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3 Ways We’ll Change the Game in 2020

Our global community of innovators is always abuzz with activity, but momentum generated from three initiatives this year have us particularly excited to follow them in the year to come.

Here at Sustainable Brands™ — our self-described ‘home for courageous optimists’ — our global community of innovators is always abuzz with activity, but a few initiatives this year have generated their own special momentum and have us particularly excited to follow them in the year to come.

Plastics: From pronouncements to progress

An exhibit on plastic waste at MAAT in Lisbon, Portugal | Image credit: Martijn Baudoin/Unsplash

2019 continued the tidal wave of commitments from household-name brands and their parent companies pledging to rid their products, processes and packaging of unnecessary plastic — and working to get consumers to do the same — while joining forces and scaling new technologies to get a handle on the glut of material already out in the world. Public pronouncements are all well and good, but there’s typically very little visibility into progress on those pronouncements — but WWF is now working to change that with its ReSource: Plastic platform. In its 2019 report, No Plastic in Nature: A Practical Guide for Business Engagement, WWF outlines four proven strategies that nearly any company can deploy when approaching this issue. Then, through ReSource, it goes on to help companies solve for the what, how and why by identifying what specific actions they should be taking, and how they’re working once in progress.

As WWF’s Erin Simon told us earlier this year, “The unique value proposition of ReSource is the rigor that [holds] companies to the very high standards for commitment and self-improvement.”

The ReSource Footprint Tracker will be the centerpiece of the activation hub — telling companies where to start, how to identify intervention points for action and how to optimize these actions in order to meet their commitment objectives. Because all member companies will be using the tracker, it will also allow WWF to see the aggregate progress being made toward its goal of preventing 10 million metric tons of plastic waste.

Currently in development by WWF’s R&D team, the footprint tracker is being piloted by its Principal Members, so it’s tried and tested by the time ReSource begins Member recruitment in January 2020. Our hope is that the added elements of accountability and transparency will drive a true shift toward proper plastic management at scale.

A company’s compass on the long and winding road to sustainability

Image credit: Ivana Cajina/Unsplash

After talking to hundreds of business leaders within the global SB community to investigate why they aren’t making faster progress on sustainability, we found they tend to fall into three categories: Whether the problem is not knowing how to find the right path; thinking you’ve gone far enough; or seeing the path but lacking the right tools to push forward — it’s become clear to us that sustainability executives and their C-Suite colleagues need more assistance with understanding and connecting the dots.

That is why the Content Council of the SB Advisory Board — which features execs from Iron MountainDanoneProcter & GambleCampbell Soup CompanyWorld Resources InstituteOxfamValutus and Natural Logic, among others — pulled together its collective wisdom, as well as research insights from a number of other thought leaders, to create a comprehensive orientation and navigation tool: The SB Brand Transformation Roadmap℠.

Think of it as a friendly guide that lays out the entire sustainability journey and allows any company to assess the maturity of its efforts in five critical practice areas — PurposeBrand InfluenceOperations & Supply ChainProducts & Services and Governance. With its accessible vocabulary, it can serve both as an on-ramp to early-stage practitioners, and as a North Star to intermediate and advanced practitioners.

Since its launch to the SB Corporate Member group in 2018, more and more companies have embraced the Roadmap — which is helping to inform next steps and overall strategies for sustainability journeys; helping different departments compare notes on what the journey means in each of their domains (governance, supply chain, marketing, etc) and reimagine how to work better together to make progress.

As more and more companies better understand the journey to sustainability and their place within it, it can only increase the speed and likelihood of lasting positive change.

Showing consumers the way to the Good Life

Image credit: Brands for Good

Speaking of being stymied, despite a consistent rise in conscious consumerism in recent years, there remains a persistent intention-action gap with regard to uptake of more conscientious consumer lifestyles and habits. And in late 2017, SB’s Corporate Member group collectively agreed on the need for a comprehensive approach that any brand could use to create that elusive “pull factor” toward more conscious consumer habits and purchasing behaviors. So, in December 2017, SB partnered with BBMG and visionary brands such as Procter & Gamble, The Estee Lauder Companies, Happy Family Organics, Keurig Dr Pepper and National Geographic, Heineken USA, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc, Target and Veocel to create the Pull Factor Project which centered on designing an actionable toolkit for creating communications that can shape culture towards desiring sustainable lifestyles. You can find the results of this project on this Pull Factor Report.

Brands for Good (BfG) officially launched in June 2018 building on the previous project and includes P&G, National Geographic, Nestle Waters, Target, PepsiCo, SC Johnson, SAP SuccessFactors, Dentsu Aegis Network, VISA, Global Citizen, Porter Novelli, Futerra, The Guardian, WeSpire, EY France, and ANA. All these brands came together to further work together to unleash the power of brands to make sustainable living the good life of tomorrow.

All Brands for Good partners have taken a three-point pledge:

  • to embed environmental and social purpose in the heart of their products;

  • to use their marketing, communications and brand influence to make sustainable living accessible, aspirational and rewarding; and

  • to work together to transform the field of marketing to shift behaviors and close the intention-action gap with respect to sustainable purchasing/lifestyle behaviors.

Brands for Good has identified nine sustainable behaviors as the basis for an Innovation Framework in four core areas: lifestylemarketing and advertisingmedia and socio-economic. Now, not only is BfG working to change consumer behavior for the more sustainable, the collaboratory is also creating success metrics for sustainable marketing and resultant changes in consumer behavior; along with another roadmap — a Lifestyle Transformation Roadmap, which will include a self-assessment component to inspire and empower consumers and employees; socio-economic trend-trackers that track measures on the baseline population defined by brand and industry segments; marketing and advertising effectiveness and evaluation metrics for work that successfully engages consumers. Watch this space for updates on the initiative, and to get involved.

The momentum we’re already seeing on these initiatives revitalizes us in our mission to inspire, engage and equip our community of changemakers to continue leading the charge toward creating a flourishing future. Here’s to 2020!