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Walking the Talk
SB'17 Copenhagen, Day 1:
Redefining the Good Life Through Brands, B Corps, Burgers and … Poetry?

As we continue to explore our global theme of "Redefining the Good Life," we kicked off our second annual Copenhagen conference with fresh perspectives from a host of Scandinavian and European innovators leading the charge — and the change — in this part of the world.

Max Burger: Redefining the Cheese Burger

by Melanie Vella

The first round of food was served to us in true fast food style – fries, large sodas and Oumph! BBQ Burgers. Being the only vegetarian at our table, in fact all around me, all eyes were on me to capture my initial reaction. The soy protein burger is made from 100% soy, but it looked and smelled, rather uncannily, like meat. I took a pinch of the pulled-pork-esque burger, and before I could get myself to taste it, I had to double check, ‘Guys, are you sure this isn’t meat?’ Assured and very curious, I can happily report that it satisfied my BBQ cravings for a non-meat version of a juicy, tasty and somewhat spicy burger. The vegan mayonnaise was an added dollop of deliciousness.

The meat eaters at the table – still Sustainable Brands attendees, after all – were heartened by the idea that the carbon footprint of their veggie burgers was ¼ that of a regular burger.

But let’s face it, even though meat eaters are interested in the sustainability side of things, it still and always will come down to the taste. And by the looks of how many rounds of burgers were ordered and the happy exchange of taste evaluations, they definitely scored high on the taste scale.

The other options included the Green Burger, which was a standard veggie patty in a toasted bun. The Halloumi and Avocado Burger, the latest edition to the Max burger family, is apparently Torok’s current favourite. As a vegetarian, avocado is on my top 5 favourite foods to eat so mix that up with slabs of halloumi, crispy lettuce, spicy jalapenos and some secret sauce and you’ve got a pretty tasty treat of the finest ingredients. 10 points from this vegetarian.

At the next table, one meat eater was still wrapping his head around the pronunciation of halloumi and what it’s made of. Cheese. It’s all cheese. As he looked at his stacked burger before taking a bite, he proclaimed, “Well, that’s one way of redefining the cheese burger!”

Chief Poetic Officer Challenges Business to Put a Little Soul Into Their Operations

by Libby MacCarthy

“What’s the value of a brand if there’s no virtue in your hands?”

This is the question poet Vincent Avanzi put to the room at the end of day one of SB’17 Copenhagen. Through verse, the self-described Chief Poetic Officer challenged attendees to redefine The Good Life and success by creating innovative solutions that put people and planet first — or, as he so eloquently put it: « To turn all the BS into SB. »

Avanzi took the room on a lyrical journey into the future, describing a new world order in which humanity and business operate in harmony with one another — where businesses recognize and realize their potential as "weapons of mass construction to build a sustainable society."

In particular, the wordplay pointed to a key issue within the sustainability space: the need for more brands to walk their talk. Brand value has no value if businesses don’t activate their purpose. Avanzi brought a few suggestions to the table on how brands can achieve this vision, a mixed recipe of gender equality, empathy, balanced simplicity, a circular economy, purpose beyond products and services, and a move towards net positive — and a definitive step away from "greed net worth it."

Perception of what constitutes The Good Life is undergoing a paradigm shift, with a growing focus on happiness as opposed to wealth and personal achievement. If Avanzi’s pseudo-slam is any indication, the only way to bring these newfound ends to fruition, businesses will need to turn their reflection inward and inject a little soul into their operations.

As Avanzi summed up: “Business + awareness of our souls = success and happiness for us all.”

A Lesson in Remaining Relevant

by Libby MacCarthy

How a company defines The Good Life ultimately shapes its perception of the world and defines its perception of success. This perception then manifests itself in key areas of the business, including decision making. Why do some companies extract more value from the world than they give? According to Izzo, it’s all about framing. Quite simply, the leaders of these companies have defined The Good Life in a very specific way. But this traditional way of thinking is the root cause of critical divides on social, ecological and spiritual lines that threaten to render businesses irrelevant.

These three divides have further given rise to what Izzo refers to as the three guilts: guilt related to whether the things we are purchasing are good or harmful for ourselves, others and the environment. On the flip side, there are three key desires: if buying can give us purpose, help connect us to or help others or consume in a way that is sustainable.

So how can brands bridge these ever-growing gaps? By addressing two of Izzo’s five thieves — conceit and desire for control. The definition of success must evolve beyond the needs of the ego and shift towards stewardship and creating a better world. Furthermore, brands must overcome the need to be right and endeavor to be curious, to explore various points of view.

Covering up the status quo with external initiatives is no longer acceptable in a world that is increasingly valuing social and ecological values. To remain relevant in this impending new world order, Izzo asserts, brands must undergo their own internal paradigm shifts.

If the Best Burger You’ve Ever Eaten Is Red Meat - Then Houston, We Have a Climate Problem

by Nick Gardner

Founded in 1968, behind a gas station in north Sweden – this family-owned burger chain is now present in countries across the world from Poland to Dubai. Although it regularly tops surveys for the tastiest burgers in Sweden, the business had an overwhelming feeling there was more to be done. Inspired by An Inconvenient Truth, the company dove deep and analysed the firm’s entire carbon emissions, from farmer to guest. Perhaps unsurprisingly, almost 2/3 of the carbon emissions was attributable to the beef in the burgers.

Max took early steps to improve its corporate footprint – minimising food waste, introducing energy efficiency programmes, powering itself with 100 percent wind energy. The company went even further to try and address its climate impacts, planting 1.4m trees in Malawi and Uganda, and introduced an internal carbon-pricing system. But the most unique thing Max has done is to put climate literally “on the menu,” where customers can read the carbon impact of their meal choices*. Cue a spontaneous round of applause from the entire audience.

In its most audacious recent move to consciously tackle its carbon emissions, the company introduced a brand-new range of vegan burgers in 2016. Following a philosophy of “taste first” (i.e. these burgers should target meat-lovers) it has been Max’s most profitable product launch of the last decade. Sales of non-beef burgers rose from 12 percent of total burger sales in 2015 to 33 percent in 2017, an impressive business feat in just 18 months. The target is to sell 50 percent non-red meat burgers by 2022.

It turned out that most of us in the room remember a juicy beef burger as our favourite ever. Perhaps there will be a different answer if we ask the same question in five years’ time.

*If you’re interested, some examples are: 1.8kg CO2e/meal for a Frisco (beef) meal; 0.3kg CO2e/meal for vegan meal.

Footnote: From a personal choice point of view, the firm has calculated that we need to reduce our daily ration of food-related carbon to 1.8KG CO2e if we want to hit Paris climate targets, so we all need to take bold dietary choices if we are to play our part: “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” Torok went further, still; from a personal note he firmly believes that to reach the Paris target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, we need to start focusing on negative emissions. He wants to start a discussion on what “climate-positive products” could be, and what the system could look like. (Join the conversation on Twitter: @kaj_torok)

Northern European innovators redefining travel, feminine care, employee engagement

By James Dowdell

L-R: Mariah Mansvelt Beck, Christian Honoré and Anna Chojnacka

This session showcased the founders of three inspiring businesses from Northern Europe, who each gave rousing accounts of how they are breaking through and challenging their respective sectors.

Goodwings (Denmark)

First up was Christian Honoré, who, after spending 20 years advising companies around CSR, in 2015 changed course and decided it was time to build a purpose-driven company around the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Goodwings’ purpose is to change the travel industry into a force for good — no mean feat when you consider its ever-increasing scale and impacts.

Honoré explained Goodwings’ simple yet daring concept: Customers book a hotel and Goodwings donates 50 percent of profits to charity. It’s able to offer customers the same hotels at the same prices, while also being part of something bigger: “We wanted to combine our love for travel with our passion for creating change,” he said.

How is this possible? Goodwings doesn’t advertise; it tells stories. Instead of spending money on traditional marketing, the company gives it to one of its 12 NGO partners, which are all running projects tackling the SDGs. Stories include tangible impact reports for corporate partners and social stories for customers to share.

Long story short, Goodwings is poised to succeed in its mission to challenge the traditional business model of the travel industry: “We deeply believe it’s possible to make a profit and a difference at the same time.”

Yoni (Netherlands)

Next up, Mariah Mansvelt Beck told her personal story of how she came to create Yoni, whose organic products is aiming to revolutionize the entire feminine care industry. One theme kept recurring in her tales of her earlier life trials and tribulations — that she was determined to make a positive impact on the world.

After being diagnosed with cervical cancer at age 30, Mansvelt Beck was advised by a specialist that she should try using organic cotton tampons and pads. This news caused her to dig deeper into the current makeup, design and labelling of the intimate products in the feminine hygiene market. Mansvelt Beck discovered that not only are many tampons and pads made from synthetic materials, containing plastics and perfume, but that there are also no specific rules or legal requirements when it comes to listing ingredients on feminine care packaging.

To challenge this, she launched Yoni who sell 100 percent certified organic tampons, pads and panty liners. No plastic. No perfumes. No secrets.

Mansvelt Beck closed by emphasizing the need for us to integrate our social and spiritual lives into our business world, ultimately allowing us to use business as a force for good.

Goodup (Netherlands)

Finally, Anna Chojnacka told of her reasoning for setting up Goodup: We live in times when every action we take and everything we buy has ongoing impacts in the world.

Goodup helps organisations to match thinkers and doers via smart, customised platforms that help clients increase engagement, monitor progress and measure the impact. At Goodup, they believe, with the help of technology, we have the ability to redefine our lives, our cities and our whole world.

Chojnacka reminded the audience that companies acting on purpose outperform other brands. Purpose-driven companies are also more successful at attracting, retaining and engaging new talent and customers.

One key slide detailed the evolution of CSR towards ‘CSR 3.0’ - where unique skills, knowledge and potential employees are fully utilised to work on solutions for small and large societal issues that link to the core values of the business.

Employees, she said, “are a huge reservoir of do-good potential waiting to be tapped.”


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