Raphael Bemporad, Founding Partner and Chief Strategy Officer at BBMG, kicked off Wednesday’s SB ‘15 San Diego plenaries by anchoring the day’s conversation in the human story. As the day’s moderator, he asked attendees to wonder what it would mean to design brands for humans — not merely consumers — through a lens of “abundance without waste” and set the stage for plenary discussions focused on design, innovation and leadership.
Fittingly continuing the thread of design innovation and leadership, Marc Gunther, Editor at Large of Guardian Sustainable Business US, interviewed Chip Bergh, President and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., who stressed the value that sustainability brings to the company and his role.
“I will be bold and say that as CEO of Levi’s, I spend all my time on sustainability,” Bergh said. “We have to be concerned about the sustainability of our supply chain, the sustainability of our environment and of our water.”
In addition to speaking of his personal connection to sustainability (including becoming vegan four years ago) and his life-long commitment to working for purpose-driven organizations, Bergh delved into Levi’s work with factory owners across its supply chain to improve worker’s lives.
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“My hope is that by proving the business case [for fair labor practices] and sharing the business case with key suppliers, over time this will be the new norm inside the industry.”
Paul Dillinger, Levi’s Head of Global Product Innovation, then spoke more about the company’s sustainable mindset, stating, “To be clear, I’m a fashion designer. And in the fashion industry, we’ve been in a never-ending race to the bottom – wouldn’t it be fun to take it to a race to the top?” Dillinger led efforts to launch Dockers’ Wellthread line in 2013, designed to use less water and create less waste, and is leading the company’s current collaboration with Google to design sustainable wearable technology.
Kate Heiny, Director of Sustainability at Target, brought the conversation to the consumer, saying “Sustainability is no longer niche, it is mainstream. I represent Target and Target is talking about this.” Heiny went as far to say that 98 percent of its customers buy natural and organic products. To meet consumer needs and interests, Target has introduced a Sustainable Product Index and curated a “Made to Matter” line of handpicked products by Target.
John Bradford, Chief Innovation Officer at Interface, later shared his perspective on how failure (or “learnings,” as he preferred to call it) can help improve the ROI of business model innovation. Using Interface’s short-lived Evergreen carpet leasing program as a case study, Bradford discussed that sometimes failure can help a company accomplish its goals.
After lunch, plenaries resumed with Eduardo Da Rocha E Souza, Sustainability at GPA, who spoke about the value of recapturing packaging and value chain development through creative partnerships with retailers.
Next, David Katz, founder and president of The Plastic Bank, also spoke of how to see trash as treasure. “We think plastic is free, but when we consider the infrastructure and crude oil used to make it, it takes billions of dollars,” Katz said. Going through the life cycle of a spoon, Katz highlighted the catastrophic environmental problems associated with the use and disposal of plastic, and how he’s chosen to see this problem as an opportunity to alleviate poverty by making it social.
Finally, James MacKenzie, Global Running Marketing at New Balance, and GoodGym founder Ivo Gormley closed the day’s plenary by discussing how running can help create social connections and positive relationships. New Balance and GoodGym partnered on a campaign to encourage runners to use their run for good.
“We will run for whoever asks for our help and we will work to help improve our communities,” Gormley said of GoodGym.
As with many of the cases presented this week, this partnership has not only helped create new layers of value, it highlights what can be achieved with bravery and collaboration.