Sustainable Brands Detroit 2017 Looks For and Finds Common Ground

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — At the onset of Day Two of SB17 Detroit, the thinking behind the conference title, “Redefining the Good Life,” began to reveal itself. A subtext running through the event, like an underground spring, has been the notion that the polarization of our society has become a major barrier to the achievement of a sustainable, flourishing future. That’s why a number of workshops on topics such as “Breaking Through Gridlock,” and “ How to Have Difficult Conversations: Building Bridges in a Divided Country,” are being presented, acknowledging and attempting to address this challenge. The data presented by Solitaire Townsend of Futerra, and later by others, offered some hope that this challenge could  potentially yield.


According to Harris poll data, taken across generations and political parties, all people essentially agree on the fundamental constituents of the good life. These consist of the following four elements: balanced simplicity, meaningful connections, financial independence, and personal goals. If we all want the same things, it will be far easier to come up with a plan that we can all agree on—it’s only the “how do we get there” part that needs to be resolved. That’s not exactly a walk in the park, but its far easier than if we’d all wanted different things.


Solitaire also shared a pertinent quote from the Bard, “All things are ready if our minds be so,” and an invocation of what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. Erica Parker of Harris, carried the story forward with the thought that “If you are not disrupting, you will be disrupted.”
Sharing more data, Parker said that 71% of adults today said that their lives were different than their parents, while 45% said it would be different for their children. As consumers, 51% believe that companies care, though 65% feel that products do , to contribute to a better life. At the same time, while 65% feel that they, as consumers, can influence companies, only 28% say that they have actually tried.


Chris Coulter of GlobeScan and Raphael Bemporad of  BBMG shared results of another survey in which 16,000 people from around the world said that these were the four primary elements of a good life: health & well-being, financial security, meaningful relationships,  and a sense of purpose. Note the similarities to the other poll.  So what’s the problem? For starters massive income inequality, lack of access, and a disconnect between, “aspirations and capacity.”
Oxfam reported that the wealthiest eight people on the planet own as much as the  lowest 3.4 billion people. Trust in institutions is very low. So what to do?

Put humanity at the center of brand and businesses.
1.    Put people at the center. (Respect)
2.    Find purpose beyond products. (Address barriers)
3.    Keep perspective on issues that matter. (Make a stand for values.)
4.    Participation by all. (Inclusivity)
We can solve it. Brands are the greatest force for transformation in our time.


Author John Izzo, spoke about what holds each of us back. Drawing from his recent book, The Thieves of Happiness, he described the internal mindset that stands in the way.
The five thieves are:
1.    Control - whenever life is not the way we had in mind.  Surrender. My unhappiness was my resistance. Antidote: curiosity.
2.    Coveting - Life is a contest. How do we compare with others. Someone else is to blame for our loss. Antidote: gratitude
3.    Consumption – The belief that external things can make us happy. The economy needs you to be unhappy, so you will buy more. Antidote: choice
4.    Conceit. Ego builds your life around your story. Tribe identity has contracted to individual identity. Antidote: service  
5.    Comfort. Stuck on the same channel. Antidote: adventure


John Havens of the IEEE Global Initiative  spoke about Human Sustainability in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. His subtitle was: Ethics is the New Green . How do we even begin to decide how to manage privacy and safety  at a time when both benefits and risks of digital technology are growing exponentially?
He divided his discussion into three areas:
1.    Data has become a commodity GDPR
2.    Design - values-based design. e.g. privacy
3.    Decision. How do we measure value? Beyond GDP OECD Better life index.


The morning session closed out with Rachel Konrad of Impossible Foods telling us “How to Make Sustainability Cool.”
Sustainability does not have to be a compromise, she said, showing the Tesla Roadster as her prime example (and probably making a few in this Detroit audience a little uncomfortable).
Quoting Elon Musk, she said, “People want to be part of a movement if you make it easy.” You have to wonder how much the lack of trust in institutions has played into Tesla’s success. After all, brands are often seen as institutions.


Switching to her own company’s products, she spoke about our “Dangerous reliance on animal agriculture,” which, according to former Stanford professor Pat Brown, takes up half of all the non-frozen land on the planet and uses the equivalent of all the water in the great lakes.
 Their product is the totally plant-based Impossible burger, which is currently on the menu in 20 restaurants.  It is produced using 75% less water,  giving off 87% fewer GHG emissions, on 95% less land. But this is not the way to sell it.  That’s done on the taste and how much like a “real hamburger” it is. In a taste test, twice as many preferred the actual plant burger. When the nutritional benefits added, the ratio went to four to one. People don’t understand the linkage between climate change and food. According to survey data, only 6% of Americans had any idea how significant an impact agriculture has on disrupting the climate due to carbon and methane emissions