Sustainable Brands Detroit 2017 Sets Out to Redefine the Good Life

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Sustainable Brands kicked off their 2017 event in downtown Detroit with a record crowd of over 2,000 attendees.  After a day filled with extended interactive workshops, the official welcome ceremony featured a who’s who of sustainability thought leaders. Koann Vikoren Skrzyniarz, Founder and CEO of Sustainable Brands, welcomed the crowd that packed the Cobo Center’s main hall. She set a somewhat sober tone for the event, citing that we live in an age of unintended consequences, and that we have clearly gotten off track in our pursuit of happiness. “Our push for productivity and efficiency has inclined us to forget how inextricably connected we are.”
But, she said, “Businesses are uniquely equipped…to help us shape our collective future.” Describing the decision to move from San Diego to Detroit, she called the actively rejuvenating Motor City, ‘a fantastic living lab.” Indeed Detroit could be the poster child for a place where the industrial age has run its course and is now ready for what comes next. Citing Harris poll data, she said that a clear shift is happening across the US in the definition of the good life.

Next, Kim Patel Ford’s VP of Sustainability spoke. Quoting her boss, Bill Ford, who she was standing in for, she said, “You can do good work for the planet and for the company.” Describing the company’s shifting commitment to mobility, she quoted Mayor Mike Dugan, who said, “Great if you have a good job, but if you can’t get there, what’s the point.” 

Cradle to Cradle originator Will McDonough made a number of terse, but punchy points.   
How do we make the world better because we are here?
Being less bad is not being good.
We need to think differently about carbon. There are three types: Fugitive carbon, Durable Carbon, and Living Carbon  We need less of the first one and more of the other two
By 2050, the weight of plastics in the ocean will be equal to the weight of all the fish.
As a roadmap for making things better he suggested five goods, to take the place of the numerous less bads.
Good Materials are safe, healthy, biological.
A Good Economy is circular, sharing, and shared
Good Energy is clean and renewable.
Good Water is clean and available.
A Good Life is creative and dignified.
What’s next is what’s now.
How much can we give for all that we get?  
Goodness is a living things.
It’s going to take forever, but that’s the point.

Nadya Zhexembayeva told us how her harrowing childhood in where 40% of the population were killed off ina forced famine, taught her that “people would rather hold onto a horrible now than leap into an unknown future.”
Companies are much the same way. Based on her analysis of company histories, life cycles, and S-curves, she said that company’s today must reinvent themselves every 3-5 years to stay viable.
The real challenge is continuity.  You need to figure out what you need to let go of, and what is uncompromisable?

Erin Meezan, CSO of Interface asked, “What’s the most important thing we can do for the climate?  We can change our minds. How do we create the climate we want? By believing it’s possible.”
 Starting with their eco-dream team the company announced a bold new mission that stated, “ We need to stop thinking about how to merely limit the damage caused by climate change – and start thinking about how to create  a climate fit for life.”
There are four elements to their climate take back plan: Live Zero, Love Carbon, Let Nature Cool, and Lead an Industrial re-revolution.
When they asked climate experts, is it possible, that we can reverse it? 95% said yes.
Their plan is to inspire people by showing them that it’s already happening. To get involved you can join the Climate Take Back LinkedIn Group. 

Eric Whan / Mark Lee shared some results of the Globescan sustainability survey. A total of 1035 experts, 67%  with more than 10 years experience in sustainability from 79 countries participated.Key findings showed that governments, international financial institutions and the private sector were all rated at the bottom for performance, year after year. The UN’s standing has improved in recent years. Most respected companies are: Unilever, Patagonia, and Interface. What will define leading organizations in 10 years? Integrated strategy/vision, honesty, transparency trust, and performance.

Neil Hawkins, CSO and Corporate VP for Dow Chemical Co. brought the topic back to KoAnn opening topic, saying that, “Redefining the role of business in society is step one in defining the good life.”
Pashon Murray of Detroit Dirt told her story of growing up poor in western Michigan and seeing too many bloated landfills as a child helping her father with his work. She grew to become a passionate crusader about food waste. She shared the following statistics: Each year the US grows $218 billion worth of food that is never eaten. 52 million tons of food is sent to landfills when 1 in 7 Americans is food insecure. Food waste is responsible for 21-25%  of landfill volume. Her company is committed to closed loop processing of food waste, producing compost and energy while substantially reducing landfill volume.

Paul Backus of Nestlé closed the evening.