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#NewMetrics, Day 3: Digging Even Deeper Into Next-Generation Impact Metrics

Litterati's Jeff Kirschner | Image credit: Sustainable Brands


Live Well San Diego: A visionary partnership to define and measure 10 quality-of-life metrics

By Anna Shugoll


Stacey Smith

Wrapping up an action-packed three days was Stacey Smith from the Civilian Agency, a social change organization fighting to activate human potential. Smith began her presentation by asking the audience what they thought of when they think about San Diego. Beautiful views? Pristine beaches? What about the fact that they have more farms than any other county in the US? While San Diego is proud of this little-known fact, the city still struggles with a somber truth: 50 percent of all of the deaths in the county can be linked to four major diseases caused by three primary behaviors: physical inactivity, poor diet and tobacco use.

The Civilian Agency is now fighting this “3-4-50” dilemma by creating a higher standard of living in San Diego. According to Smith, there are four important elements in solving this wicked problem:

  • Creating a collective impact through communication, a common agenda and a support organization (in this case, the Civilian Agency)
  • Identifying key metrics for benchmarking progress. In this case, increased wellbeing in San Diego can be measured across 10 indicators, including crime rates, life expectancy, education and income
  • Creating a unifying brand
  • Forging strong partnerships.

After 5 years of implementation, data reveal that 7 of the 10 identified indicators have shown improvement. Crime is down, community involvement is up, and life expectancy has increased by a full ten months. The only indicators that have yet to improve are quality of life, built infrastructure and food insecurity, the developments that require the most time. The takeaway from this project is that, while ambitious, it is a realistic and achievable endeavor that will surely yield some best practices for the future.

Picking up where your products leave off

By Nassy Avramidis

Litterati started when founder Jeff Kirschner took a photograph of a cigarette butt he cleaned up and posted it on Instagram. As he continued doing this, his litter photos became artistic and approachable, and Instagram began helping him keep a record of how much he was cleaning up. Eventually, he started telling people in his community, and they started recording their litter pick-up as well. Hence, #Litterati was born and turned into a social venture with the lofty vision to create a litter-free world.

As Kirschner asserted during his keynote, we have become desensitized to the litter around us. It’s more important than ever to bring our litter to the forefront using this kind of data collection. Thanks to the power of social media, geotagging and a timestamp are automatically placed where and when litter is found. Eventually, Litterati was able to create a map showing exactly where he and his community were picking up this trash.

Not only has data and technology been able to make a difference in small circles of #litterati followers on Instagram, but the movement has grown – the map brought the Litterati community together and has built the first global database of litter. People are really starting to connect and impact is showing. Kirschner is now on a mission to maximize this impact (see Litterati’s Kickstarter campaign) and create a circular economy that includes cities, brands and schools and more to create a waste-free, litter-free world, working with brands, cites and schools to use litter data so they can take an environmental hazard and cost and turn it into an economic engine:

  • School impact: A group of 5th graders in Modesto, Calif. used Litterati to pick up 1,240 pieces of litter – the most common form of which was plastic straws from their own cafeteria. The students asked their Principal why they were still buying straws, and they stopped.
  • Brand impact: On a certain block in Oakland, Calif., 1,500 pieces of litter were picked up, and data showed that the most common form came from a Taco Bell on that block - hot sauce packets, most unopened. The discovery prompted Taco Bell to ponder solutions – have customers order hot sauce? Use bulk dispensers, or sustainable packaging?
  • City impact: The City of San Francisco wanted to create a tax on cigarettes and asked Litterati to help them calculate the City’s percentage of cigarette litter. The data that Litterati’s data helped the City double its 20¢ tax to a 40¢ tax, which has since generated a huge revenue for SF.

There are so many possibilities and opportunities for brands to be involved – and to know where exactly and when their product ends up -- as Litterati becomes an even greater global movement. Litterati is now in 115 countries, drawing attention to and cleaning up our litter, one piece at a time.

Measuring the impact of everyday purchases

By Nishita Lali


Andrei Cherny

Did you know that only 8 percent of Americans trust their bankers? Banks are misaligned with their customers’ values, highlighting a need for a different kind of equation between the two bodies.

Which is why Andrei Cherny’s revolutionary company, Aspiration, is out to change the way we consume goods. The online, socially conscious firm offers banking products and investment options, with an emphasis on customer satisfaction: Customers have the option of paying whatever they deem right; they can even choose to pay nothing. Despite this option, 90 percent of its customers choose to pay.

The notion that money has a moral imperative is not new and can be seen as a trend throughout history. But today, investment in sustainability tends to come from the privileged, which implies that sustainable investing is not democratized - most of the financial industry takes our savings and invests it into unsustainable projects such as fossil fuels. What is the use of all of this investing if it doesn’t support the right practices? This limits the effects of the investments and Cherny felt that it was time for a change.

Cherny addressed this problem by developing and launching Aspiration Impact Measurement, an app that rates the majority of one’s daily spending. Everyone has a ‘People Score’ and a ‘Planet Score,’ depending on their shopping history. This way you can choose where you want to get your products from and shop sustainably. US consumers spend $60 million daily, so their decisions carry a lot of weight in the world.

Cherny believes that by combining untraditional metrics such as conscience with a tool to measure our impact, we can make a lasting change.

The rise of internal carbon pricing in mainstream executive consciousness

By Nishita Lali


L-R: Bruno Sarda, Dennis Wilson, Libby Bernick, Phillip Clawson, Hannah Cushing

The practice of embedding an internal price on carbon has been picked up by over 1,200 companies, some of which are using the price to make operational improvements, as well – so it only makes sense that we dedicated some time to the subject on day three of New Metrics.

CDP’s Hannah Cushing spoke about the eight-fold increase in business her company has seen since 2013, with respect to carbon pricing. One of the biggest drivers for this trend has been the development of policies, along with shareholder expectations and the risk a business faces if they don’t get on board. Cushing also pointed out how useful a tool carbon pricing can be to assess risks and reduce policy risk exposure. Attaching a monetary value to carbon footprint immediately captures the attention of other business units.

However, Libby Bernick from Trucost said that an inspiration for her company was the fact that it realized the difference between the financial implications versus the actual impact carbon emissions have on society and the environment – which is why Trucost developed a desktop tool for corporate carbon pricing, to help companies get ahead of climate risks. After an infrastructure organization came to Trucost wanting to understand how a carbon price would impact their demand for energy-intensive products, Bernick and her team began to curate the data they had and model it to look at operations, supply chains and make sense of topics sustainability workers talk about. Bernick reinforced Cushing’s point that companies doing nothing for their carbon footprint could risk 30 percent of their profit due to the possibility of pricing schemes in the future.

Saint-Gobain is a 350-year-old firm that melts sand, cooks rocks and basically creates a lot of carbon. So as Director of Sustainability & Product Stewardship Dennis Wilson told us, for them it was more of a strategic way if they wanted to provide their services in the future. They understood that with clients including Mars rovers and Tesla, incorporating an internal carbon price was inevitable. Wilson also explained the concept of shadow pricing, where money does not physically change hands but rather gets reallocated to R&D projects. Saint-Gobain created a spreadsheet where one only has to input the numbers and it tells you the price you need to pay. This puts its finance team at ease since they don’t need to decode it.

NRG is another US power company that understood the need for sustainable energy in the future. As Bruno Sarda told us, once NRG realized it is one of the country’s top-five emitters in the country, it set about taking the necessary steps to change by setting science-based targets to decarbonize. These goals included decarbonizing 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050; NRG has already reduced its emissions by 35 percent as of 2016. Sarda shared that for them it was not because of the trends or policies; they were a step ahead of them already. NRG has incorporated shadow pricing and made decisions such as repurposing old plants to burn oil instead of coal.

In the end the panel agreed that carbon pricing is here to stay; it serves as a good metric to communicate to companies and that there is a need for it to be standardized.

The path to B Corp certification for large multinationals

By Jessica Bast


L-R: Laura Palmeiro, B Lab's Dan Osusky and Jay Coen Gilbert, BBMG's Raphael Bemporad

One of B Lab’s biggest questions focuses on how businesses will survive in the 21st century in a new reality that includes climate change, political division and social justice issues. Co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert shared that B Lab is working to help companies survive in this era by encouraging brands to operate with a purpose, especially as 65 percent of consumers want to support companies with a strong purpose, yet only 45 percent of consumers can identify a company with a strong purpose.

B Lab presents a new approach to branding to better assist companies that include three factors: practical value, societal value and tribal value. Practical value refers to economics and meeting customer needs; societal value focuses on having a positive social impact; and tribal value encourages connections with peers. Rebranding using these three values is important for brands to establish a purpose and become businesses that work for everyone; however, this feat and efforts to become a certified B Corp are easier for smaller companies to accomplish. As a result, B Lab has reevaluated its approach to enlist large multinational companies by creating B Lab’s Multinationals and Public Markets Advisory Council (MPMAC).

MPMAC is used to scale B Lab’s impact to multinational companies by creating a meaningful and manageable path to certification, which includes four themes: more efficient certification, new standards content for multinationals, outsource verification mechanisms, and supplemental certification requirements. While MPMAC will start its trial run in early 2018, participation from multinational companies has already begun. Unilever was the first fortune 500 company to “wave the B Corp flag” and has acquired various B Corps. Danone soon followed suit, and Danone’s CEO publicly announced its plans to one day become B Corp certified.

Laura Palmeiro, Sustainability Integration Director at Danone, spoke on the company’s relationship with B Corp, explaining that Danone has always valued sustainability even when the concept was not yet relevant. Danone aims to provide healthy food to the largest number of people, and the company’s CEO believes that becoming B Corp certified will solidify its commitment to sustainability. Four of Danone’s subsidiaries are already certified, and Laura explained that the company is working with B Lab to certify ten more subsidiaries by completing B Impact Assessments and making changes based on the results and with help from B Lab. As of 2017, seven more of Danone’s subsidiaries are in progress to become B Corp certified.

The Practice of Purpose: Defining the capabilities needed to turn social purpose into growth (continued)

By Alex Smith


Ricardo Caceres

As co-authors Ricardo Caceres and Omar Rodriguez-Vila discussed in their keynote this morning, The Practice of Purpose takes a much-needed new approach by considering the differences between standard marketing and purpose-driven marketing at a brand level. Typically, when brand integrate purpose, they push their purpose everywhere as loudly as they can. This strategy (or lack of strategy) can be challenging for departments that often work with limited buy-in and resources. The Practice of Purpose pushes the purpose dialogue beyond “everywhere” to “where, and with whom, and how?”

The team leveraged interviews with almost 50 members of the Sustainable Brands community, They asked key leaders of purpose-driven projects from companies such as Heineken, Unilever and REI whether these projects were successful; and if so, what enabled that success.

 52 principles emerged from their analysis, focused on:

  • Preparing your organization
  • Preparing your brand
  • Preparing your work
  • Preparing yourself

These principles are free to download in the official white paper.

The Practice of Purpose is an ongoing collaboration, and purpose leaders are welcome to join the conversation.

A cross-sector partnership that created an amazing closed-loop product

By Orly Arbit


Building off of his plenary speech on Tuesday, John Schulz, AT&T’s Director of Sustainability Integration, joined several of his collaborators to talk about the RM2 BLOCKPalTM smart shipping pallet. The unassuming pallet, a staple for transporting goods along a supply chain, received a major, circular makeover. Typical wooden shipping palates are heavy, break often, and make up a whopping 3 percent of all waste in landfills. David Kalan, SVP of Marketing at RM2, explained that the BLOCKPal pallet is designed with the entire life cycle in mind – made to be durable, easily repaired, lightweight and trackable using Internet of Things technology.

The sensor technology was enabled by AT&T connectivity, contributing to AT&T’s 10x net positive targets. In addition to partnering with AT&T, RM2 worked with Pure Strategies Inc. to conduct a life cycle analysis (LCA) of the pallets to assess their sustainability. Tim Greiner, Pure Strategies’ co-founder and Managing Director, moderated the discussion and gave further details about the LCA process. After the initial LCA, they brought in Gina Hall, Investment Director at The Carbon Trust, and others from her team to be a third-party reviewer of the pallet’s life-cycle impacts. Both Greiner and Hall cited impressive statistics about the environmental and economic savings of the new shipping pallet - perhaps the most striking was that if all 10 billion existing wooden pallets were replaced with the BLOCKPal pallet, 145 million tons of carbon would be saved per year.

Regarding its net positive target, David Korngold, Associate Director at BSR, explained that AT&T is not alone in these aspirations. BSR is a nonprofit that works with companies on their corporate sustainability, and Korngold has seen a major shift in companies that have more holistic, ambitious, quantified visions. Many companies are interested in accomplishing a net positive goal of creating more value for society and the environment than what they put in. Schulz, for his part, is aware that AT&T is only at the beginning of its journey, but he is optimistic that the company will achieve its goals in due time.

The Practice of Purpose: Defining the capabilities needed to turn social purpose into growth

By Anna Shugoll


Omar Rodriguez-Vila

At SB ’17 Detroit, Ricardo Caceres and Omar Rodriguez-Vila joined Sustainable Brands and The Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business in launching The Practice of Purpose Project, a multi-phased study that aims to find the best marketing strategies to achieve brand growth based on social benefits. The preliminary result is a list of 52 things that you can do to prepare your work, your brand and yourself to compete based on purpose.

The speakers defined purpose as “a multiplier of progress” and emphasized how identifying a brand with social use can help a company gain a competitive market advantage and embrace growth. They begin by advising on what not to do, and listed three common practices that narrow the success of marketing strategies:

  1. Focusing solely on the business case
  2. Overemphasizing storytelling
  3. Relying on “declared” consumer preferences and perceived trends

These are all practices that marketing teams often fall back on in terms of publicizing a brand’s sustainability; however, Caceres and Rodriguez-Vila urged the audience to focus on embedding sustainability into business logic, devising a strong strategy rather than story, and establishing research methods that focus on the revealed preferences of consumer rather than apparent trends.

The speakers used Brita as a successful example of a company that has utilized social purpose as business and marketing strategy. Rather than just focusing on creating profit, Brita found a new channel for growth in its sector and sold itself as a sustainable alternative to plastic bottles. Instead of just focusing on filtered water being better than tap water, it expanded its market niche by comparing it to bottled water, as well. Check out the full project online to help your company create a strategy and a practice of purpose.

Digitizing Commodities: A new era of transparency, accountability and opportunity in the global supply chain

By Jessica Bast


Jason Libersky

Commodities are the base of every supply chain and are large contributors to the global economy. In his main stage talk, Jason Libersky, VP of Technology at Xpansiv, explained how his company is working to digitize commodities to showcase the value and impact of each, based on data from sourcing to consumption. The massive market for commodities creates massive impacts; to compute this impact, Xpansiv uses Digital Feedstock that calculates and presents in-depth commodity impact assessments that commodity producers can use to unlock value.

Xpansiv has worked with various oil and gas companies, and Libersky highlighted Carbon Creek, a frack-free natural gas producer based in Wyoming. Carbon Creek enlisted the data assistance of Xpansiv to determine the environmental impact of its natural gas production operations. Xpansiv analyzed the upstream impacts of Carbon Creek’s gas production that included factors such as nitrogen, CO2 from transportation, and produced water. Carbon Creek was ultimately able to use this information to provide digital assurance of its frack-free practices to customers, while also highlighting the company’s positive environmental impact in the gas industry.

Innovation in carbon finance schemes

By Meg Kramer

Kate Dillon-Levin

Ecosphere+ is an impact fund that makes commercially viable and regenerative investments. Its mission is to build markets that put a value on standing forests, support responsible supply chains and incentivize sustainable business practices.

The company is developing new carbon finance schemes that create climate-positive vs. -neutral outcomes. Kate Dillon Levin of Ecosphere+ said one of the biggest opportunities to do this is in the untapped land-use sector. Agriculture and forestry have at least twice the mitigation potential of other investments, including renewable energy and energy efficiency, yet agriculture and forestry currently represent only 5 percent of total investments.

Case studies including regenerative cacao production in the Amazon, the Poseidon Foundation’s blockchain technology and a t-shirt showed how brands can use aggregation to turn many small choices into one large impact. Dillon Levin closed her session with a poignant quote from John Muir: “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”

Next-level tools helping businesses achieve Future-Fitness

By Orly Arbit


Geoff Kendall

Geoff Kendall, co-founder and CEO at the Future-Fit Foundation, took the stage on Wednesday morning to introduce Release 2 of the Future-Fit Business Benchmark. This second iteration of the organization’s social impact tool is meant to guide businesses to make better decisions in the long-term and to track progress. Future-Fit envisions a movement of businesses that will be driven by more than profit or intention to be “less bad.” Instead, using Release 2 of the Benchmark takes companies to the next level, ensuring that every dollar they earn benefits the company as well as society. Unlike other sustainability reporting or tracking methods, this free online tool translates systems science into actionable implementation strategies.

After releasing their initial Benchmark, Future-Fit worked with several impressive partners (Novo Nordisk, Eileen Fisher and Avery Dennison, to name a few) to receive feedback and refine the tool. Kendall highlighted some of the many improvements found in Release 2, including better progress metrics, a science-based definition of what it means to have a positive impact, and a greater emphasis on meaningful data. They also transformed their short methodology document into several comprehensive action and leadership guides. Beyond the specific changes from Release 1 to Release 2, Kendall echoed the sentiments of many other speakers, stressing that context-based sustainability is key in achieving the foundation’s vision for a movement of Future-Fit businesses creating value at every level.

Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]

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