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SB’13 Causeway Reminds Us That Sustainability Means People, Too

Our industry is in recovery mode today as we find our ways home from the always inspiring Sustainable Brands Conference. One of this year’s highlights (there were many) was the Solutions Expo, where 100 providers talked shop in a giant airy tent.

Our industry is in recovery mode today as we find our ways home from the always inspiring Sustainable Brands Conference. One of this year’s highlights (there were many) was the Solutions Expo, where 100 providers talked shop in a giant airy tent. In a sea of LCA consultants, sustainable packaging designers and big-name brands, two people stood talking about hunger. Father and daughter team Michael and Casey Simchik, of PS It Matters, are making it easy for people to be part of the hunger solution. If you need to be reminded of the hunger dilemma plaguing our nation, you can get the full picture here.

PS It Matters (PSIM) has a simple concept: they sell online specialty foods, personal and corporate gifts (think the annual holiday gift your broker sends you, the shirts you order for your employees, or the swag you give out at events), at the exact same price you’re already paying and give 15% back to the Food Bank or Pantry of your choice. They work with retailers such as Stonewall Kitchen, Sticky Fingers, Lindt, specialty coffee roaster Ka’u Hawaiian Coffee, and many others to get the same products cheaper, take lower profit margins, and then give 15% to community Food Banks working hard to end hunger and poverty nationwide. This means that every individual and corporation has the chance to support food banks and pantries through every day buying decisions, and that the Food Banks themselves have less fundraising to do (making them more sustainable!). The gift items are branded to let consumers (or your customers/employees) know how many meals are contributed. The Good Morning Gift Cube muffin packages display ‘4 Meals’ stickers and the package adds up to 24 total meals going to those in need.

PSIM was part of the SB’13 Causeway, an initiative to create purpose-driven brand partnerships with high-impact organizations. I had the honor of creating the inaugural Causeway at SB’12 and was excited to see it grow this year. Old favorites The Nature Conservancy, WWF and FSC were back, and I encouraged PSIM to join their ranks. In our first conversation, they wondered how they fit into a sustainability conference. "Isn’t that about the environment?" they asked. Sure, they sold products with recycled packaging and are working on an organic gift cube, but their focus is on getting meals to those who need it. My question to them and to the SB community was: If people are starving, do you really think that makes for a sustainable world? When the industry talks sustainability, we talk trees, waste, carbon, water, corporate days of service, and foundation giving. The reason why I love the SB conference is because we also talk ideas, stories and change. Talking to those not in the industry, like the Simchiks, reminded me that we often focus in on the landfill-free numbers, the GHG emissions, the water table levels, and forget that the reason we’re really doing all of this is for people. Perhaps we should take Bill McDonough’s advice. He reminded us Tuesday night of why our industry’s favorite word, sustainability, might not be catching on with the masses. "Imagine if someone asked you how your marriage was going and you responded with 'sustainable,' " he probed. Whether we keep the word or change it up, we will reach the masses when we remind them that all this work (environmental, social, and even financial) is ultimately for people. Thanks, PSIM, for reminding me.

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