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Highlights from Sustainable Brands 09

June 4, 2009

What a great conference, topped off by a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s new sea horse exhibit.  From the biomimocry perspective, I am sure there are some great lessons we could learn from sea horses.

But back to SB09.  A full 3-days–plenary sessions with speakers who could share real lessons from the trenches on how to implement sustainability and green branding.  Enthusiastic participants hungry for conversation, many networking opportunities and a lively Twitter conversation (see #sb09) to keep up with.

My head is still full from meeting so many new people and hearing so many speakers.

Here is my download on the highlights from the past three days:

WHY GO GREEN

  • Increase Market Share: Mainstream brands such as Clorox and PepsiCo shared that despite the recessions, their greener products were selling well.
  • Cost Savings: Investing in efficiencies and renewable energy is great for business from an operational perspective. Intercontinental Hotels spent $400,000 and saved $1.2 million over four months by changing light bulbs.
  • Customer and Stakeholder Demands: Companies are seeing an increase in customers who pay attention to green issues and holding companies accountable for their entire supply chain.  If you don’t respond to these needs, you won’t compete.
  • Race for Talent: Companies with a commitment to sustainability attract the best and brightest talent and can avoid risks to their brand value. This year some graduating Harvard MBAs signed a “MBA oath” that includes a commitment to “strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide.”
  • Regulations: They are coming, so get ahead of them for a competitive advantage.

TIPS FOR IMPLEMENTING A SUSTAINABILITY STRATEGY

Some of the ongoing themes from the tips offered for implementing a successful sustainability plan:

  • Prioritize issues
  • Use a wholistic, systems approach
  • Develop an aspirational goal to inspire and guide your work
  • Go for the “low hanging fruit”–there are quick wins that will deliver ROI and green benefits.  Key areas to focus on initially include facilities, fleets and distribution, IT, telework and waste.
  • Get smart:  gather data and understand the impacts of your full value chain.  Good enough is ok.  Full LCA is too expensive right now.
  • Get your employees engaged:  Make sure they understand key concepts, such as climate change is real and natural resources are not infinite.
  • Innovate, re-imagine, get creative–look to nature for inspiration
  • Develop internal partners to implement programs
  • Engage with stakeholders, even your critics
  • Stitch it all together into a sustainable brand
  • Be authentic and transparent: report verifiable and true data
  • Empower your customers: Help them understand the complexity of sustainability and engage them to be part of the solution
  • Attempt to clarify the confusion around labels

COOL NEW STUFF TO CHECK OUT

LifeStraw: A water purification device that purifies 99% of virus and bacteria out of water and can be used affordably in rural areas that lack clean drinking water.  Their presentation inlcudes this video clip of cow dung being added to the water before it is filtered and drank.

Earthaid: A new dashboard launced about 6 weeks ago that lets householders monitor their electric, gas and water use and earn money for creating verifiable carbon credits. Also a great way for companies to spend their carbon neutrality dollars locally.  This start-up was the winner of the SB09 New Venture Exchange  Judge’s Award. Also a great tool for schools to look into.

RecycleBank: A web-based program for rewarding households for recycling, linked to over 1,700 local and national brands.

GreenOps Ecostation: The new recycling station that will be in some Wholefoods stores was on display at the conference, along with sexy gals in short white dresses made of recycled plastic bottles.  It is part of PepsiCo’s campaign to get more people to recycle, so they can include higher recycled content in their bottles.

Intuit Green Snapshot: This was one of the coolest new tools I ran into at the conference, and while I have not seen a live demo yet, the concept sounds like what many companies need– a simple, low cost way to track their carbon footprint, find easy ways to reduce it and easily communicate results to customers.

According the their web site,  “Intuit Green Snapshot pulls expense data from QuickBooks, analyzes your business’s carbon footprint based on your business expenses, and generates actionable recommendations to help business save money and benefit the environment. The more actions you take, the more carbon (and dollars) you can save – and we track your carbon savings over time, so you can tell your customers about your green efforts!”

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