Why Should Brands Take Stands? Business Leaders Weigh In

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(Image: Storied management strategist Mona Amodeo (left) and other thought leaders discuss why brands take stands at the 2019 3BL Forum.)  

Gone are the days when companies and their executives can stay silent about the defining issues of the day. Nearly two-thirds of global consumers want companies to take a stand on social issues, and 56 percent say they have “no respect” for CEOs who stay silent, according to research from Edelman. 

The shift in public expectations is clear. Still, after decades of staying out of the fray for fear of offending potential customers, many in the business world are unsure of how and when to make their voices heard. 

At the 2019 3BL Forum, more than 90 speakers on the main stage—from executives of major multinationals, to founders of purpose-driven startups, to researchers well-versed in the latest consumer trends—shared valuable insights that can help chart the way forward. 

Together, they looked to answer two simple yet loaded questions: What’s next in the brands taking stands movement—and, more importantly, why should companies get involved? Read on for the need-to-know insights shared on day two of the Forum, held at MGM National Harbor, just outside Washington, D.C. 

To be effective, executives need a purpose beyond profit

According to Edelman's data, 84 percent of people now expect CEOs to "inform conversations and policy debates" on pressing societal issues. In order to do this successfully, they must first understand why their companies exist beyond the bottom line, says Mona Amodeo, founder of the brand transformation firm idgroup and author of “Beyond Sizzle: The Next Evolution of Branding.”

"Organizations must believe they have a deep social contract with society, and that’s not something that you wake up one morning and decide," she said at the 3BL Forum. "It’s really an internal truth. It’s about looking deep inside one’s self and asking: What do I believe my company’s responsibility is? What do we give, and what do we take? And with that comes the ability, as a leader, to be an advocate and a storyteller about the core values of an organization—to talk about it, to preach about it, to believe in it and to engage others in it."

Today's employees want action, not words 

How many times have you heard business leaders squabble about what to call their purpose activations? Are they ESG? CSR? Sustainability? Put all of those annoying think pieces aside, because really, the semantics don't matter—and even further, they can hold you back, says Barie Carmichael, senior advisor of the strategic communications consultancy APCO Worldwide. 

"Sometimes definitions get in the way of actual actions," she said on Wednesday. "People are so worried about whether it’s an S or a G or an E. At the end of the day, the authentic content for a company are its actions—not its pledges. What you do is the proof, particularly for the younger generation. And the people who will call you on it if you get it wrong are largely your own employees." 

Trusted companies will "win the talent war" 

In today's tight labor market, the battle is on to recruit, retain and engage top talent—and the brands that are willing to get real will be the ones to win the day, says Bryan de Lottinvile, founder and CEO of the corporate responsibility and employee engagement software provider Benevity. 

"The trust piece is both an opportunity and an expectation, which we often call a 'problem-tunity.' But the companies that get it right and have an authentic program that is inclusive and a culture that is compelling to the diverse demographics in the workforce, they will win," de Lottinvile said. "They will win the talent war. They will win the brand war, both with employees and consumers. And our data is proving that out."

Young people want to see brands take stands—and they want to get involved 

Meredith Ferguson and DoSomething Strategic, the social impact consulting arm of DoSomething.org, have their fingers on the pulse of the younger generation, what they're looking for and what engages them. We already know these young people prefer brands that take stands, but that's only the beginning—what they really crave is a way to get involved. "What young people are looking for is to be a part," said Ferguson, managing director of DoSomething Strategic and one of the most powerful voices for youth and social impact. 

"So many business people think they have to push out what they stand for and their cause platform. And yes, you should absolutely do that—you need to talk about it consistently and everywhere. But the easiest way to make an impact on a consumer and an employee is to invite them to be a part," she continued. "They’re few and far between right now, but brands that do this are building a loyalty based on shared values—not on price point, not on new product releases, just on shared values. And what an opportunity that presents to build a community of like-minded individuals who will be loyal for the long term."

A new age of accountability is coming

If you think it's hard to hide from criticism now, you're in for a rude awakening in the near future, says Peter Kozodoy, author of the forthcoming book, “Honest to Greatness: How Today’s Greatest Leaders Use Brutal Honesty to Achieve Massive Success.”

"Do we all really think we’re not going to approach a time when we can ask Siri, 'Is that CEO full of sh*t?'" he asked rhetorically, to a chorus of laughter, on day two of the Forum. "The last thing I want to see is a company showing me their sustainability report. That’s great, but so what? Carrying honesty throughout the organization, not just in a sustainability report, will create a company that smashes the competition in their industry." 

Investors want to know about your environmental, social and governance (ESG) data... seriously

For decades, most companies assumed that investors, customers and other stakeholders weren't interested in ESG. And for most of that time, they were probably right. But no longer, says Megan Fielding, senior director of responsible investing for U.S. asset manager Nuveen.

"ESG matters. It matters to investors. It matters to your stakeholders. It matters to all of us," she said at the 3BL Forum. "Years ago, it had this reputation of being a nice-to-have. Or companies reframed content they already had and created a template to share with investors and check the box, saying they had ESG information available. But today, it really matters. It’s financially material to your company and to the work you do. And from an investor’s perspective, it's a critical component of how we’re evaluating companies when we purchase for the long term." 

In case you missed it: Click here to follow our coverage of the 2019 3BL Forum: Brands Taking Stands—What's Next.

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3BL Forum: New Report Shows Gen Z Is Ready to Change the World

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Watch out, Gen Xers and millennials. Generation Z is ready to change the world.

According to the 2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Gen Z Purpose Study, discussed at this week’s 3BL Forum, Gen Zers believe they are the key to pushing forward on the world’s top social and environmental issues, from climate change to gun control. 

The study, surveying Americans ages 14 to 22, examined this emerging generation’s expectations of and attitudes toward company involvement in social and environmental issues—and the actions they are willing to take to positively impact topics they care about.

Nearly 90 percent of Gen Zers are worried about the environment and the planet, while the same amount are inspired when their peers like Emma González and Greta Thunberg take stands on issues, Whitney Dailey, vice president of marketing, research and insights at Porter Novelli/Cone, shared during the Forum. 

Gen Z wants to align with purpose-driven companies

While Gen Zers feel personally responsible to make a difference, the vast majority (90 percent) also believe companies must take action to help social and environmental issues. In fact, more than 90 percent say if a company makes a commitment, it should have the appropriate programs and policies in place to back up that commitment. And there’s no hiding from these digital natives: Three-quarters say they’ll do research to see if a company is being honest when it takes a stand. (Purpose-washers, beware!) 

Companies that demonstrate authentic purpose to this astute demographic will be rewarded, as Gen Zers use purpose as a core filter in deciding which companies to associate with, Dailey said. The reports data suggest that 83 percent consider a company’s purpose when deciding where to work, and nearly three-quarters factor in a company’s purpose when shopping.

“In the ever-increasing war for budding talent, companies must understand that purpose is a strong filter for Generation Z,” Alison DaSilva, executive vice president of purpose and CSR for Porter Novelli/Cone, told the 300-plus attendees at 3BL Forum this week. “Gen Zers are not willing to check their values at the workplace door, so companies need to clearly communicate how they are making an impact to appeal to this driven but discerning generation.”

Gen Zers are also willing to roll up their sleeves and participate. Around three-quarters stand ready to support companies that care in a variety of ways, including: sharing their positive opinion about a company doing good (85 percent), buying a product with a social or environmental benefit (84 percent) and learning what they can do to make a difference (also 84 percent).

Timberland campaign seeks engagement with Gen Z

Timberland is one company counting on Gen Z to help it change the world. The outdoor outfitter recently launched its Nature Needs Heroes campaign to inspire a greening movement among consumers.

“Our heroes are a community of open-minded and multi-generational ‘changemakers,’ people who devote their talents to making a difference, committed together to building a better future for the environment and the people who live in it," the company explains on its website. "We’ll lead this charge with action and doing, not just talk.”

“The campaign is a call-to-action to engage people in small, everyday actions that make a difference and help forward a greener world,” Atlanta McIlwraith, senior manager of community engagement and communication at Timberland, shared during 3BL Forum. "The small actions add up, and as many people do small actions, you get a movement—and it is movements that change the world."

McIlwraith believes that Gen Zers want companies to market with them, not at them.

Timberland’s campaign allows consumers to join in through interactive booths in high-traffic urban centers. Once inside, consumes can learn about the campaign and make a pledge on how they will live life a little greener. The company is also hosting outdoor service events throughout the United States where its “heroes”—such as musician Loyle Carner, author and YouTube host Summer Rayne Oakes, and urban gardener Keven Espiritujoin Timberland employees and consumers to revitalize green spaces.

We are finding that [Gen Zers] are really excited to learn about what we are doing to support the environment; this resonates with them,” said McIlwraith, who sees Gen Zers sharing information about the events and eco tips from the campaign’s website with their own networks.

Perhaps Gen Z’s involvement and passion about taking action to save the environment is not surprising. After all, some are even calling for Generation Z to be renamed  “Generation GND,” an homage to the youth activists’ commitment to making the Green New Deal a reality.

“People call my generation ‘Generation Z,’ as if we are the last generation, but we are not,” teen climate activist Jamie Margolin said in a hearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Select Committee on the Climate Crisis in August.

And that is good to hear.

Image credit: David Sager/Unsplash

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Loop CEO: Zero-Waste Shopping Service Continues to Grow

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It’s been nine months since the startup Loop, brainchild of TerraCycle founder and CEO Tom Szaky, took the world by storm with its zero-waste circular delivery service. If you’re like us at TriplePundit, you’re probably wondering how it is doing as it nears the one-year mark.

While the company does not disclose its total number of subscribers, Szaky gave a candid update at last week’s Bloomberg Sustainable Business Summit in New York.  

Adding one brand per day

First announced at the World Economic Forum in January, Loop made its initial start with pilots in metro New York and Paris. Ever since, Szaky says, business has been quickly growing.

Today, Loop is available in select areas in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland and Washington, D.C. It is in the process of expanding throughout the United States, as well as the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and Japan, Szaky said. And with comments such as “When is Loop coming to Illinois….I can’t wait!” sprinkled across Loop’s Instagram account, it seems expansion can’t come soon enough for many.

Loop’s value proposition is enabling the consumer “to responsibly consume a variety of commonly used products from leading consumer brands in customized, brand-specific durable packaging delivered in a specially designed reusable shipping tote.” When finished with the product, the packaging is collected, cleaned, refilled and reused. There are no monthly membership fees or subscriptions, although customers do pay a refundable one-time deposit to borrow the reusable container.

“Loop will not just eliminate the idea of packaging waste, but greatly improve the product experience and shopping convenience,” Szaky said at the launch.

The initial coalition included 28 partners such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever, PepsiCo, Mondelez International, Nestlé, Danone and UPS.  Today, the list has grown to 42 partners selling brands such as Häagen-Dazs, Tide, Tropicana and Colgate.

Essential to Loop’s success is its ability to offer consumers the same choice they would find in brick-and-mortar retail stores, and the Loop management team knew that quickly scaling up offerings was key. According to Szaky, Loop is now adding approximately one new brand per day.

The brands themselves seem to be having fun with new packaging design, such as Procter & Gamble, whose ProPantene shampoo and conditioner containers are emblazoned with “I Reuse….I Love the Oceans.”

Shoppers love ice cream from Loop, but not for the reason expected

While the products do come shipped in reusable Loop containers, critics on social media have pointed out that some of the products that Loop sells—including detergent pods and wipes—contain plastic that is not recyclable. But it turns out that this may not be relevant to the majority of Loop consumers: Only a third of Loop subscribers joined the service based on sustainability concerns, Szaky said; the majority claim to have joined because of the model itself, including its convenience, something that even Szaky found surprising—and, it seems, a little frustrating given his zero-waste zeal.

To date, the company says beverages in glass bottles such as Evian and Tropicana have been among the top-selling products among Loop subscribers in France. In the United States, top sellers include Clorox wipes, Cascade dishwasher detergent tabs, Pantene shampoo and Häagen-Dazs ice cream. 

A few habits that throw this circular economy model for a loop

Another interesting learning that Szaky shared was that while Loop customers want similar prices for products they would buy in traditional stores, they have not been price sensitive to the deposit fees.

“It’s exciting that consumers are willing to temporarily invest in the reusable containers,” he remarked. While temporary, the cost of the containers, in some cases, are not inexpensive. Take two of the top-selling products: The container for Clorox Wipes requires a $10 deposit, while the deposit for the Häagen-Dazs ice cream container is $5.

Only time will tell if the model will continue to be successful, especially as more and more companies, from Unilever to Nestlé, pledge to reduce their use of plastic packaging in the next 10 to 20 years. For now, however, this service seems to be a model in high demand.

Image credit: Loop/Facebook

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What’s Next For the Brands Taking Stands Movement? 10 Insights From Business Leaders

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(Image: Emcees Catherine Hernandez-Blades of Aflac and Mark Shamley of Tupperware lead the discussion surrounding what's next in the brands taking stands movement at the 2019 3BL Forum.) 

In response to increasing consumer pressure, the wave of corporate, executive and employee activism shows no signs of slowing. Seventy percent of U.S. consumers now say they want to know what brands are doing to address social and environmental issues, according to market research published this month.

But speaking out on defining—and some might say contentious—issues is still uncharted territory for many brands and their executives. In a 2018 study, Deloitte interviewed the CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies, and many expressed uncertainty about how and when to take a public stance. 

The 2019 3BL Forum brought together leaders from purpose-driven startups to major multinationals to discuss what’s next in the brands taking stands movement—and their perspectives can help light the way forward for the uninitiated. 

Read on for the need-to-know insights shared on day one of the Forum, held at the MGM National Harbor, just outside Washington, D.C. 

1. Expectations will continue to increase.

"Each of the individual crises we face—from ocean acidification, to loss of biodiversity, to climate change—are extraordinary in their own right. Together, it’s a seismic shift in the reality we have to operate in," said Simon Mainwaring, founder and CEO of We First. "That future is hurdling toward us, and the expectations on brands, employees, consumers and partners are shifting. We don’t have the luxury of iterating on our own time. The expectation on companies is going to increase exponentially. You'll either rise to meet it, or your social license to operate will be revoked." 

2. To communicate purpose effectively, companies have to live it before they share it.

"It’s critical to communicate, but you have to be authentic. Companies are so quick to jump onto the moment: ‘Hey, it’s International Women’s Day, let’s do a campaign.’ But that's purpose-washing. That shouldn’t be the norm," said Alison DaSilva, EVP of purpose for Porter Novelli/Cone. "You have to take a step back and ask some basic questions: Why do you exist? How are you walking the talk? What are you really doing about equality? It’s important to balance living your purpose with telling your purpose." 

3. The time for small steps is over.

"We have to change the way we talk, think and act as sustainability people, because we don't have the time," said Kip Cleverley, VP of global sustainability for International Flavors and Fragrances. "We have to cap global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. We are in a climate emergency. It's no longer about little steps."

4. It's not about sales.

"We don’t do what we do to sell more ice cream. The minute you pursue social or political action to sell more product, you doom it to fail," said Matthew McCarthy, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s. Still, he noted, “Getting criticized is a big part of it. It’s a barometer for success. If I’m not being criticized, I’m probably not pushing hard enough.”

5. Customers want to get involved—and companies need to let them.

"Remember, you have other people who you have to pull with you. You can’t just decide that you want to do this and think people will come running," advised Eileen Boone, EVP of corporate social responsibility for CVS Health. "It’s really a collaboration, particularly for consumer-facing businesses. Those consumers have to be part of the solution. You have to make sure you understand their point of view and give them opportunities to be involved." 

6. We still can't drive impact without the business case.

"We all have to be business leaders first or we’re doing a disservice to our stakeholders," noted Catherine Hernandez-Blades, SVP, chief ESG and communications officer for Aflac. "The materiality piece and making the business case will do more to get us those resources and get us the attention we need to be able to make a difference." 

7. A one-time stance is not enough.  

"Being courageous means taking a long-term stand rather than short-term actions," insisted Tim McClimon, SVP of American Express and president of the American Express Foundation. "Signing a letter or a petition is great, but corporations need to take the long view and make long-term commitments." 

8. Your legacy is tied to your impact.

"No one will know your story unless you tell them. No one will care about your story unless you make it relevant. And no one will remember your story unless you make an impact," said Andy DiOrio, PR and social media director of corporate reputation for Hallmark Cards. 

9. It's past time for companies to get serious about their cultures. 

"Culture is not something we just speak about. It’s something you need to create. It takes work, and it is difficult," said Leslie Short, CEO and founder of the Cavu Group. "You just can’t hire a diversity and inclusion person, give them a title and check that box. That’s unacceptable. It’s time to stop checking boxes. If you say you’re doing the work, do the work—or stop speaking about it. Doing the work means bringing people who don’t look like you, sound like you or even walk like you along with you. It is past time for us to grow and to change and to build internal culture."

10. The future belongs to those who don't fear failure. 

"We call failure the first attempt in learning," said Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. "We teach our girls that it’s okay to fail. That’s how you learn. It’s so important to how you get to the next level. In the same way, it presents such an opportunity when you have the mindset in an organization that you want innovation, you want a sense of urgency, and you want employees who are go-getters and take risks."

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Global Fragrance Company IFF Uses Uncommon Sense to Tackle Common Challenges

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Is it possible for a fragrance to solve the world’s greatest challenges? According to Kip Cleverley, vice president of global sustainability at International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), it is.

Speaking during the first day of 3BL Forum, Cleverley shared his company’s pursuit to focus not simply on doing less bad – for example, by reducing water use, something they have done – but by doing more good.  “Our vision is all about driving transformational change by developing products that are truly circular and do no harm,” he shared.

Find like-minded partners who share your vision

Enter Michele Pfeiffer. Yes, the actress known for her roles in such movies as Bat Man and Married to the Mob. It turns out that Pfieiffer is also an ardent environmentalist who sits on the board of the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG), dedicated to improving human health and the environment. After struggling to find a fragrance that she could feel good about wearing, both for the safety of the ingredients and the scents themselves, she decided to create a line of her own called Henry Rose named after her two grown children.

She approached companies, including IFF, with the challenge of producing the first EWG-verified and Cradle to Cradle-certified fragrance. IFF, arguably one of the world’s leading innovators of taste, scent, nutrition and ingredients – took up the challenge, beating out the competition.

With that, Cleverley said, the real work began. Under the EWG criteria, IFF’s perfumers were limited to a palette of roughly 300 ingredients, compared with the typical 3,000. In addition, every single ingredient had to be disclosed in order to receive verification. IFF also had to abide by Cradle to Cradle’s five quality categories: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness practices.

Cleverley boiled down the process for others, outlining a few core steps: “You start by getting rid of anything in your product that does harm. Next, make sure your ingredients are plant-based, and that your suppliers are employing sustainable farming practices,” he said. “Then, you manufacture your product using 100 percent renewable energy. Finally, you ensure your product is biodegradable.”

“It’s actually not that hard,” he quipped.

 Voila. After five years of work,  IFF had created a truly circular fragrance for Pfeifer – in fact, five distinct scents for the Henry Rose line that debuted online this spring. According to the company, the fragrances are the first to receive the distinction of EWG Verified and Cradle to Cradle Certified at the gold level, with a material health score of platinum.

IFF challenges employees to be bold

The Henry Rose line is just one example of how IFF is working to do more good through its core product line as part of its new corporate purpose and brand identity rolled out earlier this year.

Based on the theme “Uncommon Sense,” the new brand image encourages IFF customers and employees “to reject convention in favor of delivering what the world needs” and “to create a culture where ideas and possibilities flow.”

“This is the type of approach that has led to some of the biggest dreams and greatest inventions of our world,” said Andreas Fibig, IFF Chairman & CEO, announcing the company’s new brand. “These are the ideas that have allowed us to fly, that have sent humans to the moon; that let us dream of living on Mars. Uncommon sense opens the door for us to make the impossible, possible.”

And hopefully consumers will think it smells good, too.

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3BL Forum: 2019 Responsible CEO of the Year Award Winners Embody Sustainable Leadership

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Tonight, we’re live from MGM National Harbor, where we have just given out Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s 2019 Responsible CEO of the Year and Lifetime Achievement awards during this year’s 3BL Forum: Brands Taking Stands – What’s Next.

We give these awards to corporate executives who exemplify bold and innovative leadership as they continue to deliver on their companies’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments; this year’s finalists, of course, are no exception.

Tonight’s recipients of the 2019 Responsible CEO of the Year and Lifetime Achievement awards are:

  • Responsible CEO of the Year: ESG Leadership: Jeff Eckel (shown above), Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Hannon Armstrong
  • Responsible CEO of the Year: Nonprofit Organization: Sylvia Acevedo, Chief Executive Officer, Girl Scouts of the USA
  • Responsible CEO of the Year: Brands Taking Stands Leadership: Brad MacAfee, Chief Executive Officer and Senior Partner, Porter Novelli 
  • Responsible CEO of the Year: Public Company: Hans Vestberg, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Verizon
  • Lifetime Achievement: David Taylor, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Procter & Gamble

By minimizing each of their company’s environmental footprint, ensuring more sustainable operations and supply chains, embracing diversity and inclusion into the fabric of their companies’ culture or ushering in a new wave of female leaders, the finalists for 2019 have been instrumental in defining future-thinking leadership at a time when it is needed most.

“Congratulations to our awardees—we know they will continue to be forces for good by championing a strong environmental, social and governance agenda,” said Dave Armon, CEO of 3BL Media and publisher of CR Magazine. “We applaud the personal commitment by this year’s CEOs for embedding ESG at the very center of their businesses and for the impact they are having as exceptional leaders.”

Within this ESG community, there is no shortage of awards and recognition programs; being recognized as a Responsible CEO, however, is especially meaningful as our judging panel is made of past recipients of Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s Responsible CEO of the Year Award.

Image credit: Hannon Armstrong Communications

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Field to Market: Providing Farmers with Economic Security

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This summer, over 100 scientists sent the world a dire warning: The rise in global temperatures, linked to increasing pressure on fertile soil, risks jeopardizing global food security. 

The warning came from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as part of its annual report on climate change and agriculture.

“Food security will be increasingly affected by future climate change through yield declines, increased prices, reduced nutrient quality and supply chain disruptions,” said Priyadarshi Shukla, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III, which focuses on climate mitigation.

But all is not lost. The IPCC  offered a potential roadmap out of the pending doomsday scenario: the scaling up of new, more efficient, and sustainable agriculture technologies and methods. 

For the food and beverage sector, the report and its recommendations came as no surprise. Industry leaders have been keenly aware of the impact climate change could have on the supply of the raw ingredients they need. Not only are food and beverage brands working feverishly to avoid being seen as part of the problem, but they are also looking to be part of the solution. 

Bringing companies together for change 

It’s not hard to find case studies of food and beverage companies shifting to more responsible land use for farming. Mars’ Sustainable in a Generation Plan and Unilever’s Sustainable Living plan, for example, are pushing sustainable agriculture forward. In addition, General Mills and Kellogg Co. made commitments to responsibly source priority ingredients like corn, wheat, cocoa and palm oil by the end of next year. 

While these programs help companies move in the right direction, the enormity of the challenge is far too great for any one company to tackle without like-minded partners.

That’s where Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture steps in. The Alliance links together leading companies with grower organizations, academia, conservation groups, and public-sector partners to create more productive and profitable opportunities across the agricultural value chain. 

“When we were founded in 2006, some thought the idea that rivals could collaborate pre-competitively to create better outcomes for agriculture and the environment sounded too good to be true,” Betsy Hickman, vice president of stakeholder engagement and implementation at Field to Market, told CR Magazine. 

Over the past 13 years, Field to Market has proved the naysayers wrong. Examples include the group’s work with Unilever and PepsiCo, which utilize Field to Market projects to meet their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability source raw materials. 

Repairing and revitalizing Iowa farmland

Field to Market has a long history of supporting Unilever’s work with soybean farmers in Iowa who produce the oil used in Hellmann's mayonnaise. By encouraging farmers to adopt the sustainable practice of cover crops, the partners hope to improve soil health and water quality in Iowa, where nearly 90 percent of land is devoted to agriculture. 

Used by farmers for centuries, cover crops reduce nutrient losses to the environment by protecting the soil surface from runoff and erosion. The practice keeps nutrients like nitrogen within the soil—reducing the need for fertilizers, improving long-term soil health, and preventing unwanted runoff from reaching local water sources.

More than 150 farmers signed up for the project in its first year, including many who raise corn, a key ingredient for PepsiCo. With some matchmaking by Field to Market, Unilever and PepsiCo teamed up to fund Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI), a local nonprofit, to educate farmers about the benefits of cover crops while offering technical assistance to successfully implement this new practice.

How Field to Market makes the business case for soil health

For many farmers, investing in soil health improvements for the first time can be risky, as there’s no guarantee it will pay off economically. To help remove the risk, last fall PepsiCo and Unilever compensated 127 corn and soybean farmers for together growing over 20,000 acres of cover crop. Both companies will pay these farmers to grow cover crops through 2025. 

“What is truly exciting about this approach is that it goes beyond measurement to deliver impact by focusing on supporting behavior change in farmers,” Hickman said. And she predicts we’ll see similar partnerships emerge across the agricultural supply chain.

“There is a competitive advantage to building a long-term, sustainable supply of the raw materials and ingredients these businesses depend upon in a hotter, scarcer and more crowded world,” Hickman added. “Rather than waiting for improvements in their supply chain to come as result of setting a sustainability target, we are seeing more and more companies roll up their sleeves to work in partnership to improve outcomes for farmers, business and the planet.” 

This article was also published in CR Magazine.

Image credit: Melissa Askew/Unsplash

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Live from National Harbor: What’s in Store for Day One of 3BL Forum

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Welcome to those of you attending 3BL Forum at MGM National Harbor! This morning’s agenda alone will kick your week along the Potomac River into high gear as we’ll headline with best-selling author and sustainability thought leader Simon Mainwaring.

Soon after, we’ll dive right into what it means to be authentic in this age of what we here at TriplePundit call “purpose-watching.” Eileen Boon of CVS—the retail chain that stood out a few years ago for ceasing tobacco sales—will join Porter Novelli/Cone’s Alison DaSilva to talk about the pluses and minuses of “purpose” . . . and why using the word “purpose” is a far cry from living it and integrating into a brand’s experience.

Later on, we’ll take a deep dive into what it means to be a progressive consumer here in the U.S. Taking the stage will be leaders from the Guardian and Morning Consult, who will talk about what it means to be “progressive” beyond voting red or blue, explore what motivates progressive consumers, and explain what this group could mean to your company.

And what does it mean to be a privately-held or family company these days? For one thing, companies including Hallmark are becoming more transparent about their impacts on the planet and people. The Kansas City-based greeting card titan will be joined by executives from family-run companies including Cathay Pacific Airways, as well as the grandson of the late Ray C. Anderson of Interface, the company that sparked the corporate sustainability discussion long ago.

And all of this is happening before 10:30 a.m.!

More will be in store later this afternoon—including thoughts on corporate activism by, who else, the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s, Matthew McCarthy. We’re also devoting quite a bit of time to second chance hiring and what it means for America’s most overlooked talent pool: people with criminal justice histories. Wait, there’s more: We’ll also be hearing from Spotify on the impact millennials and Gen Z are having on brands, the digital world and culture at large.

Once again, welcome to National Harbor, and in the event you’re staying another day or two in the D.C. area, we have a list of sustainable and outdoor ways to occupy that extra time.

Image credit of MGM National Harbor: Leon Kaye

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As Natural Disasters Become the Norm, Are Relief Agencies Ready?

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The increasing occurrence of natural disasters, from Hurricanes Irma and Maria to the California wildfires, means humanitarian relief agencies will need to cover more ground and be more nimble, while competing for precious dollars.

So, what can the disaster relief community do to keep up? Jim Alvey, senior director of disaster recovery at the nonprofit Good360, says NGOs, government agencies and the private sector must shift the way they approach humanitarian aid in the wake of repeated disasters. 

“With both the frequency and intensity of natural disasters on the rise around the globe, there’s an urgent need for a more thoughtful approach to the way we respond and help impacted communities recover,” Alvey told CR Magazine. “It’s about building resilience that will help communities bounce back more quickly when the next disaster strikes.”

“Technology alone will not prepare us for tomorrow’s disasters”

Good360 has weathered many disasters. When it first launched 35 years ago, its mission was to help companies and nonprofits respond more efficiently and effectively. No question, it has had an impact. Today, more than 400 corporate partners use Good360 to ensure that the right types of goods are distributed when and where they are most needed.

But Alvey worries there is still much more to be done. Donations often don’t reach those who need it, and a staggering 60 percent of goods donated during times of disaster ultimately go to waste. Further, 70 percent of donations occur within the first two months after a disaster, with a meager 5 percent allocated to critical long-term rebuilding and recovery.

“Technology alone will not prepare us for tomorrow’s disasters,” Alvey explained. “It is more important that we develop holistic solutions: Improved communication, collaboration, information-sharing and education will take us farther, faster.”

That means organizations focused on disaster recovery need to be far more proactive, Alvey said. From Good360’s perspective, the key is to establish relationships and partnerships before a disaster strikes.

That’s the impetus behind the Good360 Disaster Recovery Council. Established in 2016, the Council seeks to inspire better communication between NGOs and companies, so they can collectively respond when disasters strike. Members include the UPS Foundation, United Airlines, Ecolab, CVS Health, Wrangler, Amazon, TD Bank and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.  

One of the Council’s first steps was to establish the Resilient Response campaign in conjunction with the agencies Global Citizen and All Hands & Hearts–Smart Response. The campaign centers on a six-point pledge that commits companies to provide disaster assistance that addresses long-term needs, as well as resilience, disaster preparedness and mitigation. Since last year, 33 companies have taken the pledge. 

The pledge in action

For Alvey, the pledge is more than words on paper—it’s a call-to-action, and companies are responding in kind.

Earlier this year, soft drink giant Coca-Cola formed the Disaster Action Alliance in its home city of Atlanta. The coalition brings together local companies to integrate long-term resilience into their disaster recovery and engagement plans. In addition to Coke, participants include the UPS Foundation, the Home Depot Foundation, the American Red Cross and WarnerMedia. 

Another Good360 partner, Wrangler, says it’s doing its part by helping to rebuild homes, schools and community buildings long after disasters have passed, while participating in tree-planting efforts to make communities more flood resistant. 

GAF, a leading roofing manufacturer in North America, is taking on mid- and long-term recovery needs. After Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina in 2018, GAF sent 14 truckloads of ultra-durable roofing shingles—which are designed to withstand storms and hurricanes—to communities across the state. 

Importantly, the company was strategic in its giving. “Sending donations that cannot be utilized to the field in the midst of a disaster inundates nonprofits and slows down the recovery process,” Alvey explained. “GAF understood this.” 

Rather than sending donations directly to the disaster’s epicenter, trucks headed to one of Good360’s warehouse partners, where they were stored until communities were ready for them a few months later. The shingles now cover more than 100 homes. 

Finally, Airbnb—one of the first companies to sign on to Resilient Response pledge—is increasing calls for its vacation rental hosts to open up their homes for free to provide shelter for stranded residents, travelers and support workers, who often stay on the scene for months after a disaster is over. 

“Each of these companies has acted on their pledge,” Alvey told us. “But we need more.”

This article was also published in CR Magazine.

Image credit: David Mark/Pixabay

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Lyft Makes All Rides Carbon Neutral, But That’s Only the Beginning

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This article series is sponsored by 3Degrees and produced by the TriplePundit editorial team.

It’s been over a year since Lyft made all rides on its platform carbon neutral. The commitment is one of the top 10 voluntary carbon purchase projects anywhere, having offset over a million metric tons of carbon in its first year alone. But the ride-sharing giant says it’s only the start of a long-term journey to decarbonize its operations and positively influence the way transportation works in cities. 

Beyond carbon neutral rides: Offsetting is step one

Founders John Zimmer and Logan Green say they started Lyft with the intention of transforming the transportation industry for the better, starting with one of the most problematic modes of travel: personal vehicles. Before they met, Logan Green organized a carpooling program on his college campus at the University of California, Santa Barbara, while John Zimmer wondered how sharing rides could improve our lives in cities. 

Fast forward to today, and Lyft is a public company and its platform facilitates more than 1 million rides every day. But there’s a limit to how much impact ride-sharing can have on the broader transportation industry: In a major city like Los Angeles, for example, ride-sharing only accounts for 3 percent of miles traveled

“If we look out on the world today, there are a lot of emissions that come from our transportation system. In fact, it is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions [in the U.S.], even bigger than electricity,” said Sam Arons, director of sustainability at Lyft. “So we feel a moral [duty] to take responsibility for emissions and to help to move the transportation system in a direction that eventually, we believe, will be emissions-free.”

Becoming carbon neutral is the first step in that process, Arons told us. The carbon offsets chosen with the help of renewable energy and climate solutions partner 3Degrees don’t just neutralize the emissions of rides. They also magnify the impact Lyft is making on transportation and in its communities.

Over the first year of the program, a large percentage of Lyft’s investment supported projects that reduce emissions in the transportation sector, including automotive manufacturing and waste oil recycling. 

One such project with Meridian Magnesium helps to reduce the emissions associated with manufacturing auto parts. Meridian makes parts from lightweight magnesium alloys, which are stronger and lighter than traditional materials such as steel, allowing companies to build lighter, more fuel-efficient cars. Since 2001, the company has been working to cut the emissions intensity of manufacturing at its plant in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. Most recently, this effort culminated in a project to reduce sulfur hexafluoride emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas that has a global warming impact 22,800 times greater than CO2. 

The project required an upfront capital investment by Meridian, as well as a change in its manufacturing process. Though the new process cuts emissions, it is more expensive and less efficient than what Meridian used previously. Carbon offset sales from companies like Lyft are the only source of revenue for this project and allowed it to move forward. 

Make your impact bigger than yourself

Lyft already powers its offices with renewable energy. And earlier this year, the company launched a program in Seattle and Atlanta to make hundreds of electric vehicles available for drivers to rent. It also added a ‘Green Mode’ to its app in Seattle and Portland, allowing riders to request a hybrid or electric vehicle. 

Expanding the program will be challenging, though. Electric vehicle batteries are not cheap, and current government incentives and grants are designed more for individuals than for companies, Arons explained. Lyft says it is working with local, state and federal policymakers to make these programs more accessible to industries that use fleets of vehicles, because fleet vehicles can drive three to five times more miles per year than personal vehicles, and thus reduce up to five times as many emissions.

The company is also working with public transit agencies to get people on buses and trains when possible. Not to mention that Lyft is the largest bike-share operator in the U.S., powering bike-share systems in major cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston and Washington, D.C., and the company continues to invest in bikes and scooters to offer customers more low-emissions options. “At the end of the day, we have to eliminate our emissions altogether,” Arons told us.

“We’re trying to help get more people into fewer cars—or even out of cars entirely and into more appropriate modes of transportation—and reclaim cities from cars and give them back to people,” he continued. "We think that if we can help to remove the need for personal car ownership, we can start to see a reduction in the need for so many parking spaces, a reduction in the need for so many lanes. We believe that, over time, we can take these public spaces back from cars—turn those parking lots into parks, widen sidewalks and improve street life.”

Through its Lyft City Works initiative launched in March, the company committed to invest a minimum of $50 million a year (or 1 percent of profits, whichever is greater) in grassroots transportation initiatives that improve quality of life in cities. Its first investments will support civic groups in Los Angeles that focus on developing transportation infrastructure, particularly in underserved neighborhoods. 

In the meantime, though, the company expects its carbon neutrality commitment to offset more than 1 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually while supporting projects that reduce the carbon intensity of transportation. 

“In the future all vehicles will operate with clean energy. But climate change is not waiting,” founders Zimmer and Green wrote on Medium. “This action is not the full solution, but a real step forward.” 

Images courtesy of Lyft

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