Reporting Live from Sustainable Brands ’14: Day 3 Wrap-Up

Here’s my feature story from Day 3 of the Sustainable Brands 2014 conference, held June 1-5 in San Diego, CA.

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Kicking off Wednesday, the third day of the SB’14 San Diego conference, business leaders, social entrepreneurs, business disruptors and innovators presented a full morning of business challenges and opportunities to attendees gathered in the Paradise Ballroom and online across the globe. With the overarching theme of “Redesign” dominating the conversations, the morning plenaries focused on ways that brands can answer the question, “What if?” in ways that just might change the world.

SustainAbility’s Mark Lee kicked off the Wednesday morning plenaries by posing the challenge of moving forward from yesterday’s “Reimagine” theme of brands being net positive, taking big pivots and inspiring new visions of our cities and communities.

“Today’s speakers will share insights from the front lines of resigning products, services and their business models,” he said. “The ‘Reimagine, Redesign, Regenerate’ framework invites us to not only think about ‘what if?’ but also to look at the bigger challenges of accelerating sustainability efforts and scale.”

Before diving into the presentations, Rich Fernandez from Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI) led a series of three short exercises to remind participants to simply breathe, cultivate response flexibility and to consider a Blue Sky mind.

Jeremiah Owyang

Jeremiah Owyang

Jeremiah Owyang, Founder & Chief Catalyst for Crowd Companies, got the morning going with his talk on how brands are leading the collaborative economy. “The collaborative economy is the place where individuals can find what they need directly from each other, bypassing the business economy,” he said. And when that’s the case, he asked, “What role do corporations play if people get everything they need from each other?”

The answer is that companies are redesigning their business model to be part of the sharing economy, so that the creation of things and ownership and access are shared between people and corporations. Examples of how companies are starting to make this shift include BMW renting cars directly from the showroom lot, Walmart hosting video game exchanges, Gap partnering with Divvy Bike Sharing for a shared workforce, and Nokia letting customers design and print their own phone cases.

Eileen Howard Boone

Eileen Howard Boone

Up next was Eileen Howard Boone, SVP of CSR & Philanthropy for CVS Caremark, who received a warm welcome from the room for her company’s February 2014 decision to remove tobacco products from its stores, even in the face of billions in lost annual revenues.

“Our purpose is: Helping people on the path to better health. When you have a purpose as clear as this one, you need to look to stop doing the things that are inconsistent with that purpose. Tobacco is the #1 preventable cause of death today.

“We had to weigh what our customers, clients, leaders and others are saying and decided that tobacco has no place in that.”

Looking forward, the company is planning a robust smoking-cessation program rollout. In the spirit of the week’s ‘What if?’ theme, Boone offered: “What if the next generation is tobacco free?”

Paul Dillinger

Paul Dillinger

Paul Dillinger, Head of Global Product Innovation at Levi Strauss & Co., then told the story of the company’s WellThread products, which are redesigned with the whole life cycle, environmental stewardship and worker wellbeing in mind.

“What if we took all the methods we use and instead of doing back-end problem fixing,” he said. “I promise to design without making a mess?”

As an example, asking “What if we didn’t use so much water?” helped Levi’s save 770 million liters of fresh water in just three years while keeping diversity in the color finishing. And by collaborating with other fashion brands as a founding member of the Better Cotton Initiative, Levi’s is “starting to bend the curve on some of these big areas of consumption,” he said.

On the water use that comes from customer use, Dillinger suggested that people start “thinking of their cotton clothes as houseplants that need only a little bit of water and sunshine” instead of water-wasteful laundering.

Gayle Schueller

Gayle Schueller

Gayle Schueller, Chief Sustainability Officer at 3M, spoke next about how innovation processes can be tailored to local conditions in a developing economy, by sharing the story of the first patent issued in India.

She described how a local team in India invented a floorcare cloth with a scrubby corner to remove grime, which is based on understanding how people live, what they value and the pride people take in caring for their homes.

As well, the product creates a connection to the local traditions of handlooming and growing concern about waste created by the textile industry. As part of the product’s development, Schueller said that 3M is “creating a partnership with local governments to create jobs to take waste from textile manufacturers, and then to train people in rural communities where fibers can be hand-loomed.”

Dayna Baumeister

Dayna Baumeister

Dayna Baumeister, co-founder & Keystone of Biomimicry 3.8, then took the stage to ask big “What if” questions – asking Nature for redesign advice to solve societal, business and technology challenges.

She offered a series of inspiring biomimicry examples that are “built on 3.8 million years of R&D,” such as spiraled plastic bottles that require 15 percent less materials, solar panels arranged like sunflowers for 20 percent more power, and a non-toxic boat coating that mimics a symbiotic biofilm that fish grow to keep off barnacles.

She challenged the room to “Go outside and bring that knowledge and that wisdom and strategy into our labs and our design tables and ask fundamentally different questions. How can my company create conditions conducive to life?”

Next, Scott Davis, Chief Concept Officer at Panera Bread, opened his talk by sharing the challenges and lessons learned by taking a more sustainable overall approach to the company’s food. When the company initially switched to a long-term sole supplier relationship for better-tasting chicken, with great customer support, they soon realized that this was only the beginning of the challenge.

“The lesson started with our own supply chain management, because for them this was a completely disruptive way to run a business, with a single source,” he said.

In the end, Davis said, “Our sourcing chain people came together to work together with the culinary folks, to rethink what their job was, and figured out how to reduce risk on pricing, sourcing and control the quality even better.”

Redesigning how to make the business work better opened the way for more innovations, and led to this week’s announcement of Panera’s new Food Policy that focuses on clean ingredients, transparency and positive impact.

“We went on a search for taste, but what we found was that sustainability was the key to competitive advantage in our world,” he said.

Aly Khalifa

Aly Khalifa

Aly Khalifa, founder of Lyf Shoes, is redesigning what we put on our feet, and completely disrupting how we make them.

“The best ideas come out of putting all your problems together at once,” said Khalifa, so that’s what his company does by redesigning shoes that not only close the loop with recyclable and reusable materials, but also with the customer.

Lyf shoes have interlocking components that require no tools and are made with sustainable materials. The shoe can be made in 90 seconds at the store, personalized to better fit a customer’s physical needs over time, and offer unlimited possibilities for artistic and crowdsourcing collaborations.

Jason Saul

Jason Saul

Rounding out the morning’s presentations, Jason Saul, CEO of Mission Measurement, announced a new tool called the Social Value Index that redesigns how we measure the social benefits of sustainability initiatives and demonstrates their value to financial performance, growth and business success.

“The big breakthrough is that we can measure customer demand for sustainability in the same way we can measure any other traditional benefit, and then test those drivers to what actually, statistically drives purchasing intent for our products,” Saul said. “From this data we can design a social value proposition for any company,” to really show the link to the estimated revenue increase for improving the company’s Social Value Score.

How Postmodernism Can Help Your Company’s Sustainability Metrics. Really.

Here’s my latest for Sustainable Brands.

Resources for grappling when “all perspectives seem true,” and long-established categories are crumbling

In 10 earlier parts of this series, we discussed 20 pitfalls in the sustainable business metrics field. (Find the first 7 articles here and the last three here.)

Think you have it bad trying to accurately measure and report on your company’s carbon footprint and supply chain impacts?

Perhaps you’ll feel better after hearing this cautionary tale. The journal Nature recently reported a prank played on the publishers of well-respected science journals. For reasons that aren’t completely clear, 120 completely gibberish papers made it through peer review, were published, and then withdrawn after the prank was revealed.

How on Earth could this have happened? How could such an absolutely bedrock scientific principle as peer review fail so utterly?

The answers have to do with an all-too-human reluctance to trash the work of supposed peers. Add in the biases we’re all subject to in assuming that “experts” (or at least those posing as them) know what they are talking about. You also can’t rule out simple laziness.

We’d like to add another provocative possibility to this negligence soup: that the journal editors gave a pass to the gibberish articles because, influenced by postmodernism, they assumed at some level that the authors just had a different, alternative, but legitimate view of the world.

That’s postmodernism for you.

For those former business majors who missed it in Humanities class (likely most of us), postmodernism is a school of thought that reacts against “the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality.” What a person believes about the world comes from their own personal interpretation. There are no certain and universal truths. Everything is relative. All viewpoints have inherent validity. (Think of the perception-challenging art of Warhol and Rauschenberg, and the music of Glass and Cage.)

While this may seem like a huge stretch, we think there’s real value for sustainability practitioners to consider lessons from postmodernism. Put the simplest way we can think of, acknowledging postmodernism’s influence helps us deal with nuance. Because postmodernism prioritizes skepticism and the reevaluation of assumptions, we believe it’s a rich topic that helps us acknowledge the inescapability of prejudgments and biases in our measurement frameworks as we aim for more sustainable business outcomes.

Pitfall XXI: Don’t fail to account for your audiences’ postmodern biases & “truths” and seeing things from their points of view.

Love it or hate it, postmodernist thinking — and the perspective it brings against accepted “truths” — is entrenched in our world. (Not officially, explicitly, or necessarily consciously, but it’s there.) It’s part of our hyper-connected lives, where many individuals’ experiences carry more weight than ever before. For most of history, unless you were at the very top of business, society or religious life, your experiences and opinions probably didn’t count for much outside of your inner circle.

Even just 50 years ago, much of the world had pretty much the same New York Times front page each morning. The set of facts selected and presented by a small subset of thinkers were, for the rest of us, “objective” reality. As Walter Cronkite famously signed off his newscast each evening: “And that’s the way it was.” In saying so, publically and with the weight of his “authority,” he made it true.

Today, social media offers each of us many windows on the world that reflect our individual choices and shape our experiences. Plus, we have the power to broadcast our own personal views of reality, and what things mean, to many others.

Taken to the office, this means sustainability practitioners have to grapple with bosses, colleagues, stakeholders and customers who may have very different views of what things mean, based on precisely the same data and facts you’re looking at. They probably are just as certain of their interpretation as you are of yours.

Perhaps relatedly, you may have noticed that conventional ways of categorizing things are breaking down in area after area. Things just don’t seem to stay in their proper boxes anymore. The dilemmas that come out of these shifting perspectives are right up postmodernism’s alley.

Pitfall XXII: Don’t fight most of the mushing together of conventional categories, how you choose to address them, and then how you measure the effectiveness of your actions.

A partial list of these box-rebels includes:

Luckily for us, if postmodernism contributes in some ways to the new kinds of emerging dilemmas facing sustainability practitioners, it also offers some guidance. Here are three resources: one directly about postmodernism, one that embodies it, and one from a relatively new scientific field that takes us to a similar place.

  1. Delve into this 2001 “Bioscience” journal called Dragnet Ecology—‘Just the Facts, Ma’am’: The Privilege of Science in a Postmodern World by T. F. H. Allen, Joseph A. Tainter, J. Chris Pires and Thomas W. Hoekstra. The authors argue that sustainability efforts that are modeled on Joe Friday’s forensic methods alone — “just the facts” — won’t succeed in a postmodern world because they lack the elements essential for managing problems within complex systems. They argue for scientists to become experts at crafting narratives — stories — as well as facts. By looking at things this way, the authors argue, scientists will be able to better advise business leaders and policy makers on complicated environmental problems.

    The most basic benefit here is increasing weight for an already commonly expressed need for scientists to become better communicators. This article made the case for science communication skills back in 2001, and it’s being increasingly echoed today.

    A second benefit is support for scientists who are showing a willingness to go outside of their traditional role of fact-developer, and be actual players in the policy advocacy world. This cuts against the traditional expectation that scientists do their research thing and stay out of policy/political scrums. We’re seeing increased visibility from scientists such as James Hansen (NASA &, Neil Degrasse-Tyson (“Cosmos”), and Michael E. Mann (The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars).

  2. The New Journalism movement that grew out of the 1960s civil and social tumult offers notes for acknowledging nuance, or even better, grappling with it. This kind of reporting, at its best, allowed for the writer’s active physical participation in the events of the story, with the benefit of generating unique insights.
  3. The field of behavioral economics has clear lessons for distinguishing between how we like to think we make decisions (very rationally) versus how we really do (subject to many cognitive biases affecting actually being rational).


While these streams of thinking run (very) outside the sustainable business mainstream, we think this approach can help you with thorny challenges of moving your company further towards sustainability, and then understand the nuances of trying to measure that.

We hope they spark new perspectives on additional current, box-escaping themes such as the:

  • deepening of stakeholder relations;
  • the emergence, coming from a number of different spheres, of actually defending emotions in decision-making and even spirituality; and
  • increasing attention to “happiness” as a way to reflect human welfare and satisfaction even within the “give-me-a-number” metrics world.

It’s important to remember that we are not advocating throwing out objectivity (or its pursuit), facts, truth, and good science. Neither are we advocating an “anything goes” world. But at the very least, just citing something as, say, objective or rational, doesn’t necessarily make it so.

A helpful tip comes from author Michael Suk-Young Chwe, who notes that, all of us, not just scientists, need to accept that full neutrality or unbiasedness is impossible. It’s a burden we shouldn’t have to bear. The trick is better self-awareness, acceptance of doubt (which science, at its best, already values), and awareness that even science is “fundamentally a human process.”

Precisely because we’re all fallible people, operating in a complex world, it ultimately works in favor of our role as sustainability problem-solver to acknowledge uncertainties in the environmental and human realms, including in how we measure things.

Maybe postmodernism isn’t so crazy after all.

Wirtenberg Examines How BASF, Alcoa, Pfizer and More Are Building a Culture for Sustainability

Here’s my latest for Sustainable Brands.

Jeana Wirtenberg knows sustainability is about people. Living, caring human beings – who get things done.

It’s not “green.” Or “eco.” Not goals or dashboards. Not on their own, at any rate. It’s people who make these things actually happen.

Sustainability is people at every level of a business making decisions and working with their colleagues, customers and communities, day in and day out. Sustainability is people — not programs or promises — taking actions that move their company towards more sustainable business outcomes. It’s culture.

This insight is what makes Jeana Wirtenberg’s exhaustively researched but highly readable book, Building a Culture for Sustainability: People, Planet and Profits in a New Green Economy (Praeger, 2014), stand in excellent company with other recent works such as Andrew Winston’s The Big Pivot and Arianna Huffington’s Thrive.

Specifically, this book gives readers a detailed framework to bridge the gap between what leaders say they want their companies to accomplish around sustainability and what actually gets done — by building a culture for sustainability.

With a foreward by Winston, the book is set up as a series of nine case studies based on Wirtenberg’s exclusive interviews with executives and employees from Alcoa, BASF, Church & Dwight, Ingersoll Rand, Pfizer, Sanofi, Wyndham Worldwide and Bureau Veritas.

Wirtenberg describes what people working in a “culture for sustainability” sound like, what they do, how they overcome difficulties, and how they measure their success.

Along with the case studies, Wirtenberg also offers a practical, actionable outline of the key attitudes and characteristics that these successful cultures share. The book’s meticulous appendix and index provide a keyed reference guide for building or strengthening your own company’s culture of sustainability.

Although they represent very different industries — from consumer products to chemical manufacturing — these companies share something that eludes so many: They’re successfully mainstreaming a sustainability mindset into their organization’s DNA and achieving results.

This gap between knowing and achieving is well-documented and surely familiar to Sustainable Brands readers. As an often-quoted Accenture survey put it, 93 percent of CEOs consider sustainability important to their companies’ success, but most don’t know how to make it happen.

Anyone who’s ever worked in an organization with competing priorities and pressures knows all about this gap. As Wirtenberg quotes a BASF executive as saying, “Culture is what everybody does when no one is looking.” Wirtenberg’s rigorous work proves that culture can be well understood, evaluated, improved and used to drive business performance.

That this book exists at all — the product of hundreds of hours of interviews with senior-level execs over several years — is a testament to Wirtenberg’s sterling reputation as a trusted colleague and her professional fortitude to see it through to fruition.

Considering the stakes as we race towards the 2-degree tipping point for our earth’s temperature, I think all her hard work was worth it.

As Winston and others have said, “Business cannot succeed in a world that fails.” Extending that thought one step further, business cannot succeed if the people involved aren’t working together to make it happen.

Wirtenberg’s book is a smart contribution to the growing understanding that being a sustainability leader in the business world not only enhances profitability, high-visibility breakthoughs and stakeholder reputation. True sustainability leadership is also about realizing the dreams of all people working together, at companies of all sizes, who want their children to inherit a world worth having.

That’s a culture worth building. And Wirtenberg’s book is a valuable read to help us get there.

Reporting Live from Sustainable Brands ’14: Day 1 Deforestation Roundtable

Here’s my feature story from Day 1 of the Sustainable Brands ’14 conference, held June 1-4 in San Diego, CA.

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Getting to Zero: Multiple Sectors Convene Around Deforestation at SB ’14 San Diego

When all the right people work together — from suppliers to brands who use their products to NGOs — and commit to extraordinary goals, transformational change is not only possible, it happens.

That’s what participants saw in action at Monday’s afternoon workshop on progress being made and the work ahead to support the emerging “new norm” of zero deforestation in forestry supply chain standards. Major responsible sourcing commitments in forestry in the past few years are helping protect rainforests, promote safe labor practices, and drive down carbon emissions.

Future 500 CEO Bill Shireman led a conversation with major forestry supplier Asia Paper and Pulp (APP), leading consumer-facing brands, and NGOs. Setting the stage, he said, “We’re seeing the roles that different groups play in the process of transformation—to create tipping points where change becomes transformative.”

Fresh off a 20-hour plane ride, Aida Greenbury, APP’s Managing Director for Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement, shared how her company’s historic 2013 Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) came about after years of activism — transformed into collaboration — with NGO partners The Forest Trust and Greenpeace. Speaking of APP’s commitments, and the contentious path to get there, Greenbury said, “It’s an unfolding story of relationships, customer requests, conversations, friction and all the history behind it.”

Senior brand leaders on the panel included Kevin Petrie from Nestlé North America, Mark Buckley of Staples, and Sarah Severn from Nike. Robin Barr from The Forest Trust, Greenpeace’s Amy Moas, and Chris Elliot from Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA) represented the NGO communities.

A key theme was the process of building personal relationships based on trust in the midst of fierce disagreements on business practices, complicated and opaque supply chains, and remote physical locations. Speaking about what makes groundbreaking environmental commitments possible, Robin Barr, director of The Forest Trust said: “Transparency is the best way to build trust. You have to engage in a conversation on transformation.”

Barr discussed the importance of helping suppliers and brands recognize their responsibilities and roles to solve global problems like deforestation: “We’re all responsible because we’re all in the same supply chain.” And on the power of brands to lead change, she said, “Brands have the potential to make a difference. When you ask your suppliers to do something different or meet standards, that means something to them.”

“When one player changes the way they operate, the situation changes,” she saiid.

Shifting to the brand perspective, Kevin Petrie shared how Nestlé’s Creating Shared Value program for water, nutrition and rural development responsibility led to the company’s 2010 announcement that Nestlé products will not be associated with deforestation. And from there, how this led to responsible palm oil sourcing commitments.

A fascinating part of the discussion centered on the complicated issues brands face reestablishing purchasing relationships, once supplier deforestation commitments are in place and shown to be working. Mark Buckley, VP of Environmental Affairs at Staples, shared the challenges of moving away from a supplier relationship and then stepping back into it. Petrie noted that Nestlé will examine buying from APP again once assurance audits are done.

As well as the relationship between suppliers, brands and NGOs, brands are working together on issues where they share common interests, specifically climate policy. Severn spoke about her company’s collaborations with other leading brands as a BICEP founding member, a Climate Declaration signatory, and the We Mean Business coalition.

“It’s not good enough to be silent,” she said. “Our legislators need to know that companies care.”

The roundtable was the first meeting of a new multi-stakeholder initiative led by Future 500 and Sustainable Brands. The group seeks to bring together major brands, suppliers and NGOs to solve problems by redesigning how stakeholders can work together, instead of as combatants, to fully tap the power of supply chains to drive sustainability. Shireman encouraged anyone interested in participating in future conservations like this to contact him.

This conversation continues today at a 2pm breakout session on Avery Dennison’s responsible paper sourcing policy in partnership with the Rainforest Alliance.

Summing up the roundtable, Shireman referred to each responsible sourcing commitment as a domino, or multiplier, for reaching the tipping point of zero deforestation. Greenpeace’s Moas pointed to last December’s unprecedented No Deforestation announcement by Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm trader, and that new palm oil commitments are being announced nearly every month.

While global deforestation is still an ongoing crisis, this conversation showed that progress is happening. “As solutions get developed and prove successful in the marketplace, you can no longer say it’s not possible,” said Barr.


This week’s Reading, Writing and Links

YES–A banker counts social capital as equal to economic capital, vital & essential to business.

My take on the communications dust-ups surrounding the new EPA rules–that aren’t even out yet.

Stash this for climate & sustainability comms: Krugman explains why carbon reduction is affordable (and prudent!).

GREAT prep on the EPA ‘s 6/2 rule to limit carbon & why it’s a positive BFD.

Tons of Newark Riverfront summer fun planned. Love seeing NJ citizens enjoying our shared waters.

Congrats to @GreenSportsBlog friend Lew Blaustein for 1 year & 100 posts about where green & sports connect!

Grateful to say I’m a new Fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise.

Getting to a carbon tax: 3 options for improving how EPA addresses air pollutants.

Do it, Mr. President: President Said to Be Planning to Use Executive Authority on Carbon Rule.

Attended a letter writing evening with my local CCL chapter. Felt good to write directly & honestly to my reps asking them to act on climate for a carbon tax.

China announces next steps for cutting .28b tonnes of HFCs by 2015.

Just registered, looking forward to 6/25 sustainability event with the U.S. Green Building Council in Philly.

Searing. “I don’t give a shit that you feel sorry for me…Get to work and do something.”

How to Pitch a Major EPA Rule On Carbon Pollution

Simple and clear.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy spoke on a briefing call today about the rules her agency will announce on June 2 to fight global warming.

The new regulations will limit “coal-fired plants from spewing so much carbon into the atmosphere,” as Jonathan Cohn puts it, writing with verve for The New Republic.

Administrator McCarthy made three points:

1. This is about moving from climate risk to economic opportunity.

2. The proposed rules are “legally sound, solid and doable.”

3. It’s not one-size-fits-all. U.S. states will have flexibility in how to apply the rules.

That’s the way to do it. Simple and clear.

By talking today, she got out in front of the controversy already in full spin from people who oppose these measures.

They claim that stricter enforcement of Federal clean-air laws will cost jobs, endanger businesses and send homeowner electricity costs soaring.

Exhibit A, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has come out swinging:  U.S. industry gears up to fight Obama’s climate rules

On the pro-climate action side, Cohn’s piece for The New Republic is a valuable Q&A on the issues.

Via The New Republic:

Obama’s New Rules for Coal Plants Are a B.F.D. The Ensuing Political Fight May Be Even Bigger.

Conventional wisdom holds that second term presidencies rarely yield accomplishments and that this second term president, in particular, has lost the ability to get much done. In one week, President Obama has a chance to prove that the conventional wisdom is wrong.

And he can do it while helping to stop the planet from cooking.

On June 2, Obama will to unveil a new set of federal regulations on power plants, designed primarily to keep coal-fired plants from spewing so much carbon into the atmosphere. The hope is that these new regulations will slow down climate change—at first incrementally, by reducing emissions from existing plants in the U.S., and then more dramatically, by providing the Administration with more leverage to negotiate a far-reaching, international treaty on emissions from multiple sources.

I’m sensing a growing divide between businesses that align themselves with spokespersons on the anti-regulation side, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, or on the pro-climate action side, such as Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP) or the American Sustainable Business Council.

Sooner or later–I’m betting sooner–businesses will have to choose which side of the table–anti-regulation or pro-climate action–will best be able to represent and further their interests long-term.

I’m looking forward to that debate.

This Week’s Reading, Writing and Links

“Reducing risk” rules over “More profits” PwC Survey Finds Majority of Investors Consider #Sustainability

Kudos to the Alabama planning director working with climate deniers to help his state. Tough job #actonclimate

A MINING exec talking about sustainable license to operate, zero-waste, zero-harm. Asking the right questions

Vision! Revived Longitude Prize offers £10m to solve greatest scientific challenges/

Important & encouraging: Evangelicals in Florida working for climate change.

Some practical “where-to-invest-once-you-divest” suggestions.

My latest: The ‘CVS Effect’ in Action: Lessons from Chipotle’s #BurritosNotBullets CSR Win.

In Shell carbon bubble argument, Guardian rockyrex commenter reminds that fates can swiftly shift, a la asbestos litigation.

Shell reassures investors that carbon bubble is not a biz risk. Want to ask the reinsurers about that?

Great article! Jeana Wirtenberg: How 9 leaders are building sustainable culture

IMO, the open-carry folks weren’t there for burritos. My $.02 on #BurritosNotBullets

Andrew Winston at Fortune Green this week: In terms of climate change, “the cost of doing nothing is now. Not next year or next century.” –

10 Companies That Are Actually Listening to Customers.

Bottomless salad bowl in your own backyard!

Leave the gun, enjoy my burrito. Thanks Chipotle for standing up for your customers’ peaceful enjoyment

TweetChat #fails….grats to Aman Singh for hosting productive collegial #sustybiz chats

“Get to Yes” progress from Obamacare opponent shows change is possible for climate action.

A poem that cleans the air—literally a breath of fresh air!

“What everyone does when no one’s looking” Good MITsmr piece on corporate culture

Andrew Winston: How CEOs Can Save the World

The ‘CVS Effect’ in Action: Lessons from Chipotle’s #BurritosNotBullets CSR Win

Here’s my latest for Sustainable Brands.

After a bruising shareholder vote-down on executive pay last week, Chipotle Mexican Grill sure needed a win.

It got one, courtesy of some loaded semi-automatic weapons and some pissed-off moms. In a May 19 statement, the company asked customers not to bring guns into Chipotle restaurants.

This is another great example of what I’m calling the “CVS Effect” — the growing trend of companies doing the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do.

Every time a major brand, retailer or company speaks up or takes positive steps for their customers’ well-being, health and the environment, they create a little more safe ground for others to follow their lead.

Here’s how Chipotle’s win came about.

Last weekend, open-carry gun rights advocates in Dallas, Texas displayed their guns at a Chipotle restaurant, and then posted the photos on social media.

That’s when the gun-control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America decided to, well, demand action.

Moms Demand Action launched a viral campaign, #BurritosNotBullets, and a petition, asking Chipotle to ban guns from its restaurants.

Just two days later, on May 19, Chipotle responded by asking customers not to bring guns into their restaurants.

In doing, so, the company’s leadership responded quickly to parents and advocates who are working for sensible, eminently reasonable gun control laws as a public health and safety imperative.

I see several “what went right” lessons for other leading brands to follow:

  • Listen to your customers: The Chipotle social media team was paying attention to customer issues, on a Saturday.
  • Commit to quick response: Chipotle’s leadership team responded in just over 48 hours.
  • Assess risk, but act: Chipotle did risk alienating some customers, but it was a good bet to make. This last one is worth unpacking for the bigger picture.

First, Chipotle had 10,000 petition signatures and a Twitter storm to back up a “please, no guns” statement.

Second, coming out on the side of moms and families fits with Chipotle’s “Food With Integrity” positioning that prioritizes serving its customers healthy food in ways that also support farmers, the environment, and animal welfare issues.

Third, the “please don’t bring guns into our stores” ground was previously tested just this past fall. Take a look at Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s Sept. 17 open letter asking people not to bring guns into Starbucks stores. It’s a model of a sensible appeal to civility and respect for all Starbucks customers and employees.

Fourth, just three months ago, a Chipotle customer in Utah accidentally discharged his concealed handgun inside the restaurant, narrowly missing nearby diners. The man was not cited.

Fifth, it’s worth remembering too that, besides being the right thing to do, good CSR action is good business. From a cold-hard-cash perspective, there are a lot of moms (and dads and caretakers and aunties) who like taking their young ones to Chipotle to eat a burrito in peace.

And finally, I wonder if Chipotle leaders are looking ahead and seeing increasing public support for more actions that support public health and public safety.

Together, these reasons all add up to support Chipotle’s “please, no guns” position, but honestly, the brand didn’t need them. Putting them all aside, there’s no good reason, of any kind, ever, to bring a loaded semi-automatic weapon into a public dining establishment.

Chipotle deserves this CSR win, which comes with a ton of free good publicity and hopefully a bump in sales, because its leadership team acted quickly and unequivocally to do the right thing.

That’s a smart business model for others to follow.

Leave the gun. Take the burrito. Chipotle scores CSR win.

When customers talk, brands listen. And act.

Or at least the smart, winning ones do.

After a bruising shareholder vote-down on executive pay last week, Chipotle sure needed a win.

It got one yesterday, courtesy of some loaded semi-automatic weapons and some pissed-off moms.

The company’s leadership responded quickly to parents and advocates who are working for sane, sensible, eminently reasonable gun control as a public health and safety imperative.

This is another great example of what I’m calling the “CVS Effect”–the growing trend of companies doing the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do.

Every time a major brand, retailer or company speaks up or takes positive steps for their customers’ well-being, health, and the environment, they create a little more safe ground for others to follow their lead.

Here’s how Chipotle’s win came about.

Four days ago, open-carry gun rights advocates in Dallas, Texas decided to display their guns at a Chipotle restaurant.

Then, they posted the photos of their “open-carry rally” on social media.

That’s when the gun-control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America decided to, well, demand action.

They launched a viral campaign, #BurritosNotBullets, asking Chipotle to ban guns from its restaurants.

Just two days later on Monday, Chipotle responded by asking customers not to bring guns into their restaurants.

Via Huffington Post:

The Pro-Gun Invasion of Chipotle Totally Backfired

Gun-rights activists have shot themselves in the foot, again, with a gun rally that caused another major American retail chain to declare firearms unwelcome.

Chipotle on Monday said it wanted customers to stop bringing guns to its restaurants, after photos of an open-carry rally at one of its Dallas restaurants went viral — thanks in part to the shrewd social-media campaign of a gun-control group. The striking photos showed a dozen or so people brandishing firearms, including semiautomatic rifles, both inside and outside the restaurant.

I think that Chipotle Mexican Grill deserves this CSR win (that’s Corporate Social Responsibility), a ton of good publicity after last week’s executive pay black eye, and hopefully a bump in sales.

That’s because the company’s leadership acted fast and unequivocally to do the right thing.

Because come on, there’s no good reason, of any kind, ever, to bring a loaded semi-automatic weapon into a public dining establishment.

In my mind, the open-carry advocates weren’t there for the burritos. They were there to make a point–their point.

Sure, Chipotle took a risk in making their public statement, but it was a calculated one bolstered by public, customer support. They had 10,000 petition signatures and a Twitter storm to back them up.

As well, coming out on the side of moms and families is consistent with Chipotle’s brand value of putting their customers’ needs and wants for healthy food first.

Plus, it’s worth remembering too that, besides being the right thing to do, good CSR action is good business.

From a cold-hard cash perspective, there are a lot of moms (and dads and caretakers and aunties) who like taking their young ones to Chipotle.

And just want to eat their burrito in peace.

This Week’s Reading, Writing and Links

Yes it is. Insurers sue town over flooding claims because “Climate change is a foreseeable risk”.

Microbead ban law moving forward in NY State Assembly: 19 *tons a year* of polluting microbeads wash into NY waterways

Well done job by Climate Outreach: 7 ideas for helping IPCC communicate climate action better with storytelling

Profile of NJ ‘s state climatologist Robinson.

Clear, inspiring how-to on building action by William McDonough. Butterfly Resolution!

Job for some well-qualified person: Sustainability director position for Amherst College, MA, USA

Q for EU friends: When will European Council officially adopt the EU corp disclosure into law?

Thanks to Aman Singh for getting my #sustybiz Twitter chat question answered:

Microbeads ban passed NY Assembly *108-0* last week. Way to go @5Gyres @Anna_Cummins

Kudos NJ’s Star-Ledger Editorial Board for this strong statement: Climate disruption & Christie inaction.