Top brands share a mix of positive stories and caveats at SB’21 Madrid

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While showcasing brands leading the charge towards sustainability – including Interface and Tony’s Chocolonely – SB’21 Madrid has given equal weight to all the work we have yet to do: only 13% of companies can accurately consider themselves as “sustainable”.

Sustainable brands Madrid, which took place on June 17, was truly a two-half game. The first half of the three-hour online event presented attendees with a selection of positive stories – from companies that are progressing well on their journey to net zero and beyond, using the power of branding to engage customers. to travel.

The second half offered a more uplifting narrative, highlighting how few companies can rightly claim to be “sustainable”. It turns out that there is still a lot of work to be done; and like Marta Blanco Quesada, President of CEOE International, reinforced in his opening remarks, “The greatest risk to the world is that brands fail to positively address the environmental and social challenges presented by the pandemic – and that they fail to rebuild better.”

A company determined not to make this mistake is
Interface – the wecarpet and flooring manufacturer who first recognized the need to make a positive contribution to the planet in the early 1990s. Company veteran for 27 years, Nigel stansfield is the company’s president for all regions outside of the United States. He is not only responsible for the company’s strategy, but also for its so-called climate recovery pledge – a pledge to help restore the planet. If the company ‘s previous sustainability strategy was to do less harm, this is the next step: doing more regenerative wellness and repairing the damage caused by climate change.

By 2040, Interface will be a carbon negative company, said Stansfield. “It’s about not seeing carbon as the enemy, but rather as a fundamental part of our products. His Beauty embodied
collection

Carpet tiles were a world first for carbon-negative, cradle-to-door products – and these are expected to become the standard in the years to come. That’s because customers demand low-carbon products, according to Stansfield. Interface uses “ecometrics” to help customers on their journey to sustainability, helping to quantify the waste, emissions and carbon impact of purchasing its carpet products. Renovating a 25,000 square meter office space using carbon-negative Interface carpet tiles prevents 7.5 metric tons of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere, the same as the carbon sequestered by 10 acres of forest per year.

Stansfield concluded by saying how proud he is of what his company has accomplished. “Not many people leave college and want to work for a carpet company. But they want to work for a company with a vocation like Interface, ”he said, adding that he felt saddened“ that there aren’t more organizations like us in a leadership position ”.

It will have been worn by the next company invited to share its story. the
Dutch chocolate business Tony’s Chocolonely was established in 2005. It has since grown rapidly, building an ethical sourcing base, which its customers have truly embraced, according to the company’s chief evangelist, Ynzo van Zanten. “It’s about having radical transparency. We have direct relations with seven cooperatives in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, and we are building long-term relationships with farmers, which hardly any chocolate company does, ”he said.

Moderation of the session, Quiero‘s Sandra pina asked the question: Could Tony’s single-handedly lead a global movement that changes the entire cocoa supply system? Van Zanten’s simple answer: “Yes”, highlighting the enormous traction the company has had in a relatively short period of time. “The impact we have is far greater than the amount of grain we buy. We aim to change the market – with others taking full responsibility for helping farmers stay strong in the value chain. “

Forum for the future CEO Sally uren was also on hand to passionately explain the value of developing sustainable supply chains that focus not only on protecting the environment, but also improving the standard of living of farming communities. She highlighted the conclusions of the Forum Cotton 2040
project – a multi-stakeholder initiative bringing together brands, processors, farmers and standards bodies. He explored new business models that could be exploited by the cotton sector, including developing direct trade models, predicting financial flows based on maintaining biodiversity on farms, and helping farmers finance a transition to organic farming practices. “There are many different models that could be part of a regenerative supply chain,” Uren said. “We need to validate them and scale them. “

Companies like Tony’s need to show that it is commercially viable to develop and support an ethical supply chain. But it also requires a change of mindset, added van Zanten. “Business success shouldn’t be the end goal, but rather a means to a goal and a goal. Brands need to realize that it’s not about them. These are their consumers; make them your movement makers, rather than pointing fingers at you.

To close the event, he came across Dimitar Vlahov, Director of Knowledge and Ideas at Sustainable Brands, to give the public a glimpse of reality. He shared the latest SB research from 100 companies. He asked everyone to self-assess their progress towards becoming a “sustainable brand” against five critical dimensions: Goal; brand influence; regenerative operations; net positive products and services; and transparency and proactive governance. It is a guidance tool known as the Roadmap for the transformation of the SB brand, created by the SB Global Advisory Board. Each dimension has five levels – Level 1 for those starting their journey; Level 5 for those leading the way, like Interface or Patagonia.

The results show that, across all dimensions, very few companies are at level 5. In fact, the vast majority claim to be at level 1 or 2. For example, when it comes to harnessing the power of business. Brand influence for sustainability, 74% of companies are at level 1 or 2, and only 13% believe they have reached level 5.

“Often a company’s goal is not specific or inspiring enough,” said Vlahov. “Second, it is not sufficiently well integrated into the company or activated externally with external stakeholders.

The last word was reserved for the brand strategist and the author Andrew Winston – who is about to publish a
new book
co-written with ex-Unilever CEO Paul polman. He described SB level 5 as a “north star; no one is really at level 5 yet. That’s because we don’t have the systems in place to support it.

However, if companies want to reach for the stars, they need to ask themselves serious questions, he added.

“It means rethinking your business – stop serving shareholders and serve the world instead. It’s a question for CEOs: do you understand the problems in the world? And how much do you care about it? If you don’t care, you won’t get very far on this trip.


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