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Inspiring Consumers – and Companies – to Make Healthier Choices

P&G CMO Marc Pritchard on the main stage at SB'18 Vancouver| Image credit: Sustainable Brands

Last week, over 2,000 representatives from our global community of sustainability practitioners, brand strategists, product and service innovators, thought leaders and other change-makers converged at SB’18 Vancouver to share their latest insights on a multitude of themes pertinent to all of those committed to improving business around the world. Here, we dig into brand and organizational efforts to get consumers to deliver their part of the equation, through responsible consumption.

P&G: The road to responsible consumption

By Marissa Rosen

On Tuesday evening, Procter & Gamble CMO Marc Pritchard shared new insights into how P&G is looking to enable positive consumption in pursuit of the good life. Outdated values such as “more is always better” are gone, and P&G is actively building a roadmap for 21st-century brand leadership toward sustainable consumption norms.

Pritchard opened the plenary session with the marketing video, “WHAT IF.” This is an important question because its stretches the mind to consider possibilities, including the seemingly impossible. The bigger challenge is doing something about it. That’s what we’re here for … tangible actions that can make a meaningful difference.

P&G learned the hard way when it developed an advertising campaign for Cover Girl that was perceived as “too young, too thin, too white.” It reflected a stereotypical standard of beauty, but after receiving backlash it changed immediately and from that day forward. Now Cover Girl is partnering with diverse, powerful women including Ellen Degeneres, Janelle MonaePink and Queen Latifah … sharing sentiments of their models being powerful, fresh, feisty and strong. At the Cannes Lions film festival, the brand won the award for meaningful impact.

Pritchard challenged the norm for an Always ad campaign, addressing the fact that 50 percent of women have a drop of confidence at puberty. His marketing turned “like a girl” into a slogan that meant amazing things — #LikeAGirl was the first ever feminine product ad to air during the Super Bowl and Olympics. 76 percent of women now view “like a girl” as positive, vs. just 19 percent before.

Delving forward, P&G decided to consistently use its advertising voice as a force for good. To drive tangible action, it is appealing emotionally to viewers’ hearts and rationally to their minds. We still are not seeing true equality in our society: Women still get less healthcare, have fewer STEM jobs, and are still paid 20 percent less for performing the exact same job as men. McKinsey estimates $28 Trillion would be added to world economy if we closed the #GenderGap!

Pantene demonstrates that strong is beautiful. Dawn promotes that men can do dishes. Luvs says men can be equal partners. P&G is on the journey to promoting gender equality in all of its brands and advertising campaigns. The family of brands serves 5 billion people on the planet every day, from big cities to remote villages.

Water and energy are used when we manufacture, transport and consume consumer packaged goods. Pritchard challenged the status quo of “reduce, reuse, recycle” to bring responsibility into the consumption equation. It turns out that 80 percent of the impacts from laundry come from heating the water - so Tide asked WHAT IF and developed new branding along with the #QuickColdPledge campaign.

WHAT IF …

  • using a dishwasher could save water? A new Dawn formula can allow one to skip the pre-wash and save 15 gallons per dishwasher load, which equates to saving 150 billion gallons of water each year in the US!
  • using a shampoo brand could help stop the flow of plastics into oceans? Head & Shoulders partnered with Terracycle and Suez to turn ocean plastics into shampoo bottles.
  • landfill waste could turn a used diaper into a valuable resource?
  • superior products were based with plant-based ingredients?
  • P&G products were manufactured in a way that recycles waste, recycles water and renews energy?

P&G’s ambition is to get to 100 percent renewable energy use by 2020 in the United States, and 100 percent global renewables by 2030. But the company doesn’t do any of this alone — it works with thousands of suppliers, retailers, NGOs, governments, and communities such as Sustainable Brands.

Pritchard closed on an optimistic note: “There’s never been a better time to be in business than today.”


Success at the intersection of science, entertainment and purpose

By Jed Nugal

Jill Cress
Jill Cress | Image credit: Sustainable Brands

The next morning, Jill Cress of National Geographic Partners briefed a packed plenary crowd on how National Geographic is tackling plastic through entertainment, partnerships and informative storytelling.

Through the brand’s editorial integrity, research initiatives, and team of talented storytellers, Nat Geo has caused a shift in issues visibility about single-use plastic. Their strategy began with looking at their own company and identifying where they can reduce their own plastic use. They launched the Planet or Plastic? campaign, starting with switching to paper wraps for the iconic magazine, which saved over two-and-a-half million single-use plastic bags in just one month.

The next step was to raise awareness around the topic through informative and powerful storytelling. In addition, Nat Geo has partnered with key organizations and pop culture icons such as Zooey Deschanel to engage audiences through social media, urging people to take the plastic pledge. Whether it be bags, bottles or straws, each unused or unpurchased plastic item makes a difference.

Nat Geo’s partnerships with S’well, a major producer of reusable stainless steel water bottles; and The North Face, the big name in outdoor gear and huge supporter of natural resources conservation; result in consumer products that promote and address the plastic issue.

Cress stressed the power of brands to drive awareness and engage the global community, and left the audience with a call to action: “We are continuing to seek out and partner up with like-minded organizations and companies who care about finding real solutions. If you are out there and are in any way contributing to helping solve this issue, please work with us. We’ve got a long way to go, but the planet depends on it.”


The Game Changers: Leveraging aspirational storytelling to drive sustainable behavior change at scale

By Marissa Rosen

Martin Tull and James Wilks
Martin Tull (left) and James “Lightning” Wilks | Image credit: Sustainable Brands

Next up, Martin Tull — President of Impacts Group — spoke with James “Lightning” Wilks, former professional mixed martial artist and co-producer of the upcoming documentary, The Game Changers, about the benefits of a plant-based diet.

Wilks is the subject of the film, which was co-produced by James Cameron. The story focuses on his interviews with elite athletes, special ops soldiers, visionary scientists, cultural icons and everyday heroes. What he discovers permanently changes his relationship with food and his definition of true strength. Watch the teaser here.

Wilks spoke with Tull about the research that’s been done on plant-based diets and the connection to athletic performance. He said a common misconception is that protein originates in animals — but in fact, it originates in plants. Carbohydrates are the dietary essentials that provide athletes with sustained energy needed for optimum performance.

Tull, an Associate Producer for the film, shared how the vegan diet is connected to planetary sustainability: We all have the opportunity to make a huge impact on our environment immediately by choosing different sources of protein. Companies are starting to explore food processing and marketing as a way to also benefit our climate.

The documentary quotes Patrick Baboumian, a German strength athlete and former bodybuilder: “Someone asked me, how could you get as strong as an ox without eating meat? And my answer was, have you ever seen an ox eating meat?” Baboumian put on 50 pounds of muscle after stopping eating meat.

The documentary will be released this Fall.


Shaw examines health, transparency and inclusion

By Jed Nugal

Shaw's Shanghai Showroom
Shaw’s Shanghai Showroom earned WELL Silver certification | Image credit: International Well Building Institute

Over lunch, sustainable flooring giant Shaw Industries hosted a session to address health, transparency and inclusion featuring Troy Virgo, Director of Sustainability & Product Stewardship of Shaw; and Peter B. Smith, SVP of International Well Building Institute.

The session began with identifying the four determinants of health: diet and exercise, physical and social environment, genetics, and access to healthcare services. While all components are essential to our wellbeing, we often overlook our physical environment, especially our built environment.

As we have transitioned into an indoor lifestyle, we now spend over 90 percent of our time in buildings such as our offices and homes. One of the key themes of the session was how to determine that our physical environment has a positive impact on our health.

The WELL Building standard ensures that our physical environment positively impacts our health, as everything in a building affects our cardiovascular, immune and respiratory systems, as well as our sleeping patterns. The Institute examines the seven pillars of wellbeing: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, mind and innovation. Everything from the chemicals used in the carpeting to the way our desks are set up in relation to light and our coworkers’ desks affects our wellbeing.

Shaw is invested in ensuring that a healthy built environment is affordable and accessible to all. According to Virgo, “Access to sustainable and healthy products should not be a product of the size of your wallet or status; sustainability should not be confined to the one percent.” He stressed the importance of setting good price points regardless of who is buying, underlining Shaw’s support of social equity.

Although Shaw and the WELL Building Institute are advocates for inclusion through affordability and accessibility, they also recognize the importance of transparency in consumer products. While not everyone will have the knowledge base to help them make good purchasing decisions, Virgo and Smith agree that simple messaging and full transparency on the part of producers can help consumers make informed decisions.

Virgo ended the session by urging the audience to challenge product manufacturers to answer consumers’ questions and to demand better products. He recognizes that consumers have the power, as external forces separate from the company, to raise their voices and stay informed.


Achieving tech life balance and why brands should get on board

By Barbara Everdene

Gabe Zichermann
Gabe Zichermann | Image credit: Sustainable Brands

As someone quite concerned about how much screen time goes on in my home, I was keen to hear what Gabe Zichermann had to say about tech-life balance. He framed his plenary by asserting that “addiction is the economic currency right now, with every business trying to engage you to consume their marketing and spend more time on their platform.” Zichermann then went on to try to debunk some of the myths circulating around time online. He shared his positive view that balance is the goal, and that “the evidence that we can have a balanced relationship with technology is all around us.” As the founder of Onward, an enterprise that offers solutions to restore tech-life balance, he has a lot of insight to share on the matter, and I would have liked to hear more about what these are. Excuse me while I go check the website …


Marissa Rosen is the founder of Climate Social, LLC, a communications firm at the intersection of digital marketing and sustainability. Climate Social designs strategies to build compelling brands, promote high profile events, and engage networks from around the… [Read more about Marissa Rosen]


Jed is the Membership Experience intern at Sustainable Brands, helping ensure that our corporate members have a smooth and rewarding membership experience. Prior to Sustainable Brands, Jed studied Environmental Justice & Sustainability and Urban Development at UC Berkeley. An interdisciplinary…
[Read more about Jed Nugal]


Barbara is a community planner with a background in environmental, social and Indigenous planning and activism in Canada and internationally. She is an Associate of Reeve Consulting, where she supports clients to create, improve and share the success of their sustainable supply…
[Read more about Barbara Everdene]


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