On the fourth and final day of SB’19 Detroit, a host of brands shared lessons learned from efforts to engage stakeholders on a variety of topics — from more sustainable food choices and healthier masculinity to much-needed changes in policy.
Nurturing healthy masculinity: How men can be better forces for good
By Lorraine Schuchart
L-R: Neill Duffy, John Izzo, Alexa Hassink, Ilan Srulovicz, Phil Clawson and Tolu Lawrence
Most people associate the term “masculinity” with strength and power; terms such as “man up” come to mind. Men have traditionally been expected to be physically and emotionally strong, to hold power at work and in the home. But a Thursday morning panel at SB’19 Detroit examined current cultural shifts challenging men — as well as the organizations they belong to — to reflect on and practice more intentional healthy masculinity.
The continued consumer paradigm shift to plant-based diets
Hear the latest on shifting consumer preferences toward more plant-based, planet-friendly foods from Daniel Vennard, Director of the World Resource Institute's Better Buying Lab — at SB'20 Long Beach.
“I was brought up in a world where men dominated — men came first, second and third,” he explained. “I have sons and have been forced to look at what it means to be a man differently.”
Dr. John Izzo is co-founder of The Men’s Initiative, whose mission is “to enhance the integrity and wellbeing of men for the benefit of families, communities and the world.” The organization works with first responders, professional athletes, military and other personnel and men in life transitions.
Izzo stated, “We come at the idea of masculinity from the simplest of ideas: Men have contributed to suffering. We’ve held onto power. What’s less understood is that men are also suffering. We’ve been given messages to be stoic, to not show our empathic side,” Izzo stated. “So, how can we help men lean into their empathic side? To me, that’s the heart of the conversation. What’s been surprising is that men are even reluctant to be in this conversation.”
Promundo-US Director of Communications Alexa Hassink said her organization promotes gender justice and prevents violence, by engaging men and boys in partnership with women and girls.
“Just yesterday, we launched a ‘state of the world’s fathers’ report. We see across data that men want to be the best they can be. 85 percent said they would do anything to be involved in their child’s early lives, but very few take family leave. There’s still this gap between intent and action,” she noted.
Tolu Lawrence is the founder of Tolu + Co., which brings together leading nonprofits, social enterprises, and philanthropic brands to develop audience-driven initiatives that further social good. “I think we’ve all heard the term ‘toxic masculinity.’ In my work, I try to think about how we use the research and connect people through intersectional gender equity and progressive masculinity,” she explained.
Attendees were shown P&G’s polarizing Gillette ad, launched in January in response to the #MeToo movement. The video urges men to hold each other accountable and to intercede when they see other men exhibiting bad behavior. The ad polarized people, with many finding it taking a position that generalized men and told them to be better. While YouTube saw more thumbs down than thumbs up, consumer research showed that there was actually a favorable response — in fact, it was both the most popular and most hated ad P&G has ever produced.
Ilan Srulovicz is CEO of Egard Watch Company, which he founded a year ago. He had already engaged celebrities to promote his brand but, inspired by the Gillette ad, he took a controversial position of his own. “We see the good in men,” he said. “We wanted to show that.”
Phillip Clawson, Managing Director at CSR Lab, said: “Companies are increasingly looking at taking more progressive stands on issues. Patagonia has some really interesting things they’re doing to build a family-friendly culture. The child care center is located in the middle of their campus, which has contributed to better gender equity. On the market-facing side, we talk about CVS not selling tobacco, but they’ve also done some to contributing to a more egalitarian world.”
He pointed out that companies, especially those in the B2B space, may be doing things the general public is not even aware of.
“I think there are a lot of ways to take a stand on gender equity, and outward marketing is only one way — there are many ways to get in the game,” he noted.
Duffy asked the panel, “Why are we not talking about gender issues from other perspectives?”
“I come at this as a physician — I work in psychology,” Izzo replied. “I’ve been working with men coming out of the armed services, fire-fighters and others. Hurt people hurt people.
“We started a program on resilience,” he continued. “We invite men to speak because they feel silenced. We start every session by asking, ‘what are you proud of in your lives (and don’t talk about your kids)?’ Men don’t like being told they don’t measure up. Anything that is shame-based puts men in a place of defense. This is a socialized response.”
The panel agreed that we as a society need to get men talking to each other about these issues. They advised to meet people where they are. It was noted that most boys report learning about sex from porn and peers, not from their fathers. This contributes to how they think about women and sex. Izzo said that men are happier and healthier if they have close relationships with other men.
The panel’s takeaway was that messaging aimed to engage men should be inspirational if the goal is to move men in a healthier direction.
How Danone is putting humanity back into marketing
By Hope Freedman
When Danone CMO Valérie Hernando-Presse took the plenary stage on Thursday at SB’19 Detroit, she did not espouse the health benefits of yogurt (for which there are many). Instead, she shared current changing consumer preferences — in particular, to connect to the food they eat and partake in a better food system. Hernando-Presse asserted that each consumption act is a political act of voting for the agriculture and nutrition consumers want in their lives.
Embracing this food revolution, Danone is on a journey to bring its “One Planet. One Health” vision to life. This strategic agenda reflects Danone’s commitment to help people eat better as well as an internal action call for employees to change business systems. Becoming a B Corporation is testament to this vision; Dannon US is currently the world’s largest B Corp.
As the dynamic landscape shifts from powerful people to people of power, the role of consumers is moving from passive onlooker to actor and activist citizen. Hernando-Presse proclaimed, “In this people-powered world, the way we’ve done marketing — selling more stuff to more people — is over.”
As a woman of color living in France, Hernando-Presse admitted that she does not fit the usual mold. However, she has used that personal perspective to rethink marketing at Danone. She shared that she is reimagining marketing with a new vision that encompasses people-powered brands, content and innovation — and new ways to connect with local communities.
“We want all our brands to put Purpose at the center and commit to this food revolution,” she said. “Some brands are moving from ‘storytelling’ to ‘story showing.’”
To illustrate, Hernando-Presse shared a few examples within Danone’s global portfolio of bottled water, specialized nutrition and dairy and plant-based products, including:
Bonafort — this Mexican water brand fights for gender equality, supporting women’s empowerment for 20 years
Happy Family Organics — this US brand is on a mission to give babies their healthiest start by offering organic, thoughtfully made food
SGM Eksplor — a well-established infant formula brand in Indonesia that relentlessly tackles stunting
Hernando-Presse revealed that ‘making it personal’ is the most complex part of the company’s marketing transformation. Her role as CMO is to carve out space for brand teams around the globe to be entrepreneurial and purpose-minded marketers. She invites these teams to bring their convictions, soul and personal authenticity to the workplace in order to build trustworthy connections with their tribes.
“It is not business-to-consumers, but human-to-human. The future is bright for marketing.” — Valérie Hernando-Presse
The Better Buying Lab and The Cool Food Pledge: The ‘secret sauce’ for whetting appetites with climate-friendly menus
By Mia Overall
What does it take to get us to eat more veggies? For starters, not calling them “vegetarian” helps, apparently. Mountains of research show that humans need to eat more plants — for health and climate reasons alike. But public health campaigns have so far largely failed to change behavior. That’s why the Better Buying Lab team at the World Resources Institute (WRI) is trying a new approach.
The session was run by Daniel Vennard, Director of WRI’s Better Buying Lab. He was joined by Edwina Hughes, Head of Engagement for the Cool Food Pledge — a multi-stakeholder movement of food service providers run by WRI to put climate-friendly foods on the menu.
The Better Buying Lab is exploring the role of food in the “Good Life.” It produced a Protein Score Card that ranked foods by the amount of GHG emissions they produce (beef, lamb and goat being the worst), and has launched a massive research campaign to identify how to seamlessly “shift our diets” towards more veggies. They have identified 56 different ways to influence eating behavior, of which 20 could be really effective.
The simplest of them all is adjusting language. Terms such as “vegan” and “vegetarian” are polarizing; and when used on menus, actually decrease the number of people selecting these options. Meanwhile, when vegetarian dishes are described for their flavor and provenance, people are more likely to order and enjoy them. Similarly, when things are called “healthy,” people tend to enjoy them less and feel less satisfied. It turns out that “Cuban black bean soup” sounds a lot more appetizing than “low-fat black bean soup” — and sales reflect this.
“We recently trained Google cafeteria chefs on the language of food and achieved a 30-53 percent uplift in sales from renaming vegetarian dishes,” Vennard said.
In addition to the WRI team, three companies successfully greening their menus came to share their stories: Daniela Foster, Senior Director of Global Corporate Responsibility at Hilton — which recently joined the Cool Food Pledge — said the hotel chain has committed to slashing 25 percent of food-related GHG emissions by 2030. It joins signatories including WeWork, Max Burgers and Morgan Stanley, which that together represent 100 million meals.
Rachel Sylvan, Director of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Sodexo, then shared an impressive story of how the food services giant transformed the “vegan/vegetarian station” in one food hall in the “Avant Garden” by making it larger, with hot options and rotating ethnic themes. Keith Soster — Director of Student Engagement, Sustainability, Training and Development for University of Michigan Dining — described how they are addressing diversity and inclusion through food, while greening their menus.
“We have a diverse population of students and faculty from different countries with different culinary traditions,” Soster said, adding that “by catering to many of these, we are operating more inclusively while cutting back on meat.”
Engaging consumers through storytelling around supply chain transparency
By Mia Overall
Shea Yeleen creates living-wage jobs for women in the shea butter cooperatives in the Sahel region of Africa | Image credit: She Leads Africa
It takes a visionary to do things differently — and brands such as prAna, Causegear, Tony’s Chocolonely and Shea Yeleen are doing just that, by improving lives with their products and telling stories about it.
This session featured these four brands, which have set up supply chains that win on both transparency and social impact.
Recent research confirmed that consumers are emotionally moved when they hear stories that resonate with their values. SB’19 Detroit has highlighted no shortage of examples, and what sets these brands apart is that their supply chains are operating ethically and winning market share by doing so.
Tony’s Chocolonely is a chocolate company with a huge mission: to end modern slavery and exploitation in the cocoa industry. With amazing chocolate recipes, Tony’s sets the example and shows that chocolate can be made in a responsible way — in taste, packaging and the way it builds long-term relationships with cocoa farmers to help them earn a living income under dignified conditions. It started when founder Teun (or Tony in English) turned himself in to the police as a chocolate “criminal” for eating chocolate that he knew was made with slave labor. It didn’t work, so he then decided to change the system from within and started his own chocolate company — his goal is to make his chocolate and all chocolate worldwide 100 percent slave free. Tony’s is a commercially successful company, creating awareness amongst consumers and leading by example in showing that chocolate can be made without exploitation. Its mission is huge, but as Tony’s Choco Evangelist, Ynzo van Zanten, reminded us:
“If you think something small can’t make a difference, try sharing your room with a mosquito.”
Shea Yeleen sells shea butter made by women in the Sahel region of Africa. It’s a treat for the skin and hair, and a boon for the women who make it for Shea Yeleen. Founder and CEO Rahama Wright is revolutionizing the way shea butter is bought and sold by creating living wage jobs for women in the cooperatives she works with. Higher incomes give these women access to health insurance and savings, and improves the standard of living for their children. Additionally, capacity-building training creates skills that enable women to develop value-added products.
“One of the biggest challenges for shea butter producers is accessing resources — including working capital, production tools, and training to transform shea seeds to shea butter,” Wright said. “We provide the full scope of services to help women add value so they can move further up the value chain. We also create market linkages through our retail relationships with Whole Foods and MGM Resorts, creating an integrated supply chain from seed to shelf."
CAUSEGEAR makes quality handcrafted bags and accessories for freedom. Every purchase supports a day of freedom for the crafters from slavery and poverty through a self-sustaining job.
As CEO Brad Jeffery pointed out: “There are 40 million people in slavery today, and 40 percent of them are in India. Slavery is a symptom of extreme poverty.”
Many in the apparel industry work at poverty-level wages and are vulnerable to being tricked or sold into slavery. The company has two labels, CAUSEGEAR and MADE BY FREE WOMEN, and is a finalist in an award for the most socially responsible handbag. The company’s largest supporters are socially conscious corporations and events for branded items.
prAna is the first North American apparel brand to offer fair trade-certified clothing for men and women. The farmers and factory workers growing the materials and making the clothing receive a financial premium, which they decide how to invest in their work and communities. Beyond offering a living wage, all cotton used is certified organic, all down is certified responsible, many of their products are shipped without plastic packaging and — my favorite — their women’s swimwear line is made from ocean-diverted plastics.
"prAna has grown over the years, but we have never lost our commitment to doing the right thing as it relates to our people, process and the materials we use to create our clothing,” said Jeff Haack, prAna’s VP of Marketing. “This year, we are launching our new global tagline, Clothing for Positive Change, which we think captures the essence of what the brand has been about from the beginning."
These companies are making money while inspiring consumers and suppliers. Go get some of their products and let’s work to build more companies like them.
The importance of aligning lobbying and policy positions with sustainability strategy
by Mandy McNeil
Image credit: Robert Jones/Pixabay
This panel showed passion about the need for brands to advocate for sustainable policy. Sasha Calder, Director of Sustainability at Beautycounter, argued that sustainability and advocacy are really the same; while moderator Kristina Joss, Executive Director at Salterbaxter MSL, opened by asserting that “advocacy for sustainable policy is critical for achieving transformational change for the future.”
Sustainable policy is slow in coming, however, which requires that companies think differently about their organization. Hugh Welsh — General Counsel, Secretary and President at DSM North America — emphasized the importance of government relations and sustainability departments working closely together; a company risks the public calling them out “when [they] see the same companies in Washington [DC] telling a different story than their sustainability team is telling.”
Sustainability is being adopted by companies in a landscape where it drives customer loyalty and eliminates risks. However, Lisa Manley — Senior Director of Sustainability Engagement and Partnerships at Mars, Inc — points out that there is a dearth of business voices in policy circles pushing for the same sustainability their goals claim. Thousands of businesses stepped up when the US withdrew from the Paris Agreement and said they would still comply, yet their voices have yet to be seen in policy circles in Washington, DC.
Deborah Drew, Associate at the World Resources Institute (WRI), introduced the idea of Ambition Loops, published with the United Nations Global Compact and the We Mean Business Coalition. As businesses innovate in sustainable solutions, they embolden governments to think more ambitiously in policy. This cycle continues, reinforcing itself and improving the landscape of business practices.
Sustainable legislation must be advocated for, however; or politicians will simply see those sustainable goals made by consumer brands as social media campaigns and greenwashing marketing ploys. In order for a company to succeed in this environment, Drew advised focusing on the policy, not the politics. Storytelling with one clear voice around a specific policy can bring politically diverse groups to the same arena.
Businesses are creatively working to implement their sustainability goals as they evaluate their associations, compensation incentives, mission and vision statements. This is not sufficient, however, as policy changes are needed to bring a level playing field and push innovation ever higher. As Welsh pointed out:
“Business can’t survive in a society that fails.”