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SB London Day One: Purpose, Innovation and the Ever-Confounding Consumer Behavior

Image credit: Sustainable Brands

On Monday afternoon at SB London ‘13, breakout sessions featuring a variety of brand and thought leaders explored everything from purposeful brands and European consumer research to engaging in innovation and reprogramming culture.

Christophe Fauconnier and Benoit Beaufils, respectively brand strategy consultancy Innate Motion’s CEO & founding partner, shared their vision and “Specific tools and processes for embedding purpose into brand.” The two also emphasized psychology as an instrument that should accompany any marketing strategy and “reframe” companies or brands to create shared value.

Faucionnier and Beaufils asserted that business can truly make a positive impact by offering its customers not just products or solutions, but also innovative ways of reducing problems or risks. They presented the case study of AIG, in which the company reinvented its product proposition by reducing risk and creating value for its entire ecosystem of stakeholders.Innate Motion

L-R: Innate Motion's Christophe Fauconnier and Benoit Beaufils | Image credit: Veronica Recanati

Emceed by FSC’s Etienne McManus-White, another afternoon breakout examined “The Business Opportunity — New Highlights from Global and European Market Research,” with BBMG’s Raphael Bemporad, Marks & Spencer’s Adam Elman and Custom Communication’s Matthew Yeomans.

Bemporad shared insights from the consultancy’s latest consumer research, which examines the role of “Aspirationals” and their implications on global consumption patterns. Bemporad said we’re now at a tipping point, with growing recognition of the business opportunities around sustainability and growing consumer desire for better and more culturally relevant products. The study also revealed intriguing contradictions about those who love to shop, but want to consume less. Bemporad invited us to rethink the Aspirationals beyond their material preferences and consider it more as a lifestyle.

Elman outlined the collaborative opportunities presented in a new M&S-led initiative called ‘Fortune Favours the Brave,’ which urges CEOs and CFOs to place sustainability at the heart of business strategies and operations in order to unlock the full commercial potential and sustainability benefits.

Yeomans then explained how the massive rise in Internet connectivity has produced the Power of Social — and predicted a gathering storm for the rest of business. As an example, in 2008 the number of things connected to the Internet exceeded the number people on earth, but this will be eclipsed by the 50 million devices forecast to be connected by 2020.

Through such sites as Etsy, free apps for industry and designers from providers such as Nike, and 3-D scanner devices from Makerbot, the landscape of production landscape is moving towards less mass production and more individual, bespoke production methods, and perhaps signaling the inevitable end of the supply chain.

 Missed the conference? You can view all plenary sessions through our free Livestream. And stay tuned for more reports from Sustainable Brands London 2013.

After a break, Julian Borra led a panel discussion on the importance of communication and the need to change our language to drive change. As Borra put it, the issues around sustainability can be “heavy stuff,” so he shared his Six Quiet Rules for a more relaxed, fun and engaging approach to sustainability messaging.

Dan Burgess, founding partner at Swarm Partnership, discussed Project Wild Thing, a documentary film now in theatres across the UK, about the need to market nature to children, the ingredients of which, Burgess said, were a collaborative network, a bottom-up approach and community activation.

Best Foot Forward‘s Vicky Grinnell-Wright, also the co-curator of the UK Dream, closed the session with an open challenge to the audience: How can we unlock investment and capture sustainability value in brand value by widening stakeholder engagement? 

Burgess, Grinnell-Wright, Borra

L-R: Dan Burgess, Vicky Grinnell-Wright and Julian Borra | Image credit: Veronica Recanati

In a concurrent session, Forum for the Future’s Sally Uren discussed “Three Levels of Brand Engagement in Sustainability Innovation” with Innocent DrinksLouise Stevens and Ecover’s Tom Domen. Uren introduced us to the term VUCA — Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous — and said, “The future is a VUCA world.” She pointed to a fusion of the old economy with the new economy, where traditional brands such as Avis are teaming up with young, sharing enterprises such as Zipcar, and spoke about the need to lead the consumer, not wait for them to articulate what they want.

Stevens introduced the concept of the ‘Nursing Home Test:’ Will we be happy with what our brand has done when we reach our golden years? She explained that in terms of generating more consumer engagement, "Stories come from unusual approaches," citing the story of ‘Grace,’ a 103-year-old ‘granny’ who knitted 50 hats for Innocent Drinks’ woolly hat campaign, which got 69,000 likes.

Domen then spoke about the benefits of designing a business like an ecosystem that uses only local resources and that accepts that it must be sustainable or die.

Emceed by Business in the Community’s Alan Knight, “If Products Could Talk: Innovation in the Value Chain” highlighted the changing consumer attitudes about whether companies have behaved responsibly in recent years — from the ‘Why are you being bad?’ of the 1990s, to the ‘Are you bad?’ of the 2000s, to ‘How good are you?’ in the 2010s. Validation of positive credentials through stewardship schemes and ecolabels is arguably diluted by having 60 or so councils providing these schemes, and doesn’t guarantee adherence to sustainability standards.

Products tell a story, Knight said, and good CSR means being able to demonstrate complete transparency and still sleep at night.

BlaBlaCar’s Vanina Schick outlined the story of the Europe-wide ridesharing service that connects drivers with empty seats to passengers looking for a ride. The company has just joined the transport category of the CleanTech Group's annual list of the 100 leading CleanTech companies in the world. Transporting over 600,000 passengers a month through its people-powered transport network, BlaBlaCar is making travel social, money-saving and more efficient for millions of Europeans. The business model stresses the value of the social experience involved in car-sharing, rather then a consumption experience.

Mondelez International’s Geraldine O’Grady followed up her extensive presentation in the morning plenary session by reiterating the benefits of shared values contributing together towards making an impact. She reminded the audience to always consider deviating from the norm if it produces benefits

MarshallsDavid Morrell said the company faces many challenges in successfully sourcing and operating a paving business across remote areas of India. Through some 2,500 employees, including a sourcing office in China, it aims to do a lot of small things well rather than do big things poorly. Morrell said Marshalls maintains certification-level standards throughout its supply chain through experiences with local conditions and stakeholder engagement. Early identification of potential issues, some relatively unexpected (for example, animal welfare) helps to maintain supply chain efficiency and reinforces the positive partnerships Marshalls works hard to maintain with all its suppliers.

Check out highlights from day two!


Adam Tassle Gerschel-Clarke is a freelance sustainable business writer. He explores key topics such as emerging technologies, consumer engagement and business model innovation to identify the opportunities and the risks they present for brands. Adam writes for networks including Sustainable Brands,… [Read more about Adam Gerschel-Clarke]


David is Technical Director & Head of Sustainability at 1HQ Brand Agency in Windsor. Hugely experienced Creative Services professional with a solid background in delivering brand implementation on a global scale. FIMMM, APkgPrf,

Veronica is a social entrepreneur and Founder of Bridge For Good, a social entrepreneurship project aiming to facilitate collaboration between the private sector and the third sector. She also collaborates as blogger and researcher for CSR International and…
[Read more about Veronica Recanati]


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