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14 Hot 'Couples' in Sustainability to Watch this Year

It’s become nearly impossible to keep up with the multitude of promising partnerships being launched daily around sustainability — and that is great news, of course. This list presents an overview of 14 hot relationships that we believe represent crucial developments in this space. As we continue to watch them, along with many other movers and shakers, here is to the power of multiplying one another’s efforts in our shared pursuit of a sustainable economy.

Without further ado, here is the list, in no particular order:

    1. HP and Kiva. Just last month HP announced that thousands of entrepreneurs around the world have already received microloans from HP employees since the February launch of Matter to a Million, a partnership with Kiva whereby HP has given all of its employees worldwide a $25 credit to lend to borrowers on Kiva. With more than 86,000 employees already lending over $2.5 million, Matter to a Million has clearly struck a chord with HP employees around the world. The HP team page on Kiva has received a deluge of positive comments in the process.
    2. The Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP) and Trucost. PDP is a recently launched initiative aimed at getting companies around the world to measure, manage and reduce or eliminate plastic waste. To help with that mission and demonstrate the enormity of the problem, PDP is working with Trucost to estimate the natural capital cost of plastic used by 100 global public companies in the consumer goods industry. We can’t wait to hear the results, which will be released in early June at Sustainable Brands ’14 in San Diego.
    3. The World Economic Forum (WEF) and Effie Worldwide. As the highest echelons of business ‘wake up’ to the importance of marketers’ role in realizing the potential of corporate sustainability programs — something the Sustainable Brands community has been emphasizing for several years now — we are starting to see intriguing developments around incentivizing marketers to sing sustainability notes a little (or a lot) louder. With that idea in mind, WEF have come up with The Positive Change Effie Award, aiming to recognize and celebrate the most effective marketing programs that have measurably shifted consumer behavior toward more sustainable choices, and/or grown demand for more sustainable products and services by incorporating sustainability as a part of their marketing communications.
    4. Arizona State University (ASU) and the City of Phoenix. As part of its multi-pronged citywide strategy for turning trash into resources, earlier this spring the City of Phoenix entered into a four-year agreement with ASU, establishing a groundbreaking public-private partnership focused on converting waste and other resources into economic value. The key resulting venture is called the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network (RISN — formerly the Center for Resource Intelligence) and, in addition to serving as an R&D facility, it is looking to become a hotbed for innovation and entrepreneurship around efficient and restorative use of natural resources. RISN is being managed by Sustainability Solutions Services (S3), a program within the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. So far, so good — the project is seeing a lot of forward momentum and thriving on its communication platform, “Reimagine Phoenix.”
    5. Novozymes and Marks & Spencer (M&S). Novozymes’ Stay NewTM technology allows clothes to look new and smooth for longer than usual by adding certain enzymes in a process known as biopolishing. It turns out adding said enzymes saves significant amounts of both water and energy over the life cycle of clothes, thus becoming a logical target for M&S's ambitions to be the most sustainable retailer on the planet.

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  1. The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) and SAP. Collecting data on sustainability impacts from suppliers is critical to most industries and allows more responsible sourcing, better product design decisions, more sustainable production, transportation and logistics … all the way to point-of-sales and end-of-life scenarios. With that in mind, SAP has been hitting big milestones lately in its efforts to integrate key environmental and social impacts into mainstream supply chain management. As part of that evolution, SAP is pairing up with The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) and leveraging its data to identify hotspots and improvements opportunities across more than 100 different product categories. And this is just the beginning.
  2. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and Schneider Electric. In a similar fashion, Schneider Electric announced several months ago that it is teaming with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) to provide a digital platform for SAC’s sustainability assessment tool, the Higg Index 2.0. The intention is to increase usability and facilitate decision-making by developing a dynamic web-based solution to serve in pooling together and analyzing Higg data.
  3. The City of San Francisco and I:CO. San Francisco’s Department of the Environment and I:CO recently launched a joint initiative putting together public, private and nonprofit infrastructure to make it easier, more convenient and more rewarding for city residents and businesses to return used textiles for recycling and reuse. Having already achieved the impressive feat of an 80 percent landfill waste diversion rate, San Francisco is on course to eventually be the first city in the world to reach the Holy Grail of zero waste — especially with a collection infrastructure solution provider such as I:CO in the picture. Definitely a model that could ultimately scale to thousands of cities worldwide.
  4. New York City (NYC) and Citibank. Everyone has heard about New York City's Citi Bike Program and its influence across the country — Citi Bikes have become a model that similar initiatives in other American cities are now looking to emulate. Perhaps equally importantly, Citibank's brand positioning strategy in the context of that partnership has produced some promising results for the bank around return on consumer engagement. City-brand relationships like this carry a lot of potential and we are seeing sign after sign that many more will be popping up soon.
  5. Coca-Cola with DEKA Research. One word: EKOCENTER. That is the water center Coca-Cola is starting to build across Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia in partnership with DEKA Research and Development Corp. Each unit is designed to be an entirely off-grid little cabin the size of a small café, powered entirely by solar energy or biomass and featuring extra perks such as cell phone charging, some shade and a public flat-screen TV. DEKA's water purification technology takes 'anything that looks wet' (literally!) as an input and could produce up to 1,000 liters of fresh drinking water per water center per day. Come test it with us in San Diego next month!
  6. Starbucks and GeoCertify. Effective traceability of commodities and products throughout the supply chain is another big area of emerging innovative partnerships. Solutions such as GeoCertify — which leverages special barcodes stitched into coffee bags, as well as other techniques enabling transparency — are increasingly capturing the attention of business executives looking to strengthen the credibility of their companies’ sourcing programs.
  7. Cisco and Good World Solutions. What if workers in a global brand’s supply chain could access a free and anonymous channel to report on working conditions, and the brand in question could get real-time data to identify and address problems quickly, before they become front-page news? Well, this is now a reality for adopters of solutions like Labor Link, and clients such as Cisco are already making good use of it.
  8. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey. This power duo continues to release compelling research and quantitative modeling in favor of the huge potential benefits of a circular economy. The latest in a series of highly compelling reports was released at the most recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos a few months ago, arguing that over US$1 trillion a year could be generated for the global economy by 2025. Find the report here and be sure to follow this conversation!
  9. Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Greenpeace. Well, well, well — what have we here? An unlikely couple, you might say, until you learn that what started as confrontation seems to have turned into collaborative engagement as of late. It’s not me saying this — it’s Greenpeace. And APP appears to be hitting some big milestones with good momentum in reversing the destructive deforestation practices Greenpeace approached it about a few years ago.  

Dimitar is the Director of Content Development at Sustainable Brands. He joined the team after earning a Master’s degree in Management Science & Engineering – focused on sustainable business – from Stanford University. Before Stanford, Dimitar worked in international development… [Read more about Dimitar Vlahov]

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