unlock these challenges, Shiber-Knowles acknowledged that fostering trusted
relationships with partners is key, as the brand did with Jimbo’s Naturally
stores, and the willingness to financially invest in finding the right approach.
And to incentivize consumer adoption, Shiber-Knowles advised that companies
“listen to consumers and the existing demand. Then, you have a business case.”
Image credit: Herbal Essences
In late 2021, Herbal Essences successfully
five shampoo and conditioner collections in primary packaging made from Eastman's
with 50 percent plastic made through
technology. As if recycling wasn’t already complicated
the brand found that the challenge then lay in crafting clear messaging that
effectively informs consumers about this packaging innovation without
overwhelming or confusing them.
To tackle this, Justin
Coates — Head of Global
Market Research & Consumer Insights at Eastman — led extensive research that
resulted in four key molecular-recycling messaging strategies, transferable to
other Procter & Gamble (P&G) brands and beyond:
Mighty Materials – Promote the usage of sustainable materials and use
materials as a foundation for your messaging.
Purposeful Performance – Reinforce how the sustainable materials you
adopted will meet or exceed the primary needs of consumers.
Waste Warriors – Demonstrate how your solutions will take a tangible and
meaningful step in helping to solve the global waste crisis.
Molecular Momentum – Inspire your audience with the molecular-recycling
story to show how you can tackle the waste crisis
Noting major delays in the release of an updated FTC Green
and increased scrutiny around
Coates stated: “In the absence of guides, we as an industry still have to move
All in all, the consumer insight data showed us that consumers don’t need to be
convinced — they need to be assured that the product is made with content that
would’ve otherwise gone to landfill. However, as we’re thinking about trying to
create more demand or get more plastics recycled across industries, it’s still
important to talk about the nuances of recycling technologies from an education
The fundamental principle, as highlighted by moderator Suzanne
Shelton, founder and CEO at
Shelton Group, is that “it’s important to take the
messaging and work it into the context of your brand story.”
L-R: Ketchum's Jessica Mendelowitz (moderator), Todd Cline, Christopher Fox and Michael Mattingly
This Tuesday morning session focused on a novel collaboration between Tide,
Hanes, GE Appliances and World Wildlife Fund to overcome behavior
change barriers and establish an impactful new eco-habit: washing laundry in
This inspired cross-industry collaboration spanned the value chain from apparel
to detergent to appliance manufacturing, and was formed to address a major
benefit related to washing clothes — switching from washing in hot to cold water
reduces energy consumption by 90 percent.
The collaborative has set a science-based target of getting to 70 percent of
loads washed in cold by 2050.
According to Todd Cline,
Senior Director of Sustainability for North America Fabric Care at P&G, more
than 70 percent of the environmental impacts associated with their products are
in the use phase — and therefore, in the hands of consumers.
The collaboration — which he said took time to build and required the
development of personal relationships, trust and frequent communication — set
out to solve the following challenges:
Christopher Fox, Chief
Sustainability Officer at Hanes, said one of the core challenges was designing a
comms plan that could reach the consumer at scale — for example, by putting
“wash cold” on hundreds of millions of packages and repeating the messaging
across multiple channels to drive it home for customers, who are eager to find
ways to reduce their footprints but also busy and sometimes skeptical of
cold-water washing for performance reasons.
Michael Mattingly, Executive
Director of Top Load Laundry at GE Appliances, said they viewed the adoption
rate as a signifier of consumer trust, which was critical to reaching the
Tim Letts, Deputy Director of
Corporate Client Engagement at WWF, said the organization has run many
behavior-change campaigns over the years and they are seeing these types of
collaborations crop up more and more as companies set climate targets and are
looking for implementation ideas. They described the importance of demonstrating
and communicating co-benefits to behavior change in terms of financial
incentives or longer-lasting clothing, as there is still a significant segment
of the population that is skeptical.
Published Oct 24, 2023 11am EDT / 8am PDT / 4pm BST / 5pm CEST
Jeremy Osborn is a NYC-based entrepreneur and and senior consultant with a background in marketing and communications, tech, strategy, governance, and sustainability. He holds an MA in Resources, Environment, and Sustainability from the University of British Columbia and has worked for leading brands in a wide range of industries and sectors — including food and ag, consumer goods, built environment, industrial manufacturing, energy, finance, transportation, and more.
Tina is a sustainability consultant with EcoNomics, Inc. She is a longtime surfer who is passionate about the world of waste.
Hope Freedman is a passionate Purpose practitioner who guides brands to discover, strengthen and activate their social missions to increase consumer loyalty, grow revenue, deepen employee engagement, and positively impact communities. She brings her extensive background in CPG marketing, advertising, and communications – on both client and agency sides – to enhance brand differentiation and consumer engagement from strategy to execution.
Her work ranges from optimization of current CSR programs, resources, and partners to thought leadership initiatives for clients. Hope focused on developing differentiated brand social initiatives through a proven, insight-driven methodology for clients including PepsiCo, Unilever, Edgewell and others as a strategist in Edelman’s global Business + Social Purpose practice (read more ...).