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Panels Ponder Context, Chemicals, Cradle to Cradle Textiles on #SB14sd Day 3

“What if sustainability was at least 10 percent of every product decision at every company?

“What if sustainability was at least 10 percent of every product decision at every company?

That’s the “What If?” question Steven Cristol, managing partner at Strategic Harmony, posed at his workshop Wednesday afternoon on “making sustainability unavoidable.” While it should be, the reality is that sustainability considerations often get brought up after product development decisions are already made, leading to waste, inefficiencies and failures. He shared a look at an analytics tool called Brand Impact Analysis that helps product development teams weigh and rank which new products, features, functions, packaging improvements, or services will be brought to market — with sustainability considerations baked in as an organic part of prioritizing.

“It’s a way of thinking about how can you take a process you are using currently and infuse some of the sustainability into it earlier, before projects are approved for development,” he said.

Companies can also use the tool for hotspotting and scenario planning to see where they’re ahead and where they’re behind on sustainability considerations like water conservation, biodiversity/habitat preservation, carbon emissions and energy conservation.

When asked about how talking publicly about this experience has affected the company or how it will make impact in the future, Jason said, “I think it’s going to help us. We can tighten up and talk about the things that are really different.”

How can we engage consumers to meaningfully, and more importantly, measurably shift behavior patterns for a more a sustainable future? This enduring question was deeply explored during the afternoon session "In Search of the Holy Grail: Consumer Engagement and Movement-Making for Behavior Change." Moderated by Suzanne Shelton, CEO of Shelton Group, the conversation was brought to life by panelist Coleman Bigelow, global sustainability marketing director of Johnson & Johnson, and Jonathan Atwood, VP of Sustainable Living and Corporate Communications for Unilever. The lively discussion highlighted J&J's Care to Recycle and Unilever's Project Sunlight campaigns, both centered on the notion that verbal intention to act sustainably from consumers is not enough; rather deeds, such as recycling and responsible purchasing, should be the ultimate metrics of success. The panelists recommended change-seekers drive conversations across all stakeholders from consumer to employees, using humor and levity in messaging to increase engagement. The pair also emphasized the critical nature of brand alignment with cause, a dynamic that can tell a compelling story while highlighting brand values. This, they said, illuminates a path powerful path to the Holy Grail.

Nearby, the Leadership in Sustainable Purchasing panel featured some of the largest companies in the world, such as Sodexo, McDonald's, Dell and Caesars Entertainment.

Lewis Perkins of the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute moderated a nearby session on “Optimizing the Building Blocks of Fashion” with leaders in sustainable textiles Tracy Stickney of Designtex, Paul Murray of Shaw Industries, and Scott Makinlay Hahn of Loomstate.

After the networking break, a panel featuring Walmart, SAP and the Rainforest Alliance discussed the merits of the Sustainability Consortium, an organization that assembles a diverse group of the world's largest companies to improve consumer products through scientific methodologies. CEO Kate Hurst notes that the success of the Sustainability Consortium hinges on the importance of collaboration, commitment and strong governance structures.

Meanwhile, Alison DaSilva of Cone Communications moderated a session with Michelle Ferguson of Clif Bar, Jonathan Yohannan of Panera Bread, Frank Igrec of Dick’s Sporting Goods and Meagan Smith of PepsiCo on taking authentic storytelling to storydoing.

Ferguson described the implementation of Clif Bar’s Meet the Moment campaign inviting people to get closer to nature and do the things they love. Igrec introduced the success of Dick’s Sporting Goods' Sports Matter campaign, which underscores the importance of founding sports programs for at-risk youth. By touching a chord with the CEO and celebrities who embraced the cause, the program crowdfunded $2 million in 6 weeks. Smith described PepsiCo’s campaign to increase currently dismal beverage recycling rates and addressed the company’s need for a greater supply of post-consumer PET for use in its bottles. Its Dream Machine Kiosks accept any #1 plastic bottle and aluminum cans, even from competitors. The campaign hits multiple demographics by increasing access to recycling at gas stations, giving direct rewards to individuals and schools, and providing scholarships for entrepreneurial bootcamp classes for veterans.

Another nearby session discussed what lies ahead in the movement towards safer chemicals. Speakers from TKingsbury Consulting, Nike, AkzoNobel and Mattel all provided insights on the challenges that exist in this movement. When the question, “how do we define safer chemicals?” was posed, Sarah Severn of Nike said to start by defining what we mean by unsafe chemicals, and then work from there. Tony Kingsbury stated that people want there to be “zero chemicals” in their products, and that the analytical capabilities of defining zero is difficult. It was also brought up that there is a distrust of science among the public, and people now fear the word “chemicals” alone; Severn suggested that there is a great challenge for the communications people to reframe the story and bring trust back to science-based, data-driven work.

The group also discussed opportunities and were optimistic across the board. Everyone emphasized “pre-competitive collaboration” involving numerous stakeholders, including state government regulators, and similar companies in order to bring the movement towards safer chemicals to scale. Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) is a group of major apparel and footwear brands and retailers committed to having zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020. In addition to increased collaboration, biomimicry, opening of dialogue across value chains, and a real desire to come to solutions came up as reasons behind all of the optimism.

After the afternoon breakouts wrapped up, it was time to announce the winner of this year’s Sustainable Brands Innovation Open (SBIO). Presented by Target, SBIO takes pride in being one of the first venues to showcase promising and ambitious social enterprises, such as last year's finalists FreshPaper and Thread.

"At Target, we are constantly innovating and exploring new ways to leverage our strength in design to create value, positive impact, and healthy vibrant communities," said Kate Heiny, Senior Group Manager, Sustainability at Target Corporation. "That is why we are thrilled to sponsor the Innovation Open at Sustainable Brands. We are, for the first time, introducing the Target Consumer Products Award, including a $1,000 Target gift card and strategic consultation from Target's sustainability and merchandising teams on the winner's idea."

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