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Brands, Academics, NGOs Explore How Sustainability is Transforming Business Now at SB Rio 2015

Sustainable Brands Rio 2015, which took place August 25-27, saw the participation of over 500 attendees from business, civil society organizations, NGOs, universities, governments and the third sector. This year, the theme "How now: how innovation in sustainability is transforming business now" reinforced an open and critical view on trends which, on a larger scale, may lead to positive change in companies´ business models.

Day one of the third annual SB Rio event was marked by debates that emphasized how transparency, mobilization capacity, supply chain innovation, entrepreneurship and new models of consumption and production can stimulate the adoption of more sustainable practices in the corporate world.

The speakers´ discourse reinforced the need to promote more effective connection between companies and their brands and a purpose to contribute positively — not just reducing negative impacts — with economic, social and environmental development.

“Marks of different sizes and industries are leading the way for business transformation — and we must be attentive to how each one can develop this role and expand our purpose,” said KoAnn Skrzyniarz, CEO of Sustainable Brands.

In the morning, two workshops led by international organizations SustainAbility and GlobeScan presented studies on the positive impact of transparency on business performance. Conscious Capitalism Institute in Brazil and Spark Innovation Impact coordinated the afternoon workshops, emphasizing the transition to the new economy and the integrated social impact vision.

In the Activation Hub — a space for dialogue and sharing of projects focused on the topics of innovation and sustainability – speakers debated with the audience about socio-environmental responsibility in the fashion world, development of suppliers and communities, consumer confidence and engagement on climate change. In addition, the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development (CEBDS, in Portuguese) launched Sustainability Guidelines for Companies, focused on Marketing and Innovation themes.

Day two showcased topics connected to the critical issues of our time - such as urban mobility, intrapreneurship, water scarcity, waste management and engagement by brands.

Plenaries from BASF, BMWi, Method, Solazyme, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and more provided insights into "How to Redesign Production and Markets"; followed by Globescan, Goodvertising, Natura, Sirikul Laukaikul and more exploring "How Brands Can Engage People.”

Investment in electric vehicles, biotechnology applied to the food industry, cradle-to-cradle projects in industrial production, and consumer awareness activities were some of the cases presented.

"These initiatives are examples of how innovation in sustainability is transforming business now, in direct connection with the conference theme — ‘How Now’," said Alvaro Almeida, director of Report Sustentabilidade, which organizes the Brazilian conference.

Once again, the workshops gathered participants to discuss practical cases related to social business, disruptive innovation, waste reduction and the connection between brands and causes. In the Activation Hub, companies including Edelman Significa, AES Brazil, Dow Brazil and Sinctronics invited the public to discuss cases and challenging issues related to social and environmental innovation.

The program also featured parallel activities, including a mindfulness session, in partnership with Assertiva Mindfulness, in the Report Sustentabilidade lounge; a lecture on intrapreneurship, coordinated by the League of Intrapreneurs and the BMW Foundation; activities in the Millennials Lab, a project that brings together young people between 18 and 24 to discuss their perceptions on the topics presented at the conference; and the Sustainable Brands Innovation Open (SBIO), a startup contest that took place for the second consecutive year.

Civil society mobilization projects, new ways of living the city and the adhesion of private sector companies to voluntary commitments were prominent themes of the third and final day of SB Rio. Combining debates presented on earlier days, the program included workshops, Activation Hub debates and plenaries exploring "How to Connect to the Needs of Society."

Workshops focused on ways to modify the positioning and performance of organizations. "I want to be a B Corp!" was organized by B Lab — a global network that brings together companies committed to growth coupled with social, economic and environmental welfare — and brought information and examples on the certification process. Aoka Labs Liderança Sistêmica led the workshop, “How to lead the transformation in complex systems.”

In the Activation Hub, speakers and attendees continued to exchange experiences through lectures followed by open debates, including one hosted by BASF and the Global Compact on the newly created Sustainable Development Goals.

Finally, the closing plenaries featured representatives of organizations such as Novos Urbanos, Pereira Passos Institute, Grupo Pão de Açúcar (GPA), The Nature Conservancy, Benfeitoria, Play the Call, Treebos and Patagonia presenting models of action converging with current needs of society, covering themes such as the new economy and mobilization to social causes.


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