Learning from Detroit: Designing a More Diverse, Prosperous and Equitable Economy
by Mara Slade
In an afternoon panel packed with Detroit leaders, we heard firsthand how they are working in human-centered ways to grow the local economy and support Detroit entrepreneurs.
Hajj Flemings, creator of Rebrand Detroit, shared his strategy to bring the innovation economy to Detroit neighborhoods. Flemings believes Detroit’s future requires “connecting the worlds of design, tech, and innovation to neighborhoods.”
By supporting local entrepreneurs with a tech and brand strategy, he is helping build innovation districts throughout the city. Rebrand Detroit is funded by the Knight Foundation and is an inaugural winner of the 2015 Knight Cities Challenge.
Much of the conversation centered around the theme of "intentional inclusivity" — working in ways to bring together community members who may have historically been left out of the new economy. For example, Flemings shared lessons on how to support entrepreneurs by coming to them and working in a time frame that works for them — often during the evening since many local entrepreneurs have day jobs as well.
Paul Riser, Managing Director of TechTown, a well-known business accelerator and incubator, stressed that many solutions exist within the community of small business owners: “The learning goes both ways working hand in hand with entrepreneurs. How and when we engage community participants is paramount," he said.
TechTown works in close partnership with Wayne State’s Office of Economic Development, the university’s hub for catalyzing business activity in Midtown and across the Detroit region.
When asked about the barriers faced by Detroit entrepreneurs, Riser brought up the influence of the local news media: "We become our own worst enemy with the pervasive amount of negative news, which infuses a lack of belief and hope among local citizens. There is a need to tell better stories, more positive stories about Detroit so that entrepreneurs believe in themselves.”
Refashioning Fashion by Proving the Business Case for Sustainability
This panel session discussed effective approaches to "Redesigning the Fashion Industry” by facilitating the incorporation of sustainable practices and turning global issues into opportunities.
The opportunities within the supply chain are massive and tangible. Fashion influences other industries from farming to transportation, to real estate and waste management: in essence, all businesses need to evolve to transform close the loop. Fashion is a $2.5 trillion industry, which touches an estimated 150 million lives everyday, with 80 percent women in the supply chain. The industry contributes 10 percent of global carbon emissions and 20 percent of industrial water waste. At the end of the lifecycle, 85 percent of textiles are sent to landfill which accounts for 21 billion tons each year.
Frank Zambrelli (Senior Director, GCU Fair Fashion Center) moderated the conversation between Melanie Steiner (Chief Risk Officer, PVH Corp.) and Cara Smyth (GCNYC Vice President and Founding Director of the Fair Fashion Center, GCU Fair Fashion Center). For GCU Fair Fashion Center, “The Good Life” means a system in which all businesses act as corporate statesmen, working to combine economic value creation with environmental stewardship, social inclusion and sound ethics.
Steiner discussed PVH Corporation's environmental goals and strategies to reduce its footprint in its supply chain and 2500 factories globally. PVH is the parent company of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, IZOD, Olga, Speedo, Van Heusen and other iconic fashion brands. Its CSR group meets monthly to discuss strategies around issues including packaging, human rights audits, and closing the loop on chemical releases into water sources. The company is moving beyond audits and retraining auditors to become value-added players, giving consumers greater insights and confidence. PVH is a member of FLA, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Textile Exchange, and other organizations that are helping move the needle. Steiner says PVH is finally in a position where it can make business decisions based on sustainability: 50 research projects are addressing issues from waste to getting startups to scale.
Smyth says changes both small and large can create inertia to redesign and disrupt business as usual, but it starts with informed individuals. The language of the NGO and scientific community is different than the language of business, requiring translation of solutions. The GCU Fair Fashion Center creates the enabling space for collaborations that overcome those challenges between research and industry.
"Where there's environmental impact, there's waste. Where there's waste, there will be profit loss," Smyth said. She works with Bloomberg to communicate to executives the importance of scaling collective action to find the waste. There's proof that sustainable companies are viewed as operating efficiently, and therefore trading higher on Wall Street. Companies want to be a force for good, but it won't happen overnight.
GCU is a signatory to the United Nations PRME initiative (Principles for Responsible Management Education) and is the first Scottish university to join the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest voluntary corporate responsible management initiative. "We are proud and honored to stand among so many dedicated and passionate individuals and companies with a common belief – that unleashing the best of human ingenuity and innovation can change the shape of business and, with it, the world,” Smyth said.
Making Supply Chain Innovation Compelling: Visual Design and Storytelling Strategy in Action
Your last corporate sustainability or impact report was a lackluster heap of data and text that most likely saw more use as kindling than as an informative pronouncement of environmental symbiosis.
In this afternoon panel, Erika Ferrin and John Kester of The Sustainability Consortium, along with Ben Pawsey of Thread and Charlene Wall-Warren of BASF, provided insight on how to use visual design to tell a story.
And that’s where we begin. Instead of focusing on the mountain of statistics and pages of calculations and raw data, focus on the story. “We use stories, fairy tales, to teach our children,” Pawsey stated. The story resonates more so than trying to remember a collection of numbers.
But that doesn’t mean ignoring the numbers, either. Wall-Warren suggested using infographics to communicate the most compelling numbers, and to avoid trying to include every statistic that made up those high-level numbers.
When asked if using less text can have a greater impact, Kester responded, “Yes.” Enough said.
But simple also doesn’t mean dumbing down the material. Sometimes it is hard for marketers and subject matter experts to agree upon how to communicate the information. Pawsey offered some insight that marketers are “not trying to downplay the work” and subject matter experts are “not trying to over-complicate the message.” Start with that understanding and then work together to find the right mix.
That brings us to your audience – which is one of the first things you should define. Wall-Warren offered a real-world situation where BASF presented to brand owners with slides that included BASF brand names and their technical properties. Take-away: Brand owners don’t speak chemistry or BASF brand names.
“What is the audience looking for?” Wall-Warren asked. “Then don’t burden the conversation with technical details until that is what the audience wants to hear.”
Don’t forget the aesthetics. Kester recommends a mix of graphs, images, and text – on each page. Graphs should utilize categories that resonate with the audience and at a level that makes an impact (remember you don’t need to use every statistic in the heap). Pawsey added that utilizing layers is an effective means of transmitting information in small chunks, which allows the audience to punch through the noise to get to the next layer of detail at their choosing.
Finally, don’t forget to keep it entertaining. Well as entertaining as an impact report can be, right?
Other points from the panel:
- Online – do we need to talk about not creating hard copies with the SB’17 audience?
- Video - keep it short - under a minute; we have shorter and shorter attention spans
- Bingable – for those that want to not leave the couch for 24-48 hours
- Sharable – break up the report to allow sections to be shared via social media
- Mobile-ready – we talk, email, shop, read, watch movies – all on smartphones, why not a report?
- Visualize numbers – convert numbers into the everyday setting with iconography
Ferrin also pointed to some free design resources:
- Plain language guidelines
- Free vector graphics
- Open source art from museums (here, here and here)
Democratizing Sustainability Data: Highlighting the 'Unnoticeable' with Unprecedented Transparency
Andrew Zolli, VP of Global Impact Initiatives at Planet Labs, has a fantastically simple way of explaining hard things. Wed afternoon at SB’17 Detroit, he left the audience with the realization that the so-called small, incremental and unnoticeable changes happening on Earth every single day are immensely valuable and must be noticed.
Unnoticeable, incremental changes happening every day create big impact on the planet. But the human brain is not trained to watch for incremental things. Planet Labs is solving this problem with real-time data visualizations and space-mapping, with the help of a huge constellation of Earth-observing satellites to capture the planet’s entire surface every day to bring to the world’s attention the “unnoticeable” changes happening on the planet. The platform has transformational potential for advancing inclusive social development, ecosystem monitoring, public health, climate and urban resilience. Examples of impact include preventing deforestation, stopping illegal gold mining, monitoring refugee camps, introducing sustainable global supply chains and more.
By positioning satellites between Earth and Sun, Planet Labs is taking change that is expensive to monitor into the decision-making realm of those in power and everyday citizens. In short, it is making sustainability real. The lesson for all of us at the conference from Zolli’s talk is powerful: Show them and they will believe it.
Transformational Collaboration: How Leading Brands Are Enabling America’s First Sustainable Urban Agrihood
America’s leading brands are more often looking to become more sustainable and socially responsible, and Detroit’s Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) has provided a clear catalyst for companies to pursue such intentions through collaboration. Panelists from Weber Shandwick, GM, BASF, Herman Miller and MUFI all shared their reasons why the goals and achievements of their companies would not be possible without the many stakeholders working together to enable the entire MUFI project.
“Collaboration and partnership are two different things,” explained BASF’s Nader Mahmoud, who went on to discuss that, as we’re currently seeing throughout [SB’17 Detroit](http://events.sustainablebrands.com/sb17det/ target=), when like-minded companies come together and put partnership into practice, that’s collaboration; MUFI acts for BASF as a vehicle for doing that, and also for showcasing BASF’s sustainability and practice.
Dane Parker, Executive Director of GM, who uses MUFI as a means of employee volunteering, highlighted the value of servicing the community: “To help someone else – that was a really easy thing to do.” GM is also sponsoring the project through facilitating the building of a home made from a shipping container, which covers a previously blighted piece of land in the neighborhood. For this, GM partnered with Herman Miller, whose efforts to reclaim their products’ used materials at end-of-use have furnished various aspects of MUFI’s indoor projects. Gabe Wing, Director of EHS at Herman Miller, discussed how partnering up with programs such as MUFI was a natural fit for his design-oriented company, who focuses on using research to solve problems.
With major brands sponsoring and empowering continued new projects at MUFI, president of the project Tyson Gersh reiterated that featuring these companies’ different stories across a number of industries does well to create the model of success for other urban areas to take on similar projects. “Everybody’s looking at Detroit right now to see how we’re going to redesign our city,” Gersh said, and with MUFI as an agent of visibility and traffic showcasing how bigger companies interact with one another, the collaboration among these brands is a win-win.
Speaking of Win-Wins ... Sustainability-Minded Brands and Entrepreneurs Are Putting Their Heads Together
“Responsible innovation needs to be shared.”
~Paul Dillinger, VP, Head of Global Product Innovation, Levi Strauss & Co.
This declaration resonated with a room full of purpose-driven professionals during Wednesday’s morning panel with speakers from Target, The Hershey Company, Levi Strauss and Outerknown. Moderated by Megan Dunbar French, co-founder & CEO at Conscious Company Media, the session showcased how brands and entrepreneurs are partnering to be a force for good.
Emily McGarvey, Director of CSR at Target, shared updates on the retailer’s Made to Matter collection – a group of environmentally friendly and healthy items produced by primarily emerging brands. The Made to Matter portfolio comprises of approximately 100 products from 20 different brands and has gained an impressive $1 billion in sales in 2015. This year, Target launched Target Takeoff, an accelerator program for up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the health and wellness sector. Target supports the next generation of founders who are developing “accessible, affordable, inclusive and aspirational better-for-you products and services.” As McGarvey stated, Target is using its entrepreneur programs to spread the entrepreneurial spirit to existing employees, in part through workshops and mentorships. In return, entrepreneurs are teaching Target how to be nimbler. Target sees a positive, tangible bottom line result. McGarvey expressed internal challenges related to return-on-investment expectations. However, she says, “on both sides, the end game is to move the internal needle – how can we both help each other? It’s not about getting all of these new products on Target shelves.” McGarvey added: “Each of these entrepreneurial companies are all amazing with different needs. Listen to each company to find out what their needs are” regarding innovation.
According to Whitney Mayer, Manager of Social Innovation, The Hershey Company’s mission is to be an “innovative snacking powerhouse.”. Expanding the company’s social responsibility programs beyond education to include nutrition under its Nourishing Minds initiative, Hershey joined Partners in Food Solutions to improve food security, nutrition and economic development in Africa. Partners in Food Solutions has a unique skill-based volunteer model that leverages employees’ expertise and capabilities to make a bigger impact throughout Africa. Mayer conveyed the tremendous opportunities for female entrepreneurship in Ghana, where 70 percent of entrepreneurs are women. She illustrated a mutual benefit for employees: Helping women entrepreneurs become formal suppliers gives Hershey engineers inspiration to be resourceful in devising manufacturing solutions. Mayer attested that deepened “knowledge goes both ways.” However, she indicated that creating greater organizational support – especially among senior leaders – and embedding stretch talent-development opportunities into the wider culture is in progress as the company attempts to meet the needs of its social entrepreneurial partners.
Meanwhile, Levi Strauss has created an annual fellowship program for entrepreneurs who work in the intersection of design and sustainability, to focus on environmental and social issues challenging the industry. Recently, the company offered $350,000 in grants toward sustainable apparel projects to its inaugural LS&Co. Collaboratory fellowship class. The fellowship program provides apparel entrepreneurs with access to subject matter experts and senior leadership in order to cultivate their own sustainability practices. Paul Dillinger, VP and Head of Global Product Innovation, shared the insight that these smaller apparel companies are creating a new baseline for the industry by taking learnings and moving faster. Through unrestricted problem-solving, the fellowship entrepreneurs are not encumbered by bureaucratic processes. Dillinger also echoed owner Bob Haas’ “lead with your values and success will come” principle in that the motive behind the LS&Co. Collaboratory fellowship is not dictated by ROI.
John Moore, Creative Director at sustainable menswear brand Outerknown, attested to the tangible and intangible value as a beneficiary of the LS&Co Collaboratory fellowship program. By sharing ideas and learned practices, Moore now views sustainability as a building block of a successful business. Relating his personal journey, Moore states “as a designer, I now think of function and durability, as well as price.” While hurdles abound, Moore is optimistic: “There are economics of bringing designs to life, such as the issue of ‘minimum’ purchasing. Going back to the Collaboratory gives small businesses the resources to understand things like audits and standards. Typically, small businesses do not share resources, yet the fellowship participants also have an ongoing dialogue with each other.”
The Future of Sustainable Agriculture: Carbon-Positive Farming, Nutrient Management and Beyond
“Investments in practices in soil health are investments in sustainability,” stated Wayne Honeycutt of the Soil Health Institute.
Healthy soil practices can lead to increased nitrate recapture, improved water-holding capacity, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient run-off and improved drought resilience, and can support pollinator habitats.
The Soil Health Institute recently unveiled a plan, Enriching Soil, Enhancing Life: An Action Plan for Soil Health, with actionable steps to advance soil health in the U.S. Priorities include mitigating drought, saving/improving soil, generating higher yields per acre, enabling field and pasture decisions, and disseminating accurate, science-based information.
In addition, the Soil Health Institute is developing metrics around soil health with the first tier, soon to be released, with further research being supported by General Mills.
Brands are also getting involved in soil health as the ultimate starting point of the ingredients for their products.
Nestlé Purina has scientists that formulate a balanced diet in their pet food line and has been involved in pet adoption via Pet Finder and the Humane Society - aligning its brand with quality and social values. But now they are taking it further.
“It is about what goes into the bag or can of food,” stated Diane Herndon of Nestlé Purina. “Where the ingredients are from.”
Nestlé Purina, via an analysis by Quantis, identified its big environmental impact areas – and it wasn’t the factories. 60 percent-90 percent (across multiple sub-categories) of the impact came from the agricultural supply chain (including processing and transportation to factories).
Ingredients such as the corn, soy, and wheat used in Nestlé Purina’s pet products are grown in soil. With the understanding that healthy soil translates to quality ingredients, Nestlé Purina has committed $1 million over five years to The Nature Conservancy’s reThink Soil Initiative, which looks to advance soil health practices such as cover crops, crop rotation and conservation tillage.
Wrangler purchases 50 percent of its cotton from U.S. farms – equating to 1-2 percent of the U.S. cotton supply annually. That awesome economic impact translates into the ability to drive sustainability.
“Every industry has the responsibility to use technology to reduce impact,” stated Wrangler’s Roian Atwood.
Wrangler has had a long history of supporting farming in the U.S. The company recently hosted a conference for the Future Farmers of America to convey learnings about soil health. It is that understanding of how soil health can impact resource inputs that has driven Wrangler to launch a pilot program for sustainable U.S. cotton supply via a focus on soil health. The program will test soil health practices such as no-till, crop rotation and cover cropping, on farms in the U.S. The first location will be the Newby farm in Athens, Alabama.
Connecting farmers to their fields using technology can further the understanding of resource use and opportunities to support sustainable activities.
Field to Market, a non-profit, multi-stakeholder collaboration focused on sustainable food, fiber and fuel production, is using its Fieldprint Platform to provide growers with a free tool to explore the relationship between management practices and sustainability outcomes. The tool documents and demonstrates field-level farming decisions on sustainable outcomes in the areas of biodiversity, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, irrigated water use, land use, soil carbon, soil conservation, and water quality. Farmers can benchmark their performance providing for a “healthy competition.”
“The traceability of product ingredients - cotton for clothing, grains for pet food - can allow brands to map their supply chains and partner with producers for continuous improvements,” stated Betsy Hickman of Field to Market.
Transforming Business Models for Tomorrow’s Markets (Or, We Need Breakthrough Solutions – Now)
by Nithin Coca
While we’ve seen a lot of examples of the amazing progress companies are making towards sustainability here at SB ’17 Detroit, it’s not - yet - enough. In this morning session, Kevin Moss, Global Director of Business Center at the World Resources Institute, gave a humbling overview of the massive challenge we’re facing. While companies are making meaningful efficiency gains, we’re not coming close to hitting the goals for reductions in resource use that we need. Moreover, resource growth and GDP are still coupled, likely due to economic development in the global south.
“We still have a problem as the growth in poverty alleviation is overwhelming the efficiency improvements we making,” he said.
Lorraine Smith, associate director at Volans, went deeper, exploring what breakthrough business models can actually begin to address this challenge. These models are exponentially more social, lean, integrated and circular, are structured differently than existing models, and require organizations to rethink, down to the core, how they do business.
“Take a really serious look at where there might be serious opportunities to reduce resources use, including ones that might not be on your mind,” said Smith.
For more, check out WRI’s report,The Elephant in the Boardroom, which aims to help organizations have these big discussions that can lead to radical changes in how they do business; and Volans’ report, Breakthrough Business Models for the Future. Together, they can guide companies on how to develop their own exponential, game-changing breakthroughs.
Trust Is Tribal: How to Build Brand Loyalty in Choppy Political Waters
Truth fades, stories stick. That is the premise from which Jennifer Lindenauer of Upworthy launched as she guided us through a story of what makes a valued brand.
2017 AD (After Donald) could be the year known for the birth of the great storyteller period. Our President is a great storyteller – why, he proclaimed himself a winner before the vote had begun. He coined the phrase “fake news” to deflect mainstream media, to which mainstream media responded with fact-checking sites. But did any of this matter? No. Lindenauer pointed to Trump’s ability to speak authentically to gain trust.
“The opposite of fake is not truth – the opposite is authentic,” Lindenauer stated. “Authenticity builds trust. Trust is Trump’s truth.”
It is on this basis that brands have an opportunity to build brand loyalty by asserting authentic values. Values are important, whether it be supporting companies or social issues: 75 percent of consumers will pay more if a company aligns with their values, and 76 percent won’t buy products if values are opposed.
As Lindenauer asserted, “If you don’t stand for something, you won’t stand for long.”
Look at late-night television. Jimmy Fallon was the top late-night host appealing to a large audience. But politics got in the way and his numbers dropped to the point where he was trailing Steven Colbert by a million viewers per night.
Now look at Jimmy Kimmel: Coming off of an epic fail with the award-show hosting gig, Kimmel has been pushed into the spotlight after his story of his child’s illness and his plea to support Obamacare. He spoke from the heart – he took a stand.
Several brands have taken the risk to draw a line in the sand with marketing campaigns: Airbnb, REI and P&G, to name a few. Upworthy’s own “Right Wrong” campaign is focused on changing things for the better, which “usually means picking a fight with the status quo.”
“Marketers can’t ignore this,” Lindenauer stated. “A trusted brand is a most valued brand.”
Who knew that Trump is a “Marketer in Chief” – drawing a line in the sand and selling his brand by defining values and standing for them.
“Thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity,” she quipped.
How Starbucks Is Walking Its Talk Through Next-Level Social Hiring and Education Commitments
Next, John Kelly, SVP of Global Social Impact and Public Policy at Starbucks, opened with a famous question by Howard Schultz, former CEO and now Chairman of Starbucks: "What is the role of responsibility in a for-profit company?" This question, surprisingly posed during a shareholder meeting, has been transformative.
The answer has resulted in a three-fold of "Human, Environmental, Community"- focused strategies for Starbucks. After 40 years in the business of selling social impact through coffee, the company is working on a larger scale than ever, recognizing that all efforts must be integrated internationally to make an impact globally. A few examples where the corporation has already made quantifiable social, environmental, and profitable impacts include:
- 30,000 Partners (employees) around the world have equity as stock owners
- Health insurance is provided to all employees who work at least 20 hours per week (no other company did that in 1987)
- Starbucks' coffee is 99 percent ethically sourced. The last 1 percent is incentive for new farmers in conflict areas to grow to Starbucks' standards.
- There are now 1,200 USGBC LEED-certified stores around the world.
- Starbucks has hired 40,000 "opportunity youth" and set a new goal to hire up to one million
- Through a partnership with Arizona State University, over 7,000 employees have enrolled in college – with tuition paid for by Starbucks – and over 300 have already earned a degree
- Starbucks' FoodShare successfully donated over a million meals last year.
Starbucks is also working towards implementing global ‘green’ operating standards for its stores; doubling recycling rates and reusability of disposable cups; and hiring 10,000 refugees.
Q&A: How to Rise to the Top by Embracing Inclusion
Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya joined Sustainable Brands’ founder and CEO, Koann Skyrzyniarz, onstage for an interview-style conversation. Ulukaya began by recounting his journey from his boyhood in the Turkish farmland making cheese and yogurt, to his abrupt departure to the United States after getting “into trouble with the government for writing about human rights issues” in a newspaper in 1994, to the purchase of an old Kraft yogurt plant in Upstate New York – without knowing anyone, speaking much English or having a business plan. The nostalgia of his youth – including caring for animals, watching stars and practicing simplicity – drew him to buy the decades-old plant that employed less than a hundred workers. Insisting on first repainting the factory in the colors of red, white and blue, Ulukaya worked tirelessly -- with the five former Kraft factory workers he hired and retained -- to come up with ideas about how to move forward during a difficult period of uncertainty.
His personal history as an immigrant in America has shaped the way he runs his business - benefiting local communities and valuing his workforce. The Chobani company culture grew out of the bonding Ulukaya shared with these five employees. As he said, “it is extremely important that [you create] magic doing something even if you don’t know what it is. When you start walking the wave, the wave appears.”
The Chobani company is about product, people, plant and the environment. Considering himself a factory worker first, Ulukaya asserted that human interaction creates the living stories within the walls. “Culture is built in seconds, minutes, hours, weeks, months and years.” The Chobani CEO recognizes that this is huge responsibility for leaders, yet leaders need to lead with action (“not from a fancy place from the top”), have strong beliefs to be consistent, and “do the right thing.”
In part, the CEO attributes Chobani’s success to embracing people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Thirty percent of the workforce represents sixteen different nationalities. Ulukaya related how he grew up not knowing how to look at people since he spent his formative years living in remote areas of Turkey. During his early time in Upstate New York, he was the only outsider, yet he felt very much at home while at the yogurt factory. He believes in creating a company environment where everyone can come as their whole self and leave as their whole self. On diversity, he declares: “Come to the table as you are, and something magical will come from that. If you spend your time pretending to be someone you’re not, how can you create something you’re attached to?” At the core, Ulukaya understands that “we all do not look the same but we all worry about the same things in life.” He then quipped that “the only way we discriminate is [by designating] people who work for Chobani and people who don’t.”
As Chobani has grown, so has the community. Chobani now employs 2,000 people from the original five plant workers in 2007. As a result, the community in Upstate New York has been reinvigorated as people have returned to the small town.