On Wednesday, day three of the SB’13 conference, the morning plenary presentations explored some of the more fascinating ways innovation is manifesting itself through entrepreneurs and large businesses alike. Moderator Annie Longsworth, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S, reminded the audience that innovation is tough — you need to be willing to fail if you want to succeed, and asserted that “We are at our greatest need, collectively. If there ever was a time for innovation, it is now.”
The morning began with a moving talk by artist Phil Hansen. After sustaining nerve damage, he found himself with a severe case of the shakes. As an artist, he had made his living with his hands but now found himself unable even to hold a paintbrush. When he sought advice, his doctor replied, “Embrace the shakes.” That suggestion spurred Hansen to begin experimenting with an incredible array of alternative media and tools for creating art which opened his eyes and his technique in ways he never would’ve achieved without the disability. He asked for 50 coffee cups at Starbucks and turned it into a striking piece of art. “We must first be limited in order to become limitless,” he said.
Terracycle CEO Tom Szaky told the SB’13 crowd that much of the consuming we do is based more on want than need, which results in five billion tons of waste each year. One way to reduce waste is to increase demand for it by finding innovative alternative uses for otherwise discarded products and materials. To this end, TerraCycle challenged itself to make its office out of 100 percent recycled materials (except for computers) and ended up creating what The New York Times called “the most interesting office space.” “It’s not that people don’t want to do something, it’s that they need the opportunity to do something,” Szaky said, and went on to say he has found recycling to be a powerful motivator towards innovation.
The Sharp Rise of Nature-Positive Pledges within Corporate Sustainability Agendas
Join us as we examine how companies are setting targets to contribute to protection, restoration and regeneration of biodiversity — as well as tips and tools businesses can use to monitor, assess and disclose their risks, dependencies, and impacts on biodiversity — at SB'23 San Diego.
Methane is the second-most common greenhouse gas emitted in the United States and is a major contributed to global warming, explained Mango Materials founder Molly Morse. She explained to the SB’13 audience how her company uses simple biological processes in which bacteria “eat” methane, which results in a type of bioplastic as a byproduct. Methane is found in landfills, wastewater treatment plants and other places all over the country, which means the bioplastics can be made in a decentralized manner. “Mango Materials have the potential to change the plastics industry and the world,” said Morse.
According to American Standard’s Jim McHale, more than 2,000 children in developing areas die every day from poor sanitation problems. Many people in poor regions use pit latrines, which enable flies to easily spread disease. American Standard examined why people were using unsealed latrines and designed a new product that worked with current user behavior while keeping the product cost to about a dollar. “Product development works when the people involved are treated and listened to as customers, not beneficiaries,” McHale said.
Solazyme’s Jonathan Wolfson began his presentation with an interesting fact: Algae is the world’s original oil producer; all plants on Earth have evolved from algae, which converts all types of biomass into renewable, healthy oils. Solazyme aspires to use one of the world’s smallest microbes to solve some of the world’s largest problems. The company has developed a process for tailoring oils for better, higher performing products, including triglyceride oils, which are the third most-used oils in the world and can replace petroleum oils. Wolfson noted that it has taken more than a decade to bring things to scale, as you cannot innovate without risking failure. “To make a difference, you need a community of innovators. The next wave of innovation is up to all of us,” he said.
Check out a wrap-up of Wednesday's afternoon breakout sessions.