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Breakouts Echo Key Themes of Engagement, Shared Value, Net Positivity on SB London Day Two

L-R: SalterBaxter's Gemma Dodd, Purpose's Justin Stokes, Oxfam's Erinch Sahan and BSkyB's Rachel Depree discuss critical tools for engagement on day two of SB London | Image credit: Sustainable Brands

After another morning of inspiring plenary sessions, the afternoon breakout sessions on SB London day two began with BBMG’s Raphael Bemporad, Lonesome George‘s Eduardo Balarezo, and Telefonica‘s Mark McGinn continued the thread by discussing corporate initiatives aimed at “Delivering Trust Through Shared Value.”

Companies needs to deliver trust in order to close the gap between business and consumers’ expectations, according to the panel. 74 percent of people polled believe business should be responsible for improving society, but only 13 percent really trust companies. 65 percent of consumers believes in shopping responsibly, but only a small percentage believes these initiatives can really make the difference.

As economists Porter and Kramer explain in their Shared Value Initiative, shared value is about investing in long-term competitiveness that simultaneously addresses social and environmental objectives. Brands play an important role and should be able to activate participation, make an impact, and generate growth in order to create a real, common value. Many corporations have started down the path toward a common meaningful goal: improving people lives.

Telefonica’s Think Big initiative is an example of how a company can deliver shared value through specific programs — in this case, creating more business opportunities and innovation, fighting unemployment and serving society, McGinn said. Think Big wants to respond to three social challenges: youth unemployment, competitiveness in the digital technology space and lack of entrepreneurial culture — the initiative combines young people, new ideas and digital technology as a force for progress.

Mark McGinn

Telefonica's Mark McGinn explains how the company is "Delivering Trust Through Shared Value."

Balarezo closed the session with a discussion about social entrepreneurship. Lonesome George is a mission-driven brand and a social company that invests 100% of its revenue in education programs, such as its Academy of Agents of Change program.

Lonesome George's approach is based on mind, shift and impact to create social change and Balarezo says courage, compassion and action are the necessary ingredients to creating systemic sustainable social impact. Balarezo challenged the audience to become agents of change and reminded people to find their own inspirations: “Mind your choice, shift your thinking and impact your world!”

Meanwhile, Futerra’s Lucy Shea kicked off a session on “The ‘Greenhush’ Problem” with a rundown of the consultancy’s Business Case Builder, a new online tool for brands that want to grow by helping customers live healthier, more sustainable lives. The critical question it poses is, ’What value do you want to create for your business?’

Sara Greenaway from B&Q then outlined some of her thoughts around ‘greenhush’ and reasons marketers may be reluctant to embrace the sustainability agenda: It can be intimidating and complex; and some have trouble gauging relevance to their brand, ROI and/or how to integrate it into their Business. In the drive towards becoming net positive (a topic explored in a subsequent session), marketers and brand owners have to accept that many consumers just don’t get the sustainability agenda, and this will only change through learning.

Thomas Kolster, founder of Copenhagen agency Goodvertising, brought the session to life by using five principles of couples therapy as a strategy for tackling greenhush:

  • Change the views of the relationship
  • Modify dysfunctional behavior
  • Decrease emotional avoidance
  • Improve communication
  • Promote strengths

Greenhush panel

L-R: Thomas Kolster, Sarah Greenaway, Lucy Shea and Bob Gordon discuss the 'Greenhush' problem

Although Kolster’s tongue was more than slightly in his cheek, these action points resonated with the audience. He also suggested that a more apt session title was ‘The Green Solution — Why we should value each other more to create powerful, sustainable communications.’

Bob Gordon of Nando’s concluded the session with a somewhat unexpected admission for a company represented at a Sustainable Brands conference: It is not a ‘green’ brand. In a pragmatic approach, Gordon explained that integrating sustainability may be more suitable for the big players, rather than smaller companies, and that Nando’s customers don’t want to review sustainability credentials when they visit — they just want to eat chicken. Nevertheless, this hasn’t been a barrier to Nando’s trying to positively improve its sustainability credentials through schemes such as ‘No chucking out chicken’, using different storage techniques to extend in-store use, in a plan to reduce food waste from the current levels of 22 percent.

He concluded by saying there are significant differences between being more sustainable in the way you do business and bringing sustainability into your brand.

Although much of this session seemed to skirt the Greenhush issue, a question from the floor summed it up nicely with the observation that sustainability issues for many companies are ‘chronic’ rather than ‘urgent,’ which may explain the lack of immediacy in addressing the Greenhush problem.

 Missed the conference? You can view all plenary sessions through our free Livestream. And catch up on what you missed on day one of Sustainable Brands London 2013.

After the coffee break, a lively session explored the new school of thought around ‘net positive’ business, and how “Enabling Business & Culture Shift” might be the way to achieve it.

‘Net positive’ is about putting more back into the world than you take out. Using the more approachable language of traditional business, (an important takeaway from this year’s plenary sessions) Sally Uren of Forum for the Future described Net Positive in terms of five forms of capital: She explained that if natural, human, social, manufactured and financial capital were divisions of an actual High Street bank, “it would have needed bailing out ages ago.” Our imaginary bank would collapse because our current policy of ‘do less harm’ simply reduces our outgoings rather than putting any assets back in.

Dax Lovegrove of WWF UK also attacked the ‘do less harm’ strategy, pointing out that whilst consumer technology is getting ever more efficient, the rate at which consumption is growing cancels out any savings we might create. For him, Net Positive is about moving beyond impact reduction and towards more disruptive innovation. Lovegrove cited B&Q as an example of a brand that has embraced the disruptive innovation model by launching a range of micro-renewable home-generation products that have the potential to generate more energy than their consumers actually require. As a result, when B&Q reaches its target of zero carbon emissions from electricity in 2023, its net impact on power generation will be positive, effectively reducing our dependency on conventional power stations.

Giving back may be an admirable objective, but many brand managers will naturally ask themselves how such a strategy stands to enhance their business. Becky Coffin, of B&Q’s parent brand Kingfisher, shared insight into the key factors that motivated their shift to a Net Positive approach:

  • Net Positive objectives are core to a healthy business.
  • ‘Do less’ can be a depressing corporate objective.
  • Consumers demand it.

Net Positive panel

L-R: Sally Uren, Dax Lovegrove, Becky Coffin and Graham Seabrook explore the challenges to achieving Net Positivity.

Next, Graham Seabrook, Business Transformation manager for BT, talked the room through the practical steps of implementing a ‘give more’ sustainability strategy: Understand your footprint; choose your focus; take it bit by bit; and get stakeholders on your side.

A question from the floor asked the panel how lone brands could stimulate a Net Positive approach across other companies in their market segment. According to Lovegrove, the answer is simple: “Create a better, net positive brand and begin pinching their customers.”

Rounding out Tuesday’s breakouts was a session exploring “Tools For Engagement.” Inspiring people to take action is crucial and storytelling and social media are some of the most powerful tools available to companies.  

Participation, collaboration and customer engagement are crucial for a company that wants to communicate its vision, strategy and actions for creating a better world. Technology can help companies scale and multiply their social impact and to actively engage with stakeholders and create social movements.

Gemma Dodd of CSR consultancy SalterBaxter opened the session talking about the importance of correctly packaging content in order to inform and impact. ‘Crowd platforms’ are an example of how relevant stories are delivering relevant messaging to help decision makers take relevant actions.

Justin Stokes, Strategy Director at Purpose, discussed the storytelling movement, and how stories create emotional connections, bring listeners to another place and stimulate their imagination.

Having 10 million viewers around the world gives BSkyB a great opportunity to tell stories and engage people. Sky’s Rachel Depree shared several examples of how the media giant is effectively using social media with a sustainability focus and creating richer conversations where marketing and sustainability go hand on hand:

  • Sky rainforest rescue — Sky’s awareness-raising campaign in partnership with WWF
  • Discovery trails — an initiative to inspire people to experience their local forests to learn why forests and the Amazon rainforest are so special.

These participative campaigns allow people to engage and be part of the solution.

Erinch Sahan, Private Sector Advisor at Oxfam, then presented the “Behind the brands campaign” and how Oxfam is working with companies to find solutions. The campaign centers around a “company scorecard” that ranks companies on seven issues at the center of the sustainability debate: land, women, farmers, workers, climate, water and transparency. Through the scorecard Oxfam is making sustainability a key issue for companies and the narrative is an important part of the communication effort. Sahan also suggested 5 steps business should take in order to actively engage the communities and people and get a better score:

  • Engage with NGOs
  • Focus on where you have greater impact and influence
  • Be transparent about the business challenges
  • “Rights” is the new black: If you don’t communicate that you embrace rights you are behind the curve
  • Show leadership voice is the next black: Giving voice to the marginalized is the best way to show you are responsible.


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]

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,

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]

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