From empowerment, optimism and sustainability in space to a whole strategy designed to ‘Make It Better,’ SB’17 Copenhagen rounded out with a host of speakers espousing positivity as a key component of the change that purpose-driven brands are aiming to create in the world.
Compensating for your environmental impact has never been easier
In 1997, Finnish banking group Bank of Åland established the Baltic Sea Project to create awareness of the deteriorating environment of the Baltic Sea. As part of the project, the bank created a new biodegradable credit card and a fund, which is open for applications by individuals, companies and initiatives who wish to apply for funding to improve the state of the Baltic Sea. Yearly, .2 percent of the bank’s total deposits are donated to the fund, which has yielded €1.6 million since the project’s inception.
The bank also created the Aland Index, which calculates the individual carbon footprint of each transaction made by cardholders. By combining the cardholders’ credit card data with transaction categories, the cardholder receives a monthly statement detailing his or her carbon footprint. The cardholder can then choose to donate to local or global initiatives to compensate for the footprint.
How Unilever, Oxfam are using the SDGs to foster women’s empowerment in developing countries
Oxfam and Unilever have embarked on a groundbreaking partnership to challenge and change social norms in the space of unpaid care and share of domestic tasks, both of which are major barriers to women’s economic empowerment. Key players in the partnership, Katia Freidwald — Global Partnerships and Advocacy Director for Women and Livelihoods at Unilever, and Dave Hillyard — Director of Partnerships at Oxfam, shared the lessons learnt on how brands are helping reach global SDG targets on gender and inequality.
Freidwald made a clear and convincing case for aligning business strategy with the SDGs. In partnering with Oxfam to address SDG 5 in the Philippines and Zimbabwe — gender equality — the company was able to unlock new opportunities, primarily in terms of product innovation. In addition to providing water closer to home, laundry points and other labor-saving devices, as well as workshops and trainings to encourage men to share tasks at home, Unilever worked to develop or redesign products that allow women to save time and focus their efforts and energy on other activities and opportunities.
To demonstrate the wider impact of the purpose-driven model on the company as a whole, Freidwald revealed that Unilever’s Sustainable Living products deliver 60 percent of the company’s growth and brands under the Sustainable Living umbrella are growing 50 percent faster than those that are not.
To conclude, Freidwald and Hillyard emphasized the need for more businesses to use their scale and influence to drive change by impressing sustainability into purpose and products.
What does space exploration have to do with sustainability?
Space X, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic. You might have heard the names. These are private actors engaging in space exploration and fueling the “New Space” movement. Historically, only public actors had access to the vast abyss. Now we are increasingly seeing more private initiatives taking off. Sebastian Straube and his company, Interstellar Ventures, is tapping into this private movement. They want to enable entrepreneurs to follow the likes of Elon Musk (Space X), Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin), and Sir Richard Branson (Virgin) and build a profitable business in the interstellar space.
“What does this have to do with sustainability?” you might ask. Well, it turns out that space is a good innovation platform for sustainability. The objects we put into space are self-regulating habitats and very energy efficient. By applying some of the space technology, we can potentially save a lot of energy here on Earth. An example is the NASA Ames Sustainability Base in Mountain View, California. Based on space technologies, it produces almost four times as much energy as it consumes.
Another space technology with obvious application is tiny satellites called “CubeSats.” These deliver earth observation data which can be leveraged for better decision-making in agriculture, for example. Here, farmers can monitor whether they are taking full advantage of their land and maximizing their yield.
“In Europe, almost all funds available to space entrepreneurs are public. Public entities move very slowly,” Straube said. “Interstellar Ventures’ vision is to enable entrepreneurs access to private funds, customers and partners to speed things up.”
A ‘Make It Better’ mindset: Purpose as a primer for innovation
Growing out of a vision to improve the lives of consumers while making a meaningful contribution to the world, Italian apparel brand Napapijri’s ‘Make It Better’ mindset — which integrates sustainability and innovation to embody a new way of thinking, designing and creating products — provides a prime example of how purpose can shape a brand agenda, translating words into actions.
For Napapijri, animal welfare was the key driver of change. The brand began by removing fur from its children’s range, then made a move to source alternative down for the rest of its outerwear offerings. In a number of Napapijri’s markets, removing fur was a hard sell and even risky, making innovation essential in order for the company to continue delivering desirable, high-quality products. It was at this stage, in 2015, that the brand introduced its signature lightweight, high-performing, waterproof THERMOFIBRE™ material to replace down. This was followed by the launch of the super light skidoo in fall 2017, a lighterweight parka with considerable temperature range that allows the wearer to move effortlessly between varied environments. The introduction of the new material signaled the brand’s achievement of reaching its 100 percent down- and fur-free goal.
Seeing the success of Napapijri’s purpose-driven strategy, parent company VF Corporation decided to integrate the animal welfare policy into the rest of its brands. With over 30 brands across the apparel, footwear and accessories sector, the move significantly scales Napapijri’s impact to industry level, which has significant implications increasing demand for responsible products and driving sustainable change.
According to Rob Hermand, Senior Manager of Global PR & Media for Napapijri; and Anna Maria Rugarli, Senior Director of Sustainability and Responsibility at VF International, the transition wasn’t easy, but having a strong vision, philosophy and purpose allowed the companies to make the hard decisions and avoid succumbing to financial considerations.
So, what’s next for Napapijri? Hermand said that the company is exploring new ways to integrate more recycled materials into the design process and reduce material use on the whole.
“Knowing what we know now, would we design the economy differently?”
To illustrate this, his opening slide was unabashedly optimistic, illustrating a happy couple embracing and smiling with the sun on their backs, and it set the tone for the rest of the presentation, focused around a required systemic mindset shift.
The circular economy is an innovation mindset. Grantham admits it took a personal mindset shift for him to fully understand the principles of a circular economy, and that it will take a collective mindset shift for us to implement them. However, he is optimistic ...
Grantham told the story of when he was sent to the Isle of Wight by his CEO to attend the first Circular Economy workshop facilitated by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. During the day, he was struck by a comment from Ken Webster’s talk: "The economy is designed, meaning it can be redesigned.” The next day, Grantham came back and changed his job title.
Grantham explained how the linear, ‘conveyor belt’ economy is flawed, that it’s a “manmade structure and portrays a mechanistic understanding of the world.” What we didn’t know or understand when the system was first designed was that the resources being used up are finite. It’s a system that is wasteful by design, and ultimately creates a loss of value.
However, in stark contrast, a circular economy has a more dynamic purpose that integrates people, planet and profit in a closed-loop or natural cycle. It’s a system that can adapt and evolve, “a more organic system” that will create a new value for business — because without that, it won't work.
To facilitate this, IDEO and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation have developed a Circular Design Guide to help businesses think about new mindsets in innovation and develop a more open-source mindset. IDEO is helping businesses to innovate in this space, curate new consumer narratives and decide where to invest.
Next year, they will be launching a circular design lab for designing new systems of change, using cities as prototyping units to hopefully start to roll out and implement circular design innovations across all sectors.
Grantham’s truly uplifting presentation offered hope and almost laid down a challenge to the audience to innovate and shift their mindset. As he summed it up: “Mindset matters.”
The new brand power: Empowerment
“It’s not about people in power, it’s about power in people.”
Mr. Goodvertising himself, Thomas Kolster, kicked off the Wednesday morning plenaries by introducing himself, a self-described ex-advertising guy turned sensible. He announced his next new project that is still underway — and rather than presenting a finished book, he was putting it to the audience to get their input.
His latest book, provisionally titled, The new power is empowerment, unravels how and why brands need to redefine the good life and give individuals the power to get involved in this process.
The Good Life WBCSD 2017 report showed people are taking more control: They are their own taxi drivers (Uber), opening their own hostels (Airbnb) and are even starting their own coffee businesses with a purpose (Wheelys). This is all challenging the very essence of what makes a good product or service.
Kolster cited the 2017 Cone Communications CSR study: “43% of people believe they are the change makers. People are the ones solving the world’s problems.” People believe they have the power to make change through mass power-sharing. The role of brands is no longer to say “we care.” Kolster used Avis’ tagline, “We try harder,” as an example. Brands must now be the enablers that ask ‘what can we do for you’ and find ways to empower people on their journey to redefining the good life. How can they help people move from having the intention to make better choices, to actually taking action?
Kolster gave the great example of wanting to eat more veg but not being very good at making food. His veg box arrives with recipes to help him get creative with the food he receives and become a better cook. Also, the Movember movement — a men’s health campaign that inspired and empowered people to participate and take ownership, which in turn led to it developing into an internationally recognised campaign.
It takes a new type of leadership to make this happen. As Kolster pointed out: It is not about the privileged few, but the talented many.