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Marketing and Comms
Storytelling the Overriding Theme on Final Day of SB '13

There was hardly an empty seat in the house for Jonah Sachs’ “crash course in masterful storytelling.” Attendees learned the history of oral tradition and why humans have used stories to take in and share information for thousands of years. Sachs shared a five-part strategy to telling stories that get shared and let everyone in the room practice telling their own stories using characters and morals that illustrated underlying core values. The session concluded with examples of successful story-based marketing campaigns, brand gifts and an overview on brand archetypes.

There was hardly an empty seat in the house for Jonah Sachs’ “crash course in masterful storytelling.” Attendees learned the history of oral tradition and why humans have used stories to take in and share information for thousands of years. Sachs shared a five-part strategy to telling stories that get shared and let everyone in the room practice telling their own stories using characters and morals that illustrated underlying core values. The session concluded with examples of successful story-based marketing campaigns, brand gifts and an overview on brand archetypes.

As many in the field can attest, business is still grappling with developing universal metrics and performance indicators for success around sustainability. A panel of thought leaders from different industries explored “conquering uncharted territory in the ROI of sustainability.” Moderated by Daniel Aronson, Deloitte’s Sustainability Transformation & Strategy Leader, the panelists analyzed their various methods for presenting a business case for sustainability. They answered questions such as, how do we quantify the impact of sustainability work? How do we prove the business case for projects?

Erol Odabasi, Director of Sustainability, Medical Device & Diagnostics for Johnson & Johnson, said, “The scope of sustainability can be quite overwhelming. It also differs by which stakeholder that you talk to.” He then presented J&J’s sustainability valuation model, which examined the intersection of the company’s medical device business and its sustainability challenges. J&J partnered with Deloitte to develop a model that estimates the financial value of market leadership. One of the results of their study is J&J’s Earthwards program — a design and evaluation process that supports product innovation within the J&J family product line.

For the latter half of the panel, Gwen Migita, VP of Sustainability & Community Affairs for Caesars Entertainment, and Bea Boccalandro, president of VeraWorks, focused on how to monetize the impact of social contributions. The panelists agreed that quantifying the impact of social contributions would provide only an estimate, but the key is to be upfront about limitations. Boccalandro offered tips such as only include the societal benefits that are already being measured, can be monetized with a reasonable level of validity, and for which there was benchmark data. In addition, she suggested to identify external benchmark data for each type of benefit. Overall, the key takeaway was to determine a valuation model relevant to your company’s stakeholders and business.

Could your company form an alliance with your biggest competitor? Two of the largest parcel logistics companies in the world found out when they joined forces late last year to form the “Blue and Brown Make Green” cooperative. Tom Day, Chief Sustainability Officer for USPS, and Steve Leffin, Director of Sustainability for UPS, started their collaboration based on a chance discussion. The forward-thinking team later formed approaches to lower direct and indirect carbon emissions by delivering mail on UPS planes and using USPS for the last mile for most UPS packages. By using their strong networks and optimization, less energy is used because each mode of transportation reaches its full inventory capacity before it departs. These two companies did not reinvent the wheel, but together UPS and USPS developed a solution based on current customer behavior for fast and efficient shipments.

Racial, ethnic and cultural variation are topics major brands traditionally avoid, but more are learning how to properly embrace consumer differences to open up new markets and drive profits for sustainable brands. Graciela Tiscareño-Sato, author of Latinnovating: Green American Jobs and the Latinos Creating Them moderated “Green and Brown: What America’s Changing Demographics Mean for Brands of the Future,” which featured a panel of sustainability and marketing leaders hailing from the Latino community. With 50 million members, the Latino community in the U.S. is one of the fastest growing demographics — it is expected to make up one-third of the population by 2050. Saatchi & Saatchi S strategist Nayelli Gonzalez presented interesting results from a recent study that debunks many myths about Latino consumers, such as: Latinos are not environmentalists; Latinos don’t want to buy green; and Spanish language ads are the only way to market to them. Verena Sisa, Chief Strategy Officer at Conill, warned brands to be authentic about their marketing towards Latinos and involve them in the planning, otherwise there is risk of stereotyping or guessing.

In “Working with Constraints: Putting New Models to Work,” soft drink rivals Coca-Cola and Pepsi shared a panel moderated by Lewis Perkins of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute to share experiences from their current CSR initiatives. Amy Chen, Director of Sales at PepsiCo, highlighted her company’s Food for Good program, which delivers nutritious food and physical activity to children and youth in inner-city Dallas and Chicago during the summer break, a time when the school food program is put on hold. Chen describes the concept as “a healthy ice cream truck.” The Coca-Cola Company's management of water resources in India over the past decade has attracted widespread, ongoing protest and the forced closure of one of its plants in Kerala. Jeff Seabright, Vice President of Environment and Water Resources, explained how the company has since “gone to school” on the topic of water, with the realization that the resource is not only central to many dimensions of human development, but also to their ability to function as a business. They have since taken on the challenge of optimizing their use of water in each of their plants, a significant challenge considering the spread of their operation across many diverse markets. Despite the work both companies are doing in these areas, Chen acknowledged that the health problems associated with consumption of their products is the “800-pound gorilla in the room,” but both representatives emphasized the importance of consumer choice in the matter of calorie intake. When asked by an audience member, both expressed that neither company had plans to phase out high-fructose corn syrup from their products.

The session on “storytelling for organizational engagement” discussed ways to get employees on board with sustainability. Suzanne Shelton, CEO of the Shelton Group, moderated the panel and led with an overview of how to craft the right sustainability story in your organization — boiling it down to one powerful message will help employees to embrace what the organization is trying to do. Shelton also asserted that you will recruit better employees when your company has meaning and purpose. Jeff Rehm, Corporate Sustainability Manager at Grainger, said the best way to infuse sustainability into brand culture is through team member engagement. He encouraged the steps of first listening to them, then learning, interpreting, creating and finally speaking. Rob Zimmerman, Manager of Engineering, Water Conservation and Sustainability for Kohler, then said sustainability is not about trade-offs — it’s a win for consumers, the association, the environment and the company. Kohler has set a goal of net zero by 2035 and uses this mantra of sorts as a simple message that invites all associated to spread the sustainability message internally.

Tuesday — Day 2
Wednesday — Day 3
Thursday — Day 4Following the mid-afternoon break, Eliot Metzger, Senior Associate of WRI, moderated a session on Business Tools for Transformation with panelists Sally Uren from Forum for the Future and Katie Dillon from Target. Dillon offered that it’s useful to take a broader look at environmental trends and challenges. The Target group asks themselves: What challenges and trends do we know we are going to face? And what opportunities can we answer?

Uren unveiled a new Forum for the Future tool, set to launch next week, for making the business case for step-change. It asks five questions:

  1. Do you have a journey to build on?
  2. Do you have right senior executive leadership?
  3. Do you have a long-term view of how the company creates value?
  4. Do you have a specific business rationale?
  5. Have you addressed the status quo bias in financial tools?

Metzger then broke the session into groups to discuss individual issues group members may have and encouraged all to use Uren’s tool or the sSWOT method to start to solve the issue.

BSR’s Senior Vice President of Advisory Services, Eric Olson, collaborated with organizations ranging from Hilton Hotels to the Sustainable Purchasing Council to communicate their learnings on the state of sustainable procurement. A top priority barrier for each party included changing the perspective that sustainable purchasing is more expensive. The cheaper cost alterative can be proven with or without the triple-bottom-line approach. For example, Hilton Hotels buys an estimated 200,000 mattresses every year, all of which eventually end up in a landfill. By having a 3BL approach and looking for a better option, Hilton now uses DH Hospitality to recycle used mattresses, which eliminates half the cost of shipping every mattress to landfill.

In a refreshingly different presentation, “The Innovation Quartet: Four Essential Cornerstones of Innovation and How They Play” sought to show how organizations can enable innovation through four fundamental behaviors: help seeking, help giving, reflective reframing and reinforcing. After a brief overview of how our brains are made up of neural pathways that are constantly forming and reforming, filmmaker/organization and leadership consultant Laura Schwartz showed a video to illustrate the concept. Four expert musicians were put in a room and asked to play a song using notes that had been intentionally modified to be subtly wrong. At first, everything went fine, but ultimately the musicians lost their rhythm and the song buckled. With no pressure to succeed, the musicians worked together to fill in the blanks in the notes, and while they never “fixed” the song, they actually created something new and beautiful. Moral of the story: Enough time to play and no fear of failure can lead to innovation.

The cross-sector innovation panel illustrated the power of partnerships — across industries and infrastructure — to facilitate sustainable lifestyles at home. “If you really want to drive the sustainable lifestyle into the mainstream market, we need to make it easy for our customer,” said John Viera, Global Director of Sustainability & Vehicle Environmental Matters for Ford. Viera joined forces with Ronald Voglewede, the North American Sustainability Lead for Whirlpool, to discuss the “My Energi Lifestyle” program, a cross-sector partnership among Ford, Whirlpool, Eaton, Sunpower and Georgia Tech. The purpose of this initiative is to assist customers with reducing their electricity bills and CO2 footprint “by integrating today’s home appliance and plug-in vehicle technology.”

It may seem like an unlikely partnership, but Viera and Vogelewede proved the benefits of these two companies sharing resources and optimizing data to save the customer money and improve their environmental impact. The initiative has so far resulted in 60 percent less energy costs, and a 50 percent carbon footprint reduction for customers. Voglewede said, “The collaboration is not something that we should do, but what we had to do.”

Think of formal education, your travel rewards program or the pedometer on your belt: Take a look at your life and you will see the number of systems we use that incorporate elements of gaming to influence behavior. A panel discussion on “Social Engagement, the Next Episode: An Update on Gamification and other Sticky Technologies” asked: How can the power of gaming be used to catalyse sustainability? Eric Johnson of Sony and Susan Hunt Stevens of Practically Green reported on the experience gained through an employee engagement program around sustainability at Sony, while James Windon of and Stephen Roberts of Dell shared the best practices that emerged from a set of campaigns that came from their partnership. Windon emphasised that simply sprinkling elements of gamification into your program is not a guarantee of success. Forms of recognition and great content (especially photo and video) are key.

Meanwhile, Simon Mainwaring, author of We First, moderated a session on best practices in sustainability social media communication with panelists Derek Archambault (Green Mountain Coffee Roasters) and Thatcher Young (Ignition). They began by explaining strategy and the idea that brands must work to become clearly defined before they engage in social media tactics; otherwise, they risk coming across as schizophrenic and therefore rarely shared. Attendees heard case study examples from Ignition’s Earth Day social media campaign with NBC Universal and Yerdle, and from Green Mountain’s latest campaign explaining its commitment to sourcing Fair Trade certified coffee.

Candice McLeod, Mike Hower, Courtney Pankrat, Samuel Benoit, Jessica Rush and Mara Slade contributed to this report.