Redefine "just business" at the SB'20 Just Brands virtual conference on August 18-19.

Corporate Member Update
Reinforcing Brand Purpose in a Changing World:
Nestlé’s Member Meeting Takeaways

Nestlé's key takeaways from the recent Design Innovation Member Meeting, co-hosted by Nestlé and Alaska Airlines

Author: Emily Dimiero, Communications Manager, Nestlé USA

Nestlé recently co-hosted the Sustainable Brands (SB) Design Innovation Spring Meeting for Corporate Members, alongside Alaska Airlines.

Taking the Member Meeting virtual was a first for SB, and it was a huge success. Nearly 100 purpose and sustainability leaders from an array of global brands joined for two days of sharing innovations and best practices to advance sustainable design.

Whether in virtual “plenary-style” sessions or smaller group chats, our conversations benefited from many diverse perspectives. While businesses are rapidly shifting and evolving the way they operate amidst the global COVID-19 crisis, it was evident that a brand’s purpose is unwavering, and there is a real opportunity to consider (and possibly reconsider) a company’s core purpose and value to society.

Results from a live participant poll from the opening session painted this picture:

• Unsurprisingly, more than half (59 percent) of participants stated that COVID-19 has dramatically impacted their organizations’ 2020 business plans; yet only 15 percent stated that COVID-19 has dramatically impacted their organizations’ 2020 plans related to sustainability and social purpose.

Nearly half (45 percent) stated that their organizations’ purpose-related goals will not change, because they are more relevant than ever to business and societal needs.

• However, 41 percent stated that it is possible that purpose-related goals could change because their organizations may identify new material issues and associated goals as a result of COVID-19.

After the meeting I closed my laptop feeling inspired, optimistic, and reminded of how businesses can be a force for good, even amidst an unprecedented global crisis. Reflecting on the event, I would summarize the experience in three takeaways:

We value human connectedness and diversity of perspective more than ever.

Having to pivot from what was supposed to be an in-person gathering at Nestlé USA’s Arlington, VA headquarters into a virtual format was a welcomed opportunity to connect with thought leaders near and far. Participants were eager to connect at a human level and share insights about the impacts of COVID-19 on our personal lives, our communities and businesses, and how we might apply these insights to rethinking the way we work, design and operate as people and organizations.

Many commented on SB’s ability to convene purpose and sustainability leaders from various schools of thought, geographies and industries. Participants included top business and sustainability leaders, technical sustainability experts, designers, marketers, and more. The diversity in thought brought to the (virtual) table gave us all a refreshed vantage point and perspective to take back to our respective organizations.

We must embody a “design-first” mindset to create a truly circular system.

The meeting’s theme focused on sustainable design and transitioning to a circular system, to reduce waste, change consumer behaviors, and more effectively track toward a sustainable future. Within this process, the importance of considering the entire product and business ecosystem; as well as the critical role design plays in increasing efficiency and eliminating redundancies was clear. One presenter noted that there are 160 million people around the world making design decisions that directly impact our lives – so the importance of careful consideration at every step of the ecosystem – starting at the beginning – is instrumental in reducing waste and simply put, making our lives better.

Nestlé USA’s sustainable packaging expert Nicole Camilleri shared wins, opportunities and learnings from our company’s efforts to design packaging that helps us shape a waste-free future. From our step to remove the cardboard circle from DiGiorno Rising Crust pizzas (saving 4.5 million pounds of corrugated paper annually, equal to 49,000 trees), to our partnership with Loop to create a reusable Häagen-Dazs container, we’re proud of our progress against our commitment to make 100 percent of packaging reusable or recyclable by 2025.

Despite our current challenges, there is tremendous opportunity to harness design innovation for a more sustainable future.

In recent months, the world has changed rapidly in ways I never could have predicted – and people and businesses are adapting to what a “new normal” will look like. While immediate priorities may be shifting in this unsettling time, seeing brands double down on their purpose and continuing to rethink design for good gives me some hope about what our “future normal” could look like.

Like so many other companies, at Nestlé, our key priorities right now are protecting the safety and health of our employees, serving our customers and helping our communities in need. Meanwhile, we continue pressing ahead on our sustainability initiatives because they are fundamental to the way we run our business. From what I heard over our two days together, SB members believe sustainability will be as important, or perhaps more important than ever, as we emerge from this crisis.

We thank SB for facilitating an enriching couple of days – and for giving us an opportunity to discover some unexpected delights of connecting virtually (e.g. excellent chatbox commentary). We look forward to converting our takeaways into action within our business and in the way we work.

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