5 Things to Know This Weekend – May 26, 2017

5 Things to Know This Weekend – May 26, 2017

Callie Enlow — 5 Things to Know Today

In this special edition, we share what we learned this week during a gathering of the world’s most socially conscious brands and biggest companies. Held in Detroit this year, the Sustainable Brands conference focused on “redefining the good life” with companies from Google to Apple to Procter and Gamble describing how they are able to make the business case for decisions that are better for the environment, employees, and society in general.

1)    The Hallmark of the Good Life is “Balanced Simplicity”

According to a recently released study by Harris Poll, most consumers have a view of “the good life” that has little to do with materialistic pursuits. Respondents, whether baby boomers or millennials, democrats or republicans, prioritized “balanced simplicity” as the most important aspect of a good life. Smart companies are interpreting this as ways to help customers (and employees) slow down, disconnect from distracting devices, and bring more mindfulness into their daily lives. Other major aspects of the good life, according to Harris Poll, are the ability to create and nurture “meaningful connections” with other people, find financial independence, and pursue personal goals. Erica Parker of Harris Poll warned companies that “while money and status still factor into how to achieve the good life, right now your products are not delivering.” Sixty-five percent of respondents said companies were not actively helping them achieve this version of the good life, showing that there’s still plenty of work to do in aligning beliefs and values with useful products.

2)    The Circular Economy is Turning into Something Great

Marisa Gruber from Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute moderated a fascinating discussion about four different ways to put the tenants of circular design (eliminating all waste from production and use) into practice. Sean Ansett of Fairphone shared his company’s mission to create a sustainable smartphone powered by conflict-free minerals and designed to last at least five years. Juan Jose Freijo talked about his company, Brambles, remarkable mission to ensure their 500 million plastic pallets (like those used to deliver products to retail and grocery stores) stay in use for as long as possible. Stacy Glass, also of Cradle to Cradle, described the Institute’s new Build Positive program to urge architects and contractors to consider circular design in creating new buildings. Tom Szaky, CEO of Terracycle, talked about the company’s efforts to upcycle the 80 percent of all objects in the waste stream that are considered “non-recyclable.”

3)    Big Companies are Investing in Small Start-ups

In this panel, representatives of major corporations Levi’s, Target, and the Hershey Company, talked with Conscious Company magazine’s Meghan Dunbar French and John Moore, creative director of apparel company Outerknown (more on them in a minute) about how mentoring and partnering with small upstart businesses and entrepreneurs can enhance both parties. Paul Dillinger, head of global product innovation with Levi’s, said that far from the old “trade secrets” style of guarding processes and innovations, the jeans brand welcomes the ability to share their knowledge with entrepreneurs through their Collaboratory fellowship. Together with sustainability-minded companies like Outerknown, Levi’s embraces “looking for smaller companies that can take some of our practices and move faster,” with them. For the Hershey Company, mentoring several women entrepreneurs in Africa working in food production and distribution has inspired Hershey’s employees, and also presented opportunities to create lasting business relationships with some African manufacturers that come through the program.

4)    The Fashion Industry is Getting Its Act Together

As we’ve talked about at Make Change before, fashion has the dubious distinction of being one of the top five industrial polluters in the world, and also is still wrestling with ensuring human rights abuses aren’t rampant in its supply chain. Cara Smyth, founding director of the Fair Fashion Center at the Glasgow Caledonia University in New York, and a veteran of high fashion, believes the industry has great potential to change. That change could have a transformative effect on the world, as one in six people around the globe work in the fashion industry in some respect, and the industry is estimated to contribute 10 percent of global carbon emissions and 20 percent of industrial waste water.

5)    Companies Are Trying to Bring People Together

In an entertaining and enlightening presentation, KIND Healthy Snacks’ Drew Nannis opened by sharing his experiences working on a political campaign in rural Arkansas several years ago. “It was in Arkansas that I learned to shut up and listen” said Nannis, who at the time of the campaign had only lived in Northeastern urban areas. While at first he doubted his colleagues’ intelligence and worldliness, he soon found that they had vast knowledge in their fields—literally, since they were mostly farmers. “I didn’t know shit” Nannis admitted. The experience helped shape the rest of his life, and informed KIND’s recent “Pop Your Bubble” campaign, which tries to counteract social media’s tendency to filter feeds by similar opinions and preferences with an app that connects people with extremely different profiles and preferences.

All photos copyright Sustainable Brands.

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