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Trends & Drivers: SB'12 Tuesday Morning Recap

Awaking fresh after an inspirational Opening Night, this morning SB’12 attendees flocked to the Paradise Ball Room to soak up the sustainability insights of several visionary sustainable business leaders. 

Charting a Path to Our Sustainable Future – Hunter Lovins

Sustainable business diva, Hunter Lovins, President & Founder, Natural Capitalism Solutions, set the stage for the morning plenaries by diving headfirst into why sustainability is not only necessary for future business success—it is logical. Discussing themes from her recently re-named book, The Way Out: Kickstarting Capitalism to Save Our Economic Ass, Lovins called for innovation and entrepreneurship to help dig ourselves out of the ongoing economic crisis.

“We need to entrepreneur our way out of the economic crisis by growing green jobs,” said Lovins, noting that in recent years, California’s green economy grew three times as fast as the rest of the economy.

Our Shifting Culture – Kevin Williams

Following Hunter Lovins, Kevin Williams, Principal Brand Strategist at Pure Branding took the stage, discussing the rise of sustainable farming. Attendees learned that a new generation of sustainability-minded farmers, colloquially called ‘Greenhorns’, is emerging that is more interested in revitalizing the human connection to the Earth. He noted that the number of Farmer’s Markets have quadrupled in the past 15 years, reflecting consumers’ mounting interest in local, more intimate produce. Although this is an encouraging trend, Williams said that Farmers Markets still reside on the periphery of mass produce – we need to find a way to remake the entire food production industry to be more sustainable and meaningful. 

“We have to bring meaning back to the market,” said Williams, “Back to the people.”

The Critical Role for Meaningful Brands – Umair Haque

Presenting remotely from the United Kingdom, Umair Haque, Director at Havas Media Labs told the SB’12 audience about the importance of shifting from a functional economy to an ‘aspirational’, meaningful one.

“In a meaningful economy, our role is to help people in their quest for significance,” said Haque, “To live lives that matter.”

The New Shape of Leadership – Andrew Winston

After taking the stage, best-selling author of Green to Gold, Andrew Winston, discussed the deep changes that need to be made to avoid catastrophic environmental consequences in the not-so-distant future. He noted that although it might seem intuitive for business leaders to focus on the quantitative aspects of their business – such as quarterly profits – true long-term success is determined by a business’s willingness to strive for greatness. He shared several critical elements of near-future success, including setting reality-based goals, focusing on heretical chain innovation, developing a smarter valuation and investment model and many more.

“We need to be pursuing greatness,” said Winston, “Not just profits.”

Incentivizing Shift – Jeff Rice, Director of Sustainability, Walmart

Walmart’s Director of Sustainability, Jeff Rice, began his presentation by sharing the retail giant’s vision, “Give the world an opportunity to see what it’s like to save and have a better life.” Rice said that big brands have a wonderful opportunity to incite widespread sustainability change, citing Walmart as an example, which has stores in 27 countries, 200 million customers worldwide and 100,000 direct suppliers. Walmart’s decision to head in the direction of sustainability, all of these parties have no choice but to follow. Rice said that in 2009, Walmart committed to the sustainability index to improve the sustainability of their products to customers, to integrate sustainability into its core business, drive its productivity loop by reducing costs and increasing product quality.

Susan Shelton,  Shelton Group

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