Jeremy Osborn and Christian Yonkers
Published 8 months ago.
About a 9 minute read.
Image: rePurpose Global
On the final morning of Brand-Led Culture Change, keynote speakers tackled topics ranging from impactful partnerships and walking your ESG talk to the role of brands in creating a new ‘American Dream.’
Image credit: Mizuno K
Renowned author, speaker and We First founder
Simon Mainwaring kicked off the
final morning plenary with an inspiring talk about the evolving state of global
ESG strategies, which he said may be turning from a carrot-based system into
something with a few more sticks involved — including new, anti-greenwashing
in Europe and the US.
Despite some backlash here in the
against the emergence of ESG strategies, Mainwaring said the ROI — in the form of
lower cost of capital, improved operational performance, better stock prices,
and more — can’t be argued.
On the topic of brand-led culture change, he highlighted a few rules of thumb:
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Image credit: P&G
Next up were Procter & Gamble’s Scott
Heid, Global VP of
Communications for Sustainability and Stewardship; and Ashley
Fill, Director of Sustainability and
Strategy for Homecare. The two shared details of P&G’s overall sustainability
strategy — which includes ambitious goals for both 2030 and 2040 on climate,
water, waste and nature — before drilling down on the water component of the
Procter & Gamble has made a commitment to restore water in 18 water-stressed
regions around the
and is the first company to make water-restoration commitments (restore water
used by the company and by consumers) in two of these areas: Mexico City and
They explained how the company is undertaking intensive product innovation to
reduce post-purchase consumer water use — noting that in the US alone, we use
150 billion gallons of water (the equivalent of 225,000 Olympic-size swimming
pools) per year, simply for pre-rinsing dishes. Fill explained that most
consumers don't understand that you only have to wash dishes for eight minutes
before it becomes more water-efficient to simply use the dishwasher, or that 20
percent of dishwasher loads fail and need to be rerun. P&G is focused on helping
to solve these water-wasting problems on the consumer end through product
innovation to reduce water usage per rinse, and to reduce the number of total
rewashes required: In a recent chapter of P&G’s #ItsOurHome
"Made Better, Made to Save" — P&G brands including Cascade, Tide, Gillette,
Pantene, Dawn, Swiffer and Oral B partnered with digital creators to show
consumers how easy it can be to save water, waste and energy with products that
are made with water savings in mind.
Image credit: Wikimedia
Next was Alain Sylvain, artist,
investor and CEO of Sylvain.co — a NYC-based brand
strategy, innovation and design firm. A child of Haitian-American immigrants, he
looked at the idea of the “American Dream” — including what it used to represent
and what it has become today — arguing passionately that for younger
generations, the American Dream has become a "chapter in a history book" rather
than a modern, accessible framework for living. With home ownership out of
reach, high healthcare costs, skyrocketing education costs and rising inflation,
many young people struggle to make ends meet; 71 percent of people under 30 say
the “dream” no longer
Sylvain described three major shifts happening that reflect how young people are
thinking about the American Dream, or lack thereof, in 2023, and:
From individual to collective gains: Young people want to see an economy
that works for everyone, where work is tied to collective wellbeing and not
just individual gain.
From blind materialism to critical consumption: Gen Z want to shop their
values and have choices that are friendly to workers and communities, and to
From reactive living to proactive choices: For young people, a new
American Dream is a world where they feel in control of their destiny and
feel like they are choosing their destiny and a life that aligns with their
Sylvain stressed the critical importance for brands to recognize these changing
values, and adapt their offerings to help young people thrive and lead
meaningful and satisfying lives in these uncertain times.
Image credit: The Home Depot
Next, The Clorox Company’s Chris
Nielsen took the stage and
shared examples of reducing plastic waste through innovation and partnership at
Clorox’s Glad brand — whose mission, he said, is to
"outsmart waste and keep the planet happy."
Nielsen shared that Glad now powers its operations with 100 percent renewable
energy and has achieved zero waste to landfill from internal operations; but he
acknowledged that the brand is associated with plastic products and thus is
subject to some consumer skepticism. He highlighted several partnerships and
initiatives through which Glad is reducing waste and engaging consumers —
including a partnership with The Home
Depot to reduce plastic
waste in their stores: Home Depot sends its plastic shipping waste to Glad;
which Glad then turns into 10 percent recycled, co-branded plastic garbage
that help expand consumer awareness.
Image credit: rePurpose Global
During BLCC’s packed final plenary, attendees first heard from Aditya
Siroya, co-founder and Chief Impact
Officer at rePurpose
who opened with a sobering statistic: By the time he left the stage after his
15-min talk, over 80 billion pounds of plastic waste would be generated — the
equivalent weight of 200 blue whales. Only 9 percent of this waste will be
recycled, with the rest landing in landfills and the environment.
The absence of comprehensive waste infrastructure globally or even nationally
has created an imperfect, informal waste-collection
involving millions of marginalized and at-risk
In places such as Mumbai, trash flows seamlessly into the cityscape. The
solution to the dual environmental and social crises brought on by plastic waste
lies within the same communities who have already created innovative systems for
ethically and effectively managing plastic waste; but these solutions haven’t
been scaled effectively.
Why? Because they lack capital.
rePurpose invests in an intersectional process that emphasizes ending plastic
pollution while empowering local
rePurpose has kept 33 million pounds of plastic from entering the ocean while
simultaneously creating incomes for over a million citizens across the global
The problem is deeply complex; so, the solutions must be equally complex,
layered and collaborative. The good news is that consumers are actively
rewarding brands that are walking their talk on holistic sustainability
solutions. Plastic-waste mitigation catalyzes additional action into other
sustainability initiatives that help draw in conscientious consumers.
“When designing ESG strategies, it's completely normal to freak out about just
how complex all of these issues are,” Siroya said. “But no matter how
intractable some of these problems may seem, we invite you to sit with the
complexity — not to drive inaction; but rather, channeling it to design
deliberate, holistic solutions that make steady progress over time.”
rePurpose’s Plastic Reality
Project (PRP) was designed
for just this purpose. Launched last year, PRP arms “corporate leaders and
environmental practitioners with knowledge and experiences to help shape plastic
reduction efforts,” close the ambition-action gap, and fulfill consumer demands
to end the plastic waste crisis.
Image credit: Clif Bar
Closing out the event, alpinist and activist Caroline
Gleich described how she has
partnered with Clif Bar & Company to influence and
scale environmental and social advocacy.
“Powerful change can happen when businesses can engage in public-private
partnership,” Gleich said.
Purpose-led brands have a unique opportunity to partner with aligned individuals
to champion change and build brand affinity. And these partnerships form the
ripples that eventually become a wave.
Clif’s athlete partnership program “allows
athletes to place their trust in the idea that their voices will be heard,” said
Sarah Beaubien Clif’s Senior
Director of Impact & Sustainability.
As in skiing, if business focuses on everything that could go wrong, that will
likely become its path. Avoid the “don’t,” because you will gravitate toward it.
Gleich and Beaubien acknowledged that advocacy is hard work for brands — and,
for too many, risky. Don’t internalize shame and guilt, Gleich said — the shame
that industries and lobbyists use to deflect guilt away from themselves and onto
consumers: “Find the joy and keep speaking and showing up.”
Partnerships between athletes and Clif are more than branding, but proof that
joining forces in advocacy is a way to keep a movement alive in a very lonely
landscape. For Gleich, that means her mission has the backing and voice of a
world-known brand. And for Clif, it means building similar partnerships between
The moral of the stories from today and all of this week? Show up. Speak up. And
keep talking and walking and doing until change is made.
Published May 31, 2023 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
Jeremy Osborn is a NYC-based entrepreneur and and senior consultant with a background in marketing and communications, tech, strategy, governance, and sustainability. He holds an MA in Resources, Environment, and Sustainability from the University of British Columbia and has worked for leading brands in a wide range of industries and sectors — including food and ag, consumer goods, built environment, industrial manufacturing, energy, finance, transportation, and more.
Christian is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, and outdoor junkie obsessed with the intersectionality between people and planet. He partners with brands and organizations with social and environmental impact at their core, assisting them in telling stories that change the world.