Published 1 month ago.
About a 8 minute read.
Image: L-R: John Fullerton, Alfa Demmellash and KoAnn Skrzyniarz | All images credit Sustainable Brands
This week at SB’23 San Diego,
over 1K sustainability practitioners have converged to share insights, tools, inspiration and collaboration opportunities aimed at building a
regenerative future for all. Here, our opening-night keynotes highlight the first of many examples this week of businesses creating benefits on the ground.
officially kicked off Monday night with over 1K sustainability, communications
and brand practitioners convened as part of an ever-growing community to share
inspiration and opportunities for collaboration. Our global human community was
a key focal point of the opening-night plenary in the context of this year’s
Sandy Skees, Global Lead of
Purpose & Impact at Porter Novelli and Chair
of Sustainable Brands®’ (SB) Advisory Board, set the stage by
exploring the state of global sustainability. She said that ongoing, increasing
global challenges — both macro and micro — are inextricably linked, and global
systems exist at both local and human level. But she imparted optimism — and her
belief that the next phase is the awakening of our community responsibility —
and encouraged attendees to leverage our individual gifts to create the impacts we want to see.
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SB COO Mike Dupee kicked off
the main-stage program by sharing his observations on the state of our
collective pursuit of a just and regenerative
He acknowledged the reality of the difficult year and anguish we all are
experiencing in the face of a polycrisis (war, violence, human rights
violations, climate crisis, ecosystem, economic uncertainty), but encouraged
attendees to have the courage to take on these challenges head on — to overcome
world traumas and drive transformative change.
Dupree encouraged attendees to bottle up the energy and gravitation of the
inclusive Sustainable Brands community this week by being present, and carrying
the energy afterward and staying connected.
SB founder & CEO KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz
was then joined by John
economics architect & founder of the Capital
Institute; and Alfa
Demmellash, CEO & co-founder of
Rising Tide Capital, for a conversation
unpacking the importance of this year’s theme in the context of the moment as
businesses, societies and human beings. Skrzyniarz stated that one of the thorny
issues is regenerative ecosystems — particularly, the challenge to secure supply
chains in a world of increasing disruption. She posited that regenerative
ecosystems will enable us to thrive — and we need to activate locally between
neighbors, ourselves and natural world.
The discussion focused on key relationships between regeneration and positive
local impact, as well as their joint effects on the larger quest toward systemic
resilience, health and thriving. When asked “what does regeneration, especially
regenerative business, mean to you?,” Demmellash responded that regeneration
relates to the broader awareness of conditions in which businesses operate,
which the sustainability movement has understood — but that we need to extend
our circle of concern beyond “sustainability” and bridge our influence to
address the challenging situations in which we find ourselves. To Fullerton,
regeneration is “the process of how life works,” which can be studied in such
fields as physics and ecology. He asserted that we need to get serious about
understanding how life works: the first step is to get clear on non-negotiable
principles without imposing individual values. He shared that regenerative
is a living system, and that we learn how to create conditions that unlock
untapped potential for future prosperity.
As to why this is relevant for multinational companies, Demmellash said that
while brands are thought of first, a brand is more than a product or business:
It’s a core identity and can attract value even if a product shifts or evolves.
The longevity of business potential is tied to the brand, and the lifeblood of a
vision within an enterprise consists of human efforts. Demmellash concluded that
we need to tie brand-building to purpose, even on a local level.
Building on this idea, Fullerton added that local communities are the cellular
level of a healthy business. Businesses serve as an “oak tree” in a community
and rely on the ecosystems in which they live/operate. This interdependence
relies on sustainability as an outcome. He asserted that to improve
for example, businesses need to shore up their supply chains as well as
empowering local customers via feedback loop.
The conversation turned to frameworks as a practical tool. Demmellash raised
that human interdependency and resilience were laid bare during the pandemic —
especially during the early days, when so much of the economy was heavily
supported by essential
In her work, patterns of forced
— particularly due to climate-fueled
war, economic hardship, etc — led to the creation and embodiment of a framework
that aligns with existing migrations. There are positive dimensions/outcomes [to
this migration] in that there are increasing rates of startups by female and
minority entrepreneurs: “They are lighting up new lanterns of purpose in the
‘Land of Purpose,’” she exclaimed.
Others are in the “Land of Abandonment” caused by economic collapse and war,
where people are disconnected from purpose and meaningful livelihoods; she
asserted that conventional approaches to capital drive the “Land of
Disconnection.” Mapping out migration and applying new approaches to dispersing
can shift people to the “Land of Purpose.” And even better, it through
cross-sector collaboration, we all can migrate to the “Land of Flourishing.”
Next, Aisha Glover — VP of
Urban Innovation at Audible — shared how the
Amazon-owned audiobook and podcast service has helped fuel the local economy
and build a career pipeline for youth in its headquarter city of Newark, NJ,
through its Future
To help catalyze Audible’s own business growth while revitalizing the local
community, the company was determined to set a standard beyond what it does. In
service to the local economy, Audible made direct community investments — such
as incentivizing employees to move to Newark to increase the company’s economic
footprint in the city. In 2020, Audible launched Newark Working
Kitchens to help support the restaurant
in the early days of the pandemic helped sustain 40 local restaurants.
Building on that, Audible then launched Newark Artist
Collaboration. The company
identified 20 local artists to work on public art installations to illustrate
the power and amplification of voices — with a particular focus on women
founders and founders of color in the artist community.
Glover left the audience with this: “Who you are as a company is as much as what
Murat Sönmez and Pamela Gill Alabaster
As demands for corporate sustainability and ESG disclosures continue to grow,
companies may feel like they need to collect and share information about
everything, from everywhere, all at once. However, those companies most capable
of efficiently collecting detailed sustainability data unlock new opportunities,
harnessing these insights to devise actionable strategies and achieve
Head of ESG & Sustainability at Kenvue (fka Johnson
& Johnson Consumer
co-founder & CEO of Pulsora, closed out the
opening-night session by exploring how businesses can amplify their
sustainability footprint both locally and globally — going beyond mere
compliance to driving real change. With mounting regulatory pressure around the
world, impact reporting is becoming
And local regulation will have global impact — case in point: California’s new
As Gill Alabaster pointed out, it’s not just regulators asking for ESG data: ESG
rating entities such as CDP and S&P are inquiring; and more and more
corporate players are requiring suppliers to report data and
against goals/metrics. She asserted that companies need to publicly share other
“S” and “G” activities — DEI, human-capital management, brand-purpose programs —
to demonstrate broader initiatives as part of a larger ecosystem. Sönmez added
that early-career professionals want to work at companies that are leaning
Gill Alabaster talked about how mandatory reporting may make companies more
timid on disclosure. With respect to the US market, she expects companies may
report the minimum mandatories — though that level of disclosure will not “get
credit” in the realm of public opinion. To balance ESG accounting and
sustainability, more than one organizational function must now drive reporting,
she said — adding that “we need to think end to end throughout value chain.”
Published Oct 17, 2023 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST
Hope Freedman is a passionate Purpose practitioner who guides brands to discover, strengthen and activate their social missions to increase consumer loyalty, grow revenue, deepen employee engagement, and positively impact communities. She brings her extensive background in CPG marketing, advertising, and communications – on both client and agency sides – to enhance brand differentiation and consumer engagement from strategy to execution.
Her work ranges from optimization of current CSR programs, resources, and partners to thought leadership initiatives for clients. Hope focused on developing differentiated brand social initiatives through a proven, insight-driven methodology for clients including PepsiCo, Unilever, Edgewell and others as a strategist in Edelman’s global Business + Social Purpose practice (read more ...).