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Lessons Learned from Buddhism, 10 Years of Sustainable Innovation Set Tone for SB'16 San Diego

KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, founder and CEO of Sustainable Life Media and Sustainable Brands, kicked off the 10th annual Sustainable Brands conference Monday evening by going back to when she first asked the question, “Why Sustainable Brands?”

Inspired by a talk given by William McDonough on cradle to cradle design more than 10 years ago, Skrzyniarz was convinced that there were as many “good people inside businesses as there were in governments and NGOs trying to do good.” From there she undertook a journey to explore how to “make business become the hero, instead of the villain” – a journey that 10 years later has led to SB’s growth from a small website and one annual gathering, to reaching over one million people around the world across 6 continents.

To kick off the evening’s plenary, Annie Longsworth, founder of The Siren Agency and chair of the Sustainable Brands advisory board, also shared her thoughts on how much has changed in the past 10 years – a time before everyone knew who Unilever was or knew not to drink from plastic bottles. Much has changed in 10 years, but the challenge in making sustainability mainstream has not.

Lessons ranged from Phillips sharing Walmart’s journey from integrating sustainability into the products they sell, up to their current project trying to make “the most sustainable t-shirt;” to Jarrett speaking about how Kimberly-Clark has seen the B2B space pay more attention to end-of-life concerns of their product.

In addition, Butt shared that Toyota was doing sustainability before knowing what it was called, because it was about making the manufacturing process leaner and increasing profit, and the importance of sharing technology with others. “The more we share, the more feasible it becomes, and the more it benefits the economy,” he said.

Next up, Simon Mainwaring, CEO of We First, spoke about purpose as a survival strategy in a shrinking economy, and that the key to realize purpose is through employee, customer and consumer engagement, marketing and culture that builds loyalty and drives leadership.

“What’s going to change from SB 2016 and SB 2017, is that strategic purpose drives sustainable profit, and your contribution is needed now more than ever.”

The Venerable Phra Anil Sakya, of Mahamakut Buddhist University, closed the night’s plenary focusing on this year’s “Activating Purpose” theme and elaborating on the meaning of purpose – how to identify and activate our purpose while cultivating a sense of moderation and how to know when we have “enough.” He referenced a Buddhist saying: “Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it” – relaying that every human being has a purpose, and everyone needs to activate their purpose.

In a world where most people live connected to electronic devices, though, moderation is key. He concluded by sharing that while people must have purpose, we must also have perseverance, pay attention and have perspective to activate purpose.


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