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Launched today in the UK, an app called Almond digitizes fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) products aims to revolutionize how consumers interact with the food and drink they consume. By scanning the unique hidden codes printed directly onto product packaging, consumers can use the Almond app to learn more about what they’re consuming, including where each ingredient has come from, the journey the product has taken and its carbon footprint.
The digital codes will also unlock cash reward tokens for the consumer to use via a blockchain technology provided by EVRYTHNG. The codes are only revealed to the consumer once a product has been opened, such as under a can ring-pull. This approach allows brands to offer consumers bespoke information and rewards at ‘point of consumption’ and better understand their customers, when and where their products are being consumed, as well as basic anonymized customer data (age band and gender).
“Almond finally gives retail brands a way to digitise their products. It enables them to build deeper relationships with their customers by building trust through product & supply chain transparency whilst providing a platform to reward customers with brand tokens they can redeem for cash,” explained Oliver Bolton, Founder of Almond and watermelon drink, What A Melon.
“Consumer demand for transparency is increasing. The Almond platform makes it easy for brands to meet this demand and educate consumers about their product journey. In doing so, they are making a statement about themselves as a brand whilst giving themselves a new edge with more detailed consumer data,” he added.
Almond has already partnered with Crown Canning and plans to expand and partner with other packaging companies to streamline the implementation of their unique coded system. FACT organic flavoured water will be the first product to ‘lift its lid’ and reveal its journey ‘from seed to sip’ on the Almond platform. The app will provide detailed product information, including ingredients and their provenance, the processing and manufacturing process, and the estimated carbon footprint of a product at point of consumption.
“Almond’s unique position in the market will provide brands with an unparalleled understanding of their consumers and how they behave. Data will be anonymized, stored and shared responsibly and in line with all GDPR requirements,” Bolton continued. “By joining the Almond platform, brands can also acquire new like-minded customers as users will be able to discover other products featured on Almond – on top of the products they’ve scanned. The gamification of Almond will allow users to interact with brands in a new way, directly reaping the rewards of their use of the app and pledging their allegiance to brands based on the way they approach transparency and supply chain traceability.”
Besides informing both producers and consumers, Oliver hopes that in time Almond will support an engaged community focused on product transparency.
“Almond establishes a new type of relationship between brands and consumers - one that is symbiotic and mutually beneficial, giving consumers control and autonomy over the type of brands they buy and rewarding their loyalty,” Bolton said.
To start with, Almond is focusing on like-minded ‘B Corp’ brands that see the business as an opportunity to drive positive change. After enlisting early adopters, Almond will scale to onboard further partner brands as the platform grows. FACT is among the UK’s 150 Certified B Corporations.
“Today’s most exciting businesses are operating for the benefit of all who contribute to its success – for shareholders and for stakeholders – and as such they are taking responsibility for their broader impact on consumers, communities and the planet,” said Katie Hill, Executive Director of B Lab UK. “This is the future of business and FACT’s tracking of its supply chain as it has developed using the (open source) Almond app demonstrates the future of supply chain technology. By pioneering this level of transparency, and by pulling together remarkable purpose-led brands, the resulting insights give power through information to the consumer to decide which brand values they want to align with.”
Last week, over 2,000 representatives from our global community of sustainability practitioners, brand strategists, product and service innovators, thought leaders and other change-makers converged at SB’18 Vancouver to share their latest insights on a multitude of themes pertinent to all of those committed to improving business around the world. Here, we dig into brand and organizational efforts to recruit, retain and support an engaged workforce — and go the extra mile for employees in need.
Personal purpose as a powerful ally in rallying employees: A practical Unilever tool
Jonathan Atwood, VP of Sustainable Business & Communications for Unilever, opened his standing-room-only session Tuesday morning by telling the audience that companies can and should leverage the power of their employees’ personal purpose to better connect their motivations with the brand’s purpose. Then he challenged attendees to dig deep to identify their own personal purpose and reminded them, “We don’t share other people’s stories.”
Atwood joined Unilever in 2012 and was promptly sent to Singapore for training that included discovering his own personal purpose, a training all VPs received. That training was led by Nick Craig, President of the Authentic Leadership Institute, a consulting firm committed to waking up those who will wake up the many by inspiring them to discover their purpose and equipping them to lead authentically.
Atwood went reluctantly but through some tough work discovered his first purpose: to give voice to those who don’t have one. He explained that personal purpose can change over time.
Atwood acknowledged author and fellow speaker Dr. John Izzo, who said, “Anything that doesn’t bring us fully alive is not worth our time.” But Atwood warned that purpose is not a silver bullet, but rather why we keep on going. He acknowledged that the process of uncovering your personal purpose can be painful, but that it’s worth the effort — it can lead to better personal as well as professional relationships.
In 2017, Atwood decided that all Unilever employees should have the opportunity to discover their personal purpose, so he opened the training to all employees. To date 3,000 of Unilever’s 9,000 employees have completed this training.
“We all want the same thing,” Atwood stated. “We want to be part of something that changes everything.”
Atwood invited a few members of the audience to share their personal purpose. Several took him up on the offer, explaining the painful processes they went through to find their purpose and how finding it brought clarity to their lives.
Atwood said he believes that connecting people to their purpose enables them to bring their best selves to work, which is good for business.
He said, “I was a part of something that changed everything,” which helped him uncover his second purpose: helping people go to dark places and shine the light.
How Starbucks is leveraging Good Life principles to create win-win employment opportunities for at-risk communities
Starbucks' Michael Conway | Image credit: Sustainable Brands
Starbucks is widely recognized as a socially progressive company. Current efforts include the design of win-win programs in support of refugees, opportunity youth and other vulnerable groups. The company’s efforts are aligned with its own purpose: to use its business to advance progressive social change and social justice.
Michael Conway, Executive Vice President and President at Starbucks Canada, spoke Thursday on the main stage about the social commitments Starbucks has launched and accelerated in the areas of purpose-driven hiring and employee benefits.
He explained that the company is always seeking to answer the question asked by former CEO and executive chairman Howard Schultz, “What is the role and responsibility of a for-profit, public company?” For Starbucks, it is “To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup, one neighborhood at a time.”
Conway acknowledged the recent incident in Philadelphia, where two black men were arrested when they refused a manager’s request for them to leave a store. There was a public outcry and protests. Starbucks closed approximately 8,000 U.S. stores for the afternoon of May 29 to retrain employees. They since closed Canadian stores on Monday, June 11, to provide the same training.
“The true measure of a company is how you deal with issues,” Conway said, before pivoting back to the theme of his talk.
His first example of a win-win was creating opportunities: In Canada, there are one million NEET (not employed, in education or training) youth, so Starbucks started a Work Placement program. They went to youth hiring fairs and hired on culture and personality — no resume needed. To date, Starbucks Canada has hired 900 opportunity youth. Success rates are between 60 and 90 percent.
But Starbucks wanted to scale, so it announced the Opportunity for All Youth Coalition of leading companies in Canada to connect youth facing barriers to meaningful employment.
Next, Starbucks took on a global commitment to hire 10,000 refugees by 2022, with at least 1,000 hires in Canada.
But what Conway wanted was for Starbucks to be the advocate for youth in Canada. So, the company held youth open forums, asking youth three questions:
What are your dreams?
Do you think you can achieve them?
What support do you need?
Through these forums, the company learned about the need for mental health support. By age 25, about 20 percent of the population will have experienced a mental health issue. So, Starbucks increased mental health benefits for employees from $400 to $5000/year.
Conway stressed that listening is important. He offered two takeaways:
Use scale for good. Discover what’s important to your employees.
Consider collective impact. Today’s issues are too large to face alone.
At the 2018 Global Forum on Responsible Business and Recruitment this week, the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) called on businesses around the world to play their part in the fight to end all forms of forced labor. The event, co-hosted by the CGF and Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), brought together key stakeholders to discuss how best to galvanize efforts and drive real progress on the issue.
The call to action was made alongside the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and with the support of the IHRB. It encouraged businesses to acknowledge the scale of the challenge and to accelerate action to eliminate forced labor, in alignment with the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other international frameworks.
“Forced labour is a complex issue that cannot be solved without cross-sectoral collaboration,” said Olaf Koch, Chairman of the Management Board of METRO AG and Co-Chair of the CGF Board. “We, at METRO AG encourage you to rise to the challenge and stand united with us in the global fight against forced labor. We thank the leaders from our industry and global partners, ILO and IOM, for joining us on this collective journey.”
Business leaders are invited to adopt and help mainstream the CGF’s Priority Industry Principles on Forced Labour, launched in 2016, which state that every worker should have freedom of movement, no worker should pay for a job, and no worker should be indebted or coerced to work. Businesses can also work toward the eradication of worker fees in the next ten years by implementing the Employer Pays Principle championed by the IHRB-led Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment.
The International Tourism Partnership (ITP) set an example this week by launching a set of Principles for the global hotel industry on forced labor and human trafficking to counter such practices in recruitment and employment globally. Derived from the CGF’s Priority Industry Principles, The ITP Principles on Forced Labour represent an example of cross-sectoral collaboration on this issue.
“Two years ago, The Consumer Goods Forum issued our global resolution to fight forced labor. We remain steadfast in this commitment, and this is a call to action to accelerate the tangible steps we are taking as an industry, matching our commitment with concrete results and improvements in the lives of vulnerable people. We need to increase the pace of change on this critical issue,” said Grant Reid, CEO of Mars, Incorporated.
The CGF stated that this week’s call to action is a strong affirmation of CGF members’ commitment to strive to eradicate forced labor from global supply chains and continue not to tolerate forced labor within their own operations. The organization went on to add that while governments are responsible for protecting human rights including ensuring that national laws and regulations protect against forced labor, business has a responsibility to respect human rights in its value chains and own operations and can play a key role in combatting forced labor.
The CGF is calling upon businesses to stand together in their commitment to combat the exploitation of human beings for the purposes of compulsory labor through the use of force or other forms of coercion, fraud or deception. Committing to work together with industry peers, and welcoming the efforts of institutions, organizations, and coalitions engaged in the fight against forced labor is vital. Businesses are asked to join forces with the ILO, IOM and IHRB, experts in the field of modern slavery, to put an end to these abhorrent crimes once and for all.
“More and more companies across sectors and industries are coming together to join the fight against forced labor and unethical recruitment, and to establish stronger protections for migrant workers in supply chains,” said Ambassador William Lacy Swing, Director General of IOM, the UN Migration Agency. “The UN Migration Agency stands ready to support these efforts and to work in partnership to promote practical, measurable improvements in the lives of migrants around the world.”
Today, we are at a confluence of three global tipping points.
Environmentally — from extreme and destructive weather events to rising sea levels and temperatures, climate change is impacting ecosystems everywhere.
Economically — we have rising income inequality, with the world’s eight richest people owning as much as the poorest half of humanity, and 1 billion children worldwide living in poverty.
Technologically — we are dazzled by new innovations and the amazing connectedness they offer, but our addiction is taking a very human toll.
With so many challenges and therefore so many opportunities to create real change,Tristan Harris, founder of the Center for Humane Technology, told a packed plenary room at SB’18 Vancouver that he believes our focus should be on ethical technology: “[Technology] may be the most important tipping point; if we don’t solve for [it], we won’t be able to solve for the other ones.”
Let’s be clear. Technology is not neutral; each application is fighting for our attention, programmed to exploit weaknesses in our brains to create addiction and to keep us coming back for more. We understand inherently that this addiction is not good for us, but like all addiction the pain and dissatisfaction is coupled with hits of pleasure and the endorphin rush.
Knowing this, Harris and co-presenter Raphael Bemporad, co-founder and principal of BBMG, asked themselves, “How do we create the wisest moral operating system when we make choices on 2 billion people’s behalf? And if we are going to influence people, how do we do it ethically?” To begin to answer this, they conducted an ethnographic study of people’s tech habits and their impacts to reveal our deepest vulnerabilities and desires.
From this study, five human conflicts emerged, and Bemporad and Harris identified companies that are addressing these conflicts positively.
1. Conflict of identity — Who am I?
When we present our curated life to the outside world — amazing trips, perfect birthdays, filtered and altered photos where we look stunning — we lose sense of who we really are. The idealized self we present to the world, and in turn is presented back to us by others, creates a conflict of identity — our lives measured by the external validation of likes, hearts, comments or shares. And in these Facebook and Instagram worlds, what is rewarded? The idealized self. Post a picture of a puppy and your likes skyrocket, dare to post that you are hurting and few if any people will respond. This curated world is not real and, for our teens and tweens who are still trying to find themselves, it is creating epidemic rates of depression. How to we create authentic worlds to connect through?
The fast pace at which technology moves demands short response times, removing our most human ability — reflection. Instead, we make decisions with our limbic system, sometimes referred to as the reptilian brain — the one that manages our fight or flight responses. The second critical question: How do we design for convenience while allowing human control?
Brand examples:Snips, a Siri alternative, offers a private, decentralized, open-source voice assistant. And Blue Apron allows cooking convenience with control; you select the meals, they deliver to your door.
3. Conflict of Community — Where do I belong?
Humans have an innate need to be known and understood. We seek to be part of something bigger than ourselves — a tribe, a clan, a community. When we favor virtual relationships over physical ones, we undermine this need. For real humans, connecting face to face strengthens our sense of belonging.
Brand examples:Airbnb allows travelers to stay in local neighborhoods, instantly transforming the travel experience. Meetup believes “getting together with real people in real life makes powerful things happen. Side hustles become careers, ideas become movements, and chance encounters become lifelong connections. Meetup brings people together to create thriving communities.”
4. Novelty — What is enough?
Our brains are wired to be attracted to new things. When we experience new things, we get that happy dopamine rush, as we do from each ping from social media. My own experience suggests it draws us in for an experience and is more compulsive than addictive. That said, if you are lonely, which a growing number of Americans are, social media may satisfy your craving for connection. Luckily, the two companies cited by Bemporad and Harris absolutely address our innate need for novelty:
Brand examples:How about we launched a site for couples — novelty reinvented for the committed, monogamous relationship. Rent the Runway allows women to fulfill the dream of an endless closet.
5. Conflict of Velocity — How do I want to spend my time?
In this “instant” world, where we need things now, we find ourselves rushing from one thing to with constant demands placed upon us. This need for speed comes in direct conflict with our need for sanctuary. Our health suffers — resulting in anxiety disorders, stress, high blood pressure, depression. Humans need sanctuary, calm, reflection.
Brand examples:Yondr creates phone-free spaces: “In our hyperconnected world, we provide a haven to engage with what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with. In physical space and real time.” And Headspace — meditation made simple — allows you to reset immediately. Getting ready for an interview, having trouble getting or falling back to sleep or simply having a stressful day? These 3- 5- or 10-minute sessions will set you right.
Whether you agree with the nuances of all of the five human conflicts or not, there is clear truth in their commentary. How do we address it? Bemporad and Harris presented a compelling call to action, insisting now is the time for Humane Design.
For some, blockchain is the disruptive technology that promises to solve transparency problems by creating one version of the truth; for others, it is all hype with no great real-world application other than cryptocurrency. I attended an SB’18 Vancouver workshop on “How Blockchain Technology Can Power Superior Supply Chain Innovation and Understanding” to move closer to understanding blockchain and its applications.
Steven Fish, founder & CEO of ESG Ledger, opened the session by sharing his goal to demystify blockchain, and help us “move away from the idea that blockchain is Bitcoin.”
The first challenge for a lot of people is simply wrapping their heads around this new technology. Fish suggested starting with a simple example, like buying a house. Here is how it would work: Start with a simple block — it could be purchase price, renovations, etc. All of it written in an immutable record, ideally when the home is first built. As things change — permits are applied for, the furnace is replaced — each item is recorded on the ledger. Nothing can be erased, so if a mistake is made you can create another block to correct it, but everyone sees everything. You can capture both quantifiable and qualifiable data. For example, you could scan deed of house and attach it. When the next person buys the house, they join that ledger and can see everything that has ever transpired. No more guessing if a permit was pulled, or what was changed when.
Peter Patterson, Blockchain Market Leader at IBM, shared several current, real-world applications. First up: Diamonds — an industry fraught with smuggling, fraud and unethically mined stones. Blockchain allows supply chain players to keep a record of high-resolution photos of every stone, track real-time payments, maintain certificates of authenticity, as well as product details such as cut, clarity, color, carat and serial numbers. Basically, blockchain allows endless attributes to be attached.
Another application is improved food safety and authenticity, i.e., how do you know if your chicken from China is really organic? Blockchain is allowing industry leaders to track chicken (pork, beef, you name it) from farm to store. With a QR code on the package consumers can scan the package and quickly see the entire life of the animal they are about to eat. The hope is it will also improve food safety. Walmart partnered with IBM back in 2016 to track the movement of pork across its supply chain. By using blockchain, all of the players are aligned and can see data such as time in transport, storage temperature and expiry date, which significantly improves food safety.
Nicola Claxton, co-founder and COO of yave, is focused on solving another problem: third-wave coffee price premiums making their way back to the farmer. Claxton and her partner saw that the rise in third-wave coffee prices in the developed world wasn’t making it back to coffee farmers. In fact, many farmers who produce some of the finest beans are struggling to make ends meet. Enter yave, a platform designed the let you “see through coffee.”
yave coffee is given a unique identifier; this may happen with farmers texting yave and being given a digital marker that they write on the bags. The coffee then flows through the supply chain to consumers, where ultimately a consumer can scan the QR code on the bag, learn about the coffee, and in the moonshot state (dream not yet a reality), send a tip directly back to the farmer.
Denver-based Bext360 is using blockchain for coffee, as well. The startup created the “bextmachine,” which takes a three-dimensional scan of each bean to help producers learn how bean quality and characteristics translate to taste in the cup. Its blockchain program is used to track the bean from farm to coffee shop, and with a quick QR scan consumers see it all. Founder Daniel Jones believes his company can help standardize quality assessments and reduce paperwork across the supply chain, which ultimately reduces costs.
The application of blockchain seems promising on discrete items such as pork chops, diamonds, even a bag of coffee — but what about blended commodities such as conflict minerals, cotton, natural gas and oil?
A commodity-focused company, Xpansiv is working with blockchain to correct the market failures abundant in commodity markets — imperfect information, environmental impacts, and operational inefficiencies. Joe Madden, co-founder & CEO, shared his company’s approach. I’ll confess this portion of the session went a bit over my head, perhaps moving too fast while I scrambled to take notes and photos. Here’s what I did gather.
Xpansiv takes the massive amounts of data available at the source — for example, a natural gas extraction site — it then refines the data into attributional profiles (attributes attached to the commodity that have significance), which is then attached through blockchain technology so the commodity in question can be identified as frack-free for example.
I’m oversimplifying it here. The main takeaway is, blockchain has the potential to address commodity supply chain transparency, which has been a huge hurdle to overcome.
Clearly, blockchain has a ton of potential applications. If your curiosity is sparked and you want to learn more, Claxton recommends exploring Hyperledger — a simple, open-source, step-by-step, build your own system. “All you need to know is how to put the data into a single database,” Claxton said. It takes three simple steps.
Step 1: Identify your asset
What is the asset, what are we tracking?
Step 2: Engage participants
Who are all the players? Get them on board and participating.
Step 3: Determine the transactions
What transactions are we tracking? Chain of custody, attributes — get clear on what data needs to be tracked.
Conceptually, that is all you need to get started. Simple and powerful, right? Certainly, but my jury is still out. I am excited about the potential and some applications — like the Plastic Bank, which creates currency out of plastic waste — are incredibly cool, but it still seems to be a lot of hype. I find myself asking, does every application of blockchain really require blockchain or could it be solved more eloquently with another solution? Also, we are talking about storing all of this encrypted data as though it can’t be hacked or fail, but recent cyber attacks suggest otherwise. Additionally, skeptics point to the fact that humans enter the data, allowing for corruption, inaccurate information and simple errors.
Clearly, blockchain is going to impact business — the question, is when and how.
How to get consumers to choose sustainable over conventional remains a puzzling question, but two sessions I attended at SB’18 Vancouver provided frameworks to help brands make some headway. One highlighted actionable ways practitioners can influence consumers to behave more sustainably with the SHIFT framework. In the other, Nice and Serious drew parallels to the story of David and Goliath to introduce the MAPS and MEE frameworks to help companies compete with conventional products.
The SHIFT Framework for Encouraging Sustainable Consumer Behaviors
In her breakout session, Professor Katherine White of the University of British Columbia (UBC) shared five key concepts to consider regarding consumer behaviors and some of the research behind them.
SHIFT is an acronym outlining factors that communicators can leverage to influence behavior: Social influence; Habit formation; Individual self; Feelings and cognition; and Tangibility.
Social influence relates to social norms, desirability and group memberships. Essentially, you want to use normative language, increase social desirability, or make people want to either associate or dissociate with a certain group.
“People tend to look at the people around them; they want to do what others are doing and engage with others,” White explained. “Many things that are the norm are not sustainable. In North America, it’s very normative to drive a gas-powered car to work or to buy a cup of coffee in a disposable cup."
While these existing norms can perpetuate negative behaviors, normative language can be used to influence positive ones. For example, Nolan, Schultz et al (2008) found that normative messaging had the greatest effect on homeowners’ energy consumption behavior compared to informational, environmental, social responsibility and self-benefit (cost saving) messaging.
Social desirability is more about branding and how you market a product, such as how Tesla makes electric vehicles seem cool. Brands can also associate their products with aspirational figures, as Colgate has done with its water-saving campaign with Michael Phelps.
Another approach is to highlight public contexts. For example, White referred to a study where people were given choices between products where one option highlights its environmental benefits and the other option highlighted personal benefits. One group of respondents was told that their choices would be known by others, while the other group was told their choices would not be shared. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the group who thought their answers would be public were more likely to choose the environmentally friendly option that the group who thought their answers would be private.
As for the ‘group membership’ piece, communicators can appeal to who people want to be or who they want to avoid being associated with. The former approach is straight-forward enough, and has been proven with initiatives such as Don’t Mess with Texas, which campaigns against littering by appealing to Texan pride and working with celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey and Willie Nelson.
Leveraging dissociative groups can be a bit more delicate, but can still be effective if well-executed, especially if framed as a competition. For example, students at the University of Calgary were more likely to compost coffee cups when they were told a rival student group was composting more than their group was, than they were when told about their group’s performance alone. Similarly, Earth Hour has encouraged competitions between cities to fuel positive behavior change.
Habit formation relates to both breaking bad habits and forming positive ones.
Penalties for bad behavior – such as bag fees, littering fines, or even a carbon tax – have to be carefully tracked to determine their level of effectiveness. Leveraging discontinuity is often an easier approach to breaking bad habits. The idea is to take advantage of breaks in routine since they are prime opportunities to change behavior. White explains that psychologists call this the “fresh start mindset,” adding its “similar to starting a diet on New Year’s or after your birthday.”
The keys to forming positive habits are making it easy, giving feedback, offering incentives, and using prompts. White used Nest smart thermostats as an example of the first two. Nest uses preset temperatures that save energy – making it easy through the use of default settings – and gives users feedback on the individual level as well as compared to other Nest users. Recyclebank offers users incentives to recycle. Prompts are simply reminders, such as “no idling” signs in school pickup areas. White notes that prompts “work best when consumers see it when they can change the behavior.”
Individual self relates to a person’s values, their concept of themselves and making commitments.
Individuals’ concepts of themselves can sometimes be a bigger barrier than you might think. As White explained, “Generally people want to view themselves positively. One reason men are sometimes less likely to choose the sustainable option is because they view it as feminine and may feel uncomfortable or threatened by that.” It’s a rationale that has prompted campaigns that appeal to masculinity and challenge preconceptions around plant-based diets.
You can also capitalize on commitments and how they drive consistency. People are more likely to continue with the positive action if they've committed to it. The more public and durable the commitment, the better. However, you also must be wary of “slacktivism” and encourage people to do more than simply “Like” your Facebook page by getting involved or donating to a cause. Otherwise they may feel like they have already “contributed” and be less motivated to do something next time.
Efficacy also plays a role; it is helpful when people believe they can engage in the desired action (ability efficacy) and have confidence that their actions will have an impact (outcome efficacy).
Feelings and cognition is perhaps the most familiar of these elements. Appeal to people’s emotions – whether negative or positive – the heart rather than the head. However, White cautions that negative messages should be moderated. Greenpeace has been criticized for messages or images that are so negative or shocking that people are less inclined to respond. Others such as Canada’s David Suzuki Foundation stress the importance of taking action by promoting what can be done, appealing to emotions on both sides.
Tangibility is important because for most people sustainability is an abstract notion. “Making impacts tangible is more likely to motivate people to change their behavior,” White said.
Ways to do this include verifying sustainable attributes, making comparisons or using analogies, and making impacts clear and local. Certifications are good, but it is often more important to bring the message to life. For example, Tide used an image of an Empire State Building made of Tide containers with the message “If everyone in New York City were to wash their laundry in cold water for ONE DAY this would be enough electricity to light up the Empire State Building for one month,” and a Toyota ad highlighted that the Prius produces less emissions than a sheep.
“Making [your message] more clear, local and relevant makes it more tangible,” White added. An effective example is environmental messages on gas pumps with local endangered species at risk due to climate change.
Now that you’re familiar with the five aspects of SHIFT, how can you actually use it to influence consumers to care more about sustainability issues and behave more sustainably? White concluded with a 6-step process:
Clarify the context. Think about the context, your goals and the behavior.
Select your target segment. Identify your target market.
Determine the details. Determine the specific needs, barriers and benefits.
Select and apply the tools. Take SHIFT tools that reflect your context, target, barriers and benefits.
Test your strategy. Pilot your strategy; you may need to return to a previous step.
Implement your plan and evaluate outcomes.
The Proof Is in the Pudding: How to Get People to Choose Sustainable Over Conventional
Nice and Serious co-founder Ben Meaker and creative strategist Christopher Fiorello provided further insights on influencing consumers in their breakout session. While we know that consumers value the environment and social good, it can still be difficult to shift their behavior or convince them to spend a bit more money on a product that is in line with those values. Through their social-impact creative agency, Meaker, Fiorello and their team help brands with more sustainable or ethical products take on conventional product “Goliaths.”
The speakers highlighted five recommendations for effective marketing of sustainable products, drawing parallels to the story of David and Goliath along the way and sharing their lived experience creating a marketing campaign for an imaginary marshmallow product.
Recommendation #1: Selling “sustainability” is just plain selling. Even David needed a weapon for his battle with Goliath, and traditional sales and marketing techniques are still effective. As such, Nice and Serious says it is key to use these tools at your disposal rather than selling on sustainability alone or as a “sustainability person.”
Recommendation #2: Find your MAPS. MAPS is an acronym for Market, Audience, Product and Scene. These are the same basic components you would usually consider for a marketing campaign; where is your market, and who are the market leaders and your competitors? Who is your target audience? What are the selling points of your product? How does your product or brand fit amidst the current social landscape? (For example, with plastic pollution becoming a more prominent issue in the public eye, this aspect of the “scene” means more people are asking questions about plastic products and packaging and seeking sustainable options.)
MEE is another acronym, but is more specific to shaping your campaign. It stands for Motivation, Ease and Emotion. As Fiorello put it, “Which of these 3 are you going to use to sell your sustainable product and switch consumers from a more conventional option?”
They used an analogy of a bow, arrow and target for MEE. Motivation was compared to the string in the bow that creates tension to push for behavior change. Some of the most effective motivations are:
Utility – the features, bells and whistles. E.g. Tesla emphasizes vehicle performance.
Reciprocity – how people feel more compelled to give or do something if you give or do something first. E.g. Giving free samples.
Ownership – E.g. When Coca-Cola printed people’s names on its bottle labels.
Play – associating what people buy with having a good time. E.g. Corona’s use of beaches in its marketing.
Reframing – E.g. When HEINEKEN entered the light beer market, it ditched the stereotype of ‘cheap beer for bros,’ branded their product as ‘premium light beer’ to reframe it as a beverage and brought Neil Patrick Harris on board to add to a sophisticated image.
Scarcity – leveraging people’s fear of missing out by implying scarce supply. E.g. Offers only available for a “limited time.”
Ease is the element that sharpens the arrow to make it easier for it to fly true, land the sale and hit your target. Mainly, this means your audience needs the how-to and access they need to purchase and use your product or service.
Emotion is represented by the target because it is the most challenging but effective part. As Fiorello said, “If you can create an emotional connection between a customer and your brand, you’re winning.”
He covered two ways to do this: Evocation – dialling up the emotions, such as with Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign; and Modelling – using spokespeople that customers find aspirational. While major celebrities are losing favor and trust among the public, there has been a rise in the power of “micro-influencers,” especially on social media with younger audiences.
Finally, Meaker introduced the marshmallows. As a fun exercise in building a brand from the ground up, he and his team came up with the idea to imagine they were launching a new marshmallow product. Fun fact: marshmallow root used to form the basis of marshmallows and actually has some medicinal properties. But much has changed since their origins in Egyptian times – the French started making marshmallow treats with gelatin, and later air extrusion made them fluffy. Long story short, marshmallows as we know them do not contain any marshmallow root and two brands hold 95 percent of the billion-dollar (root-less) marshmallow market. This explanation leads us to the next insight: Every Goliath has a weak spot.
Recommendation #3: If you know why consumers are loyal to the market leader, you know how to change their behavior. Meaker stressed the importance of understanding who is in your market space and why customers are loyal to those companies.
To use the marshmallow example, there may be an opportunity to appeal to parents looking for healthier alternatives with simpler ingredients. They considered their MAPS: existing products in the market are not particularly sustainable and have lengthy ingredient lists; parents are purchasing these treats for their children; Nice and Serious’ marshmallows could use marshmallow root, all vegan ingredients and organic ingredients where possible; and people are reading more labels, spending less time outside, and there’s a war on sugar.
They dubbed their imaginary product Roots & Hoots and decided on four focuses for their branding: quality, fun, natural and “hip” – because it would have to be fresh enough to draw people away from the well-established brands they’ve long been loyal to. “We wanted to find three or four levers that would activate consumers to choose our product,” Meaker explained.
They also looked to other brands in similar situations. For example, Annie’s broke into the mac n’ cheese market, but after five years of growth, still only has about 10 percent of the billion-dollar market compared to Kraft’s roughly 90 percent. Which brings us to the next insight: the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Recommendation #4: Be patient, it takes a lot of stones to topple a giant.
Nice and Serious tested their new brand with focus groups. They tested three different text and image-based ads for Roots & Hoots: two focused on motivation (utility in the form of better ingredients and reframing what marshmallows actually are or should be) and one evoking emotion (in that parents want to make better choices for their kids). The focus on utility was most successful, so they used that for their next test.
They made a brand that was as generic and fitting with eco stereotypes as possible and found that nearly 85 percent of people stuck to the Goliaths, Kraft Jet-Puffed and Campfire. Then, they tested the Roots & Hoots brand and found consumer preference for the eco-option increase by 76 percent. Roughly 50 percent chose Jet-Puffed, 20 percent chose Campfire, and Roots & Hoots moved to second place as the choice of 30 percent. However, those choices were made under the assumption that all of the products were being offered at the same price. With prices attached, Campfire, the cheapest of the three, rose to 50.5 percent, Jet-Puffed fell to 41 percent, and Roots & Hoots dropped to a mere 8.5 percent. The results bring us to Nice and Serious’ final recommendation from the session.
Recommendation #5: Find ways to be nimble, especially on price. Just as David turned down armour so he could stay nimble during his battle with Goliath, so must your brand try to stay nimble as it grows. As with any product, optimizing on price will deliver the greatest benefits, since price remains the main influencer of purchasing decisions – at least for now.
Last week, over 2,000 representatives from our global community of sustainability practitioners, brand strategists, product and service innovators, thought leaders and other change-makers converged at SB’18 Vancouver to share their latest insights on a multitude of themes pertinent to all of those committed to improving business around the world. Here, we dig into brand and organizational efforts to get consumers to deliver their part of the equation, by putting their money where their mouths are.
The Good Life through the Lens of Consumer Preferences: Aspiration vs. Reality
Several large-scale shifts are taking place in consumer perceptions of sustainable products. Research conducted by Sustainable Brands (SB)and Leger on consumer definitions of “the Good Life” has revealed a paradigm shift happening across both Canada and the US. Consumers now consider meaningful connection and balanced simplicity to be the most important elements in achieving a ‘good life.” This shift is happening across the board — across political lines, genders and generations.
Brands can capitalize on the desires for meaningful connections and balanced simplicity, and many already have. SB’s Talia Arbit and Leger EVP Christian Bourque shared several examples; apps that facilitate mindfulness and meditation, such as headspace and calm, respond to the desire for balanced simplicity. REI’s #optoutside and Heineken’s “worlds apart” campaigns both draw on the demand for meaningful connections.
The Shelton Group has identified two additional consumer trends — when asked, consumers are increasingly able to identify specific manufacturers whose products they have either bought or rejected based on the manufacturer’s environmental record. Typically, only 6 percent of respondents could identify a company when asked. Three years ago, this increased to 20 percent of respondents, and is now holding steady at 16 percent. Additionally, 40 percent of consumers would now like to be seen as someone who buys eco-friendly products.
Cone Communications has identified many brands that are embedding causes into their business, rather than transitionally supporting certain causes. The business value of this embedded purpose includes opportunity for deeper bond-building, expansion of the consumer base, and enlisting of advocates who amplify the brand message. In addition, ‘purpose advertising’ products often sell better than traditionally marketed products. VP of Marketing Whitney Dailey explained that Cone has compared product advertising with a purpose-driven, low-cost and high-quality emphasis, and has found that purpose complements quality aspects to bring a product to the top in several categories
Taken together, the trends shared through this research suggests that messaging around sustainability is shifting to align with the consumer, by moving away from the functional to include information on social and emotional aspects.
“Consumers definitely need the job to be done — that is not changing,” explained Kirti Singh, Chief Analytics and Insights Officer at P&G, “What is changing is that it doesn’t stop there. Consumers have an increasing expectation for brands to deliver on emotional or social needs that they have — raising the bar on how brands connect with the consumer.”
Why you may have bought that box of Oreos at 2am
Fast-forward to Thursday, the final day of SB’18 Vancouver, to a session that delved into the classical economic view of consumer decision-making, which assumes that customers rationally weigh the pros and cons of competing products to select one that best fits their needs. But as anyone who has compulsively bought a giant box of Oreos at 2am can tell you, purchasing decisions are not always so logically driven. Consumers report a desire to buy sustainable products, but their purchasing decisions do not always reflect that desire. As marketers, how can we close this frustrating gap between intention and action?
The psychological processes that influence this intention-action gap have been explored through the field of decision neuroscience. Neuroscientists conduct experiments using tools such as fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to explore the activation of different brain regions. Certain regions of the brain are activated when a customer makes purchasing decisions. Michael Smith,Principal Scientist at Adaptation Research, explained thatscientists have observed reduced activation in the reward system in the brain when consumers are viewing ‘green’ ads, suggesting that — because consumers are not aware of the psychological factors at play in decision-making, the best way to capture these processes is to use measures that don’t rely on a conscious response, such as reaction time measures, eye tracking or “fast” choice tasks. By coupling these with more traditional market research methods, such as surveys, we can paint a fuller picture of the rational and irrational components in the product-purchasing process.
In addition, Manuel Garcia, SVP at Ipsos, explained that emotional intensity during the purchasing process can be monitored through physiological methods, including electroencephelogram (EEG), which measures brain waves; or galvanic skin response (GSR), which measures the amount of sweat conductance on the skin. These studies have indicated that ‘green’ consumer decision-making involves a high degree of emotional processing.
Matthew Tullman, co-founder and CEO of Merchant Mechanics, then described a recent study that used a combination of eye tracking, biometrics, and EEG to explore the effect of food cues on consumer choices. The study first measured consumer responses to a variety of brands, creating a hierarchy of brand perceptions that ranged from “healthy” to “unhealthy.” Healthy and unhealthy brands were then paired with healthy or unhealthy foods and displayed to the consumer — for example, a McDonald’s salad represents an unhealthy brand selling a healthy food.
The study revealed two phenomena — the halo effect, where people believe that the unhealthy foods marketed by healthy brands are better for them; and the horns effect, where consumers believe that the healthy products sold by unhealthy brands are more harmful to health. The study has implications for the obesity crisis, as consumers may be purchasing high-calorie foods from “healthy” brands without realizing that they have made an unhealthy choice. It is also possible that these two phenomena could also be at play in consumer perceptions of “sustainable” and “unsustainable” brands.
Among the latest wins for ‘good finance,’ Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM) launched an exchange-traded fund (ETF) tied to measurements of “just” business behavior; utility company CMS Energy has become the first U.S. company to enter a sustainability-linked loan; and six Danish pension funds partnered with the Danish State to establish a new DKK 4.1 billion Danish SDG Investment Fund.
GSAM’s newly launched ETF is intended to track the JUST U.S. Large Cap Diversified Index (the Index) constructed by JUST Capital, an independent non-profit that uses data and markets to promote positive change in corporate behavior. To create its rankings and the Index, JUST Capital conducts an annual survey of the American public and then analyzes 120,000 data points across 85 unique metrics to score companies based on how they perform on the key issues prioritized by the public.
The Index is designed to provide the broad market exposure of the Russell 1000 Index, while featuring only companies with above-average scores across all major social, environmental, and governance issues critical to the American people. Historically, companies in the Index on average pay better, create more jobs, pay fewer fines, give twice as much to charity, emit less greenhouse gas, and have higher return on equity, compared with the rest of the Russell 1000.
“JUST Capital’s association with GSAM is grounded in a shared belief that capitalism should be a positive force for change and that its future will be driven by a new definition of corporate success that is aligned with the values and priorities of the public,” said Paul Tudor Jones, co-Founder and Chairman of JUST Capital. “We have the unique opportunity to help shift resources toward companies driving change on the country’s most intractable social, environmental, and economic problems.”
The new ETF, called JUST, aims to provide broad exposure to U.S. large cap equities, with a focus on companies that demonstrate just business behavior. It joins over $8 billion in other assets under management by GSAM in ETFs.
Meanwhile, CMS Energy and its primary subsidiary, Consumers Energy (collectively "CMS"), have entered the first syndicated sustainability-linked revolving credit facilities for a U.S. borrower. The Michigan-based utility company will be able to reduce its interest rate on an aggregate $1.4 billion of new credit facilities by meeting targets related to environmental sustainability, specifically renewable energy generation.
Barclays, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, J.P. Morgan, MUFG and Mizuho acted as Joint Lead Arrangers for the facilities, while Barclays acted as Sustainability Structuring Agent.
“We are excited to be a trendsetter in the United States entering an innovative credit facility, where sustainability and financial results go hand-in-hand,” said Patti Poppe, president and CEO of CMS Energy. “Our company has a proud history of leaving it better than we found it, and we are confident that our new clean energy goals will support our commitment to deliver consistent, industry-leading financial performance.”
Among the company’s clean energy goals for 2040, CMS aims to use zero coal-generated electricity, reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent, and meet a renewable energy goal of more than 40 percent.
Late last week, six pension funds – PensionDanmark, PKA, PFA, ATP, JØP/DIP and PenSam – together with IFUsigned an agreement to establish the Danish SDG Investment Fund, which is part of the Danish contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The public-private partnership has a current capital commitment of DKK 4.1 billion and is expected to contribute to investments worth approximately DKK 30 billion in developing countries.
At the time of publishing, these amounts are equivalent to roughly US$649 million and US$4.75 billion, respectively.
The fund is seen as an innovative solution to increase private investments in developing countries. While IFU and the Danish State are contributing DKK 1.65 billion, the six pension funds are contributing a combined total of DKK 2.4 billion and a private investor is contributing DKK 80 million. ATP, which manages about US$120 billion in assets, predicts it will make about 10-12 percent on its investment in the fund. ATP CEO Christian Hyldahl added that risks will be limited because of the government’s involvement.
“This is a market in growth and there will be many opportunities, also in emerging markets countries,’’ Hyldahl said. “So we expect that these investments will make up an increasingly larger part of our portfolio.’’
The Danish SDG Investment Fund will invest equity in companies in Africa, Asia, Latin America and parts of Europe. Investments will be made in cooperation with Danish companies, which have strong competencies, knowledge and technologies within several strategic sectors that support the realisation of the development goals. The fund will be operated on commercial terms and will ensure a competitive return to its investors.
“The new fund is a good example how to mobilize private capital in a large scale to fund the investments needed to fulfill the Global Goals,” said PensionDanmark CEO Torben Möger Pedersen. “This initiative is underlining, that the best development aid is sustainable business.”
We spoke with Josh Morton, Team Lead of Corporate Communications, to learn more about Nestlé’s latest efforts to Create Shared Value in the U.S. and incorporate purpose into its operations.
How is Nestlé living up to its responsibilities as a leading nutrition, health and wellness company?
Josh Morton: For us, our consumers come first. That’s why we set big commitments and objectives to make our portfolio even healthier and tastier, inspire our consumers to lead healthier lives, and deepen and share our understanding of nutrition science. In fact, just last month, we launched our new initiative, Nestlé for Healthier Kids, that brings together all of our efforts that support parents and caregivers in raising healthy kids. Our ambition is to help 50 million children worldwide live healthier lives by 2030. One of the ways we’re bringing this to life specifically in the U.S. is through a partnership with Rutgers University-Newark and the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance on a program called Start Healthy, Stay Healthy. The program provides families with evidence-based education to help them establish and maintain good nutritional habits for their children. Families who complete the curriculum also have an opportunity to become mentors to other families entering the program.
Nestlé has been active on a lot of sustainability fronts — which areas of focus are of highest priority? And which present the biggest challenges for Nestlé?
JM: We organize our Creating Shared Value priorities into three key pillars: individuals and families, our communities, and our planet. These three pillars have equal weight in terms of our overarching priorities and global ambitions. There’s a lot happening, without a doubt, but there are two things I think are important to highlight:
Earlier this year, we announced a 15-year power purchase agreement with EDP Renewables, a global leader in renewable energy and one of the world's largest wind energy producers, that will provide approximately 80 percent of the electricity load for five Nestlé facilities in southeastern Pennsylvania. The agreement is a major step forward for our ambition to procure 100 percent of our electricity from renewable sources.
We have a deep commitment to protect shared water resources and to community stewardship. That’s why we’re proud that in March, we announced that all five of our factories in California are now certified to the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Standard, the most rigorous standard of its kind in the world. Recent auditing as part of that certification process of our California factories revealed a combined savings of more than 54 million gallons of water between 2016 and 2017.
How is Nestlé cultivating a culture of purpose within the company (and beyond)?
JM: We want to integrate purpose in every level of our business — to think about the long-term impacts our business decisions have on individuals, communities, our planet and society at large. We are operating in a world where our success is inextricably linked to the success of our communities. At the end of the day, our employees are members of the communities in which we live and operate; our consumers are our employees and their kids and grandkids. Our business decisions are intertwined with thriving communities, so purpose is not something we take lightly or think of as an ‘add on’ to our everyday business.
What did attendees experience at the Nestlé booth in the Good Food Pavilion at SB’18 Vancouver?
JM: We had a special treat this year for the attendees. They were able to have an impactful experience with our Häagen-Dazs brand: a Virtual Reality film that takes the viewer through a day in the life of a honey bee. Honey bees continue to be at risk, as one-third of the world’s food supply (including many ingredients in our ice cream) depends on pollination, and many species are experiencing a significant population decline. Häagen-Dazs has been working for a decade now on pollinator research, consumer education and working with partners and suppliers on pollinator-friendly farming practices. The immersive VR experience made the plight of the honey bee real, and we hope attendees came away from viewing the film having learned something new in an interesting way. Additionally, I hope many attendees stopped by the booth to sample some of our bee-dependent ice cream flavors to help us celebrate 10 years supporting pollinator habitats.
On Thursday, June 14th, I will be with my closest family at Buckingham Palace proudly receiving my OBE. For those outside the UK, this may not mean much (unless you’ve been watching “The Crown”), but the award is a public recognition of doing something useful — in my case, for services to sustainability.
CEO Sally Uren awarded an OBE - YouTube
This is obviously a wonderful thing to happen, and as I tweeted when the New Years’ Honours List was published, it makes me feel proud and humble all at once. However, the reason I am most pleased is that the award is an important recognition of the wider sustainability movement.
Having worked for over 25 years to drive sustainable development with businesses, NGOs and governments, I’ve seen us accomplish a lot over the last two decades.
We’ve seen sustainability move from the periphery of business to the centre. It’s become incorporated into mainstream brands, and we’ve witnessed the successful emergence of brands with a purpose (for example, the continued success of Unilever’s sustainable living brands, growing 50 percent faster than the other brands in its portfolio). There are also the wonderful Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have caught the imagination of business, governments and civil society alike. Finally, we can see properly designed and properly financed multi-stakeholder collaborations such as Cotton 2040 and The Protein Challenge 2040, which bring together actors from the private, public and third sectors to solve complex sustainability challenges. And a circular economy is no longer an illustration on a PowerPoint slide; it’s beginning to happen.
This is all good stuff. But it isn’t enough. We are at a turning point right now when it comes to most of our pressing challenges. There is one future scenario where we are able to continue to scale a circular economy, adopt the principles of being Net Positive (restorative, systemic, material and transparent), innovate new business models, engage the energy and passion of all of us as individuals, and create a sustainable future.
Equally, there is a scenario where we continue to see the splintering of the global coherence so necessary for some of the most important policy interventions needed for a sustainable future; where we pursue growth at any cost, where we literally run out of stuff, and where we fail to listen to those wanting a different way of doing things and have lost trust in the institutions that were once expected to help create a safe and equitable world.
Never before has it been more critical to accelerate the pace of positive change. While the challenges that we face today in 2018 are more complicated than they were before, the approach we need hasn’t really changed. ‘Business as usual’ — for companies, for governments, for trusts and foundations, for civil society — just won’t deliver the SDGs. Nothing short of transformational change will do this.
This means taking a systems lens. We’ve already tackled a lot of the easy stuff. The next wave of sustainability is about driving systemic change — change that is long lasting and that allows the emergence of new patterns, new ways of doing things, new ways of operating that all underpin the emergence of sustainable systems to replace the broken ones we have today.
Systems — be they organisations, societal structures, industrial sectors or natural ecosystems — are changing and shifting all the time. How might we harness this dynamism to direct it to deliver sustainable outcomes?
Firstly, we need to accept that the world is messy and complicated, and interconnected in often inconvenient ways. Individual organisations need to look way beyond the boundaries of their direct impacts and direct influence, and try and understand how they can shape the system around them to create positive change.
For a business, this means understanding the critical links between your core business and the world around you. For example, those in the agriculture and food systems need to build a sustainable food system, one that that will assure security of supply not just today, but tomorrow. For consumer goods businesses, how might you build the infrastructure that will allow your products to enter a closed-loop system? Continuing to take limited responsibility for what happens after the point of sale will get harder and harder as governments look to business to deliver economic growth without massive waste and pollution impacts.
For trusts and foundations, how might your risk-tolerant, patient capital help build the enabling societal and economic structures that can underpin the transition to a sustainable world? For governments, how might your policy instruments deliver catalytic change, as opposed to change of the short-term incremental type? For civil society, how might we use our voice, our purchasing power to reward the heroes striving for a sustainable future, as opposed to not really thinking about who has made our stuff?
As individuals, we need to have a clear vision of the change we are trying to create and a good understanding of how that change might happen. We need to be prepared to learn and flex our approach and understand how different approaches can be synergistic, not create friction and work against each other. We need passion — and to accept that no one has all the right answers — which in turns requires all of us to be just a little more humble.
Yes, I am proud to be receiving my OBE and I’ve now got quite a bit of experience, which helps me stop repeating the same mistakes again and again, but mistakes are still made. And that’s how we learn and become better change agents. But none of us working alone will get us to where we need to be. We need pioneers and leaders, organisations and individuals, from all sectors, from all geographies, from all ages to work together to create the future we want.
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