Tuesday’s morning plenary started with Raphael Bemporad, co-founder and principal of BBMG, sharing the thought, “What makes us the most human and what the world needs most is exactly the same.” That is, to build more sustainable brands, companies and people alike must set the intention to have more courage, wonder, empathy, connection, and joy.
Chris Coulter - Co-CEO of GlobeScan - and Mark Lee, Executive Director at SustainAbility, continued the thread with a talk on the science, ROI and macro consumer landscape of purpose through the lens of their latest research and data. One significant trend that was shared is people’s growing support for regulations on business to work toward a better society. Their research also shows that two-thirds of consumers and shareholders value purpose, and what drives trust among consumers is businesses that have a corporate purpose. Even so, 55 percent of consumers globally are unable to name a company with a strong purpose, all while expectations for the private sector continue to rise. Coulter and Lee emphasized that this data presents an invitation for brands to rise to consumers’ expectations around purpose.
Up next, Eric Gray from Waste Management and Jonathan Zaidman of 1 to 1 Movement announced a challenge that encourages attendees to achieve zero waste while at the conference (and beyond) by recycling, composting and not throwing away any trash, reducing water consumption, and going at least one day without eating red meat. According to their research, the average American produces 4 pounds of waste per day; Sustainable Brands attendees can do their part to change that.
Next, Meg Garlinghouse, Head of LinkedIn for Good, spoke on the intersection of purpose and meaningful, fulfilling career choices: “The difference between a job, a career or a calling is purpose,” she asserted. And according to LinkedIn’s definition, a purpose-driven professional is one who prioritizes work that matters to them, their companies, and the world over money and status. LinkedIn has seen the rise in people’s interest in purpose, and four years ago added the ability to add social impact interests on their profile; since then, more than 34 million users have made social impact part of their professional identity. Inside LinkedIn, they have launched an internal crowdfunding platform in partnership with GoFundMe to allow employees to raise funds for causes they care about, which drives purposeful activation and employee engagement.
Freya Williams, CEO of Futerra North America and author of Green Giants: How Smart Companies Turn Sustainability Into Billion-Dollar Businesses, then discussed how it is time to put the question “What’s the business case for sustainability?” to bed and instead explore what underlies the success of the world’s first billion-dollar sustainable brands. Some of those green giants, such as Chipotle, Nike, Unilever, IKEA, General Electric, Tesla, Whole Foods, Toyota and Natura, actually financially outperform non-purpose-driven companies. More importantly, those brands “make products better, not just greener.” According to Williams, some new 'Green Giants' that are doing just that are Target’s Made to Matter collection, REI, Kroger’s Simple Truth, Vestas, Organic Valley, Hain Celestial, Costco and Walmart’s Sustainability Leaders – further proof of the $1 billion+ business case for sustainability.
Geoff Kendall - co-founder and CEO of the Future-Fit Foundation - and Christopher Davis, International Director of Corporate Social Responsibility of The Body Shop, then took the stage to discuss their collaboration. Kendall work has helped The Body Shop create a set of future-fit business practices and standards, such as sourcing everything without harming society or the environment, emitting nothing that harms society, and creating a working environment where all employees flourish (much further detail on this to come later this afternoon at their breakout session).
Bemporad closed with these wise words: “In an age … where human impacts are driving fundamental change, it is clear that we are fully and deeply interconnected. The only way we are going to make this is if we flourish together.” Amen.