Sustainable Brands ’11 kicked off Tuesday, June 7th in Monterey, CA. Sustainable Brands convenes sustainability, brand and design professionals leveraging sustainable innovation as a driver of business and brand value. This year’s theme is “play on” so it seems quite fitting to launch a series of articles on the conference with some fascinating insights from Gabe Zichmermann’s “Gamification Applied” workshop.
Gabe Zichermann is a gamification thought leader and author of Gamification by Design and Game-Based Marketing. He makes it clear that gaming is a serious business. Zichermann cites that the auto industry spent $10M to develop real-time feedback games in electric vehicle (EV) dashboards. Need more proof? Premal Shah, Kiva’s President, named Zynga as the organization’s largest competitor. A microfinancing platform considers a game developer to be its largest competitor? That’s right. Zichermann isn’t kidding when he says that “we’re all competing for people’s discretionary attention.” So how do we compete?
First let’s look at why people play games. According to Zichermann (or his sources), it’s for mastery, to de-stress, for fun and to socialize. That all seems simple enough but like a complex game, there are many levels. For example, social game expert Nicole Lazzaro purports that there are Four Keys to Fun:
This past weekend, Shareable hosted an unconference called SHARE SF at Hub SoMa, a coworking space for social entrepreneurs in San Francisco (where TriplePundit has their virtual office). Both the venue and the city were apt choices as the Bay Area is a hotspot for the sharing or access economy or, as Lisa Gansky calls it, The Mesh. This emerging economy of collaborative consumption and sharing platforms (currently over 3,800) rejects the notion that we all need to own a house, a car or a $300 kitchen mixer that we use once a year, and instead promotes that we share and find ways to avoid burying ourselves in debt by spending money we don’t have. What a concept!
Morgan Spurlock’s POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is a film about product placement, funded by product placement. Hence the title. This meta documentary follows Spurlock as he woos advertisers to support his project. It took him nine months to secure the first sponsor – Ban Deodorant – and the reported budget is $1.5M but he won’t get the final installment from POM until the film meets contractual targets for media impressions, downloads and box office sales. (The film has already surpassed 900,000,000 media impressions.) In the film, Spurlock takes us into pitch meetings with advertising companies and brands, into interviews with filmmakers, to a school in Broward County Florida that sells advertising space on its property to stay afloat and to Sao Paulo, Brazil where the government has implemented the Clean City Law, restricting advertising on buildings, buses, taxis, everything. All the while, he drinks only POM, eats only Amy’s Kitchen frozen pizza, uses only Ban Deodorant…you get the picture.
While much of the conversation at the Sustainable Food Summit focused on tools, resources, information-sharing and partnerships to help companies bolster their sustainability efforts, the old David vs. Goliath scenario inevitably reared its ugly – but organic! – head.
Safeway, the national grocery chain, continues to develop its own brands to compete in the organic and health and wellness categories. The recognizable O Organics line contains over 300 products and Eating Right (“nutritional”) and Bright Green (home care products) are also part of the healthier mix. In the last 90 days, the retailer has introduced two new green-minded product lines: In-Kind (+90% natural personal care products) and Open Nature (100% natural meats and poultry). Although the term “100% natural” is not a true certification (and, frankly, doesn’t carry any weight with the converted), many consumers don’t know any better. It is these less savvy shoppers to whom the store caters, as Safeway learned through research that 90% of consumers acknowledge a link between diet and health. And so it continues to pursue market share.
The Chilling Future of GMO Testing and Traceability: An Interview with Kenneth Ross of Global ID Group
At the Sustainable Food Summit in San Francisco, I had the chance to sit down with Kenneth Ross, CEO of Global ID Group, Inc., a global leader in the testing and certification of non-GMO through its Genetic ID and Cert ID subsidiaries. Ross talked about Global ID’s Non-GMO Project, the challenges of GMO testing and future trends, like “crowd-certing.” Not sure what that is? You’ll have to read on to find out.
Triple Pundit: Can you tell me about the Non-GMO Project and what the label entails?
Kenneth Ross: The Non-GMO Project is a consortium of people in the natural and organic product industry that got together and really looked at the issue of the creeping contamination of organic products with GMOs and the idea that there were some gaps in the [USDA] National Organic Program standards – for organic particularly – that allowed for accidental contamination of products. The net result is that over the last 10-15 years even though people were trying to be good practitioners of organic, in many cases contamination was creeping into the supply chain.
Bon Appétit Management Company, an institutional food service company, has 400 locations in 31 states, 10,000 employees and $550+ million in revenues. And last week the company welcomed its 1,000th small farmer into its “Farm to Fork” program. Yes, you read that correctly.
Yesterday at the Sustainable Food Summit at San Francisco’s Ritz Carlton, Maisie Greenawalt of Bon Appétit walked us through how her company was able to implement an array of sustainability programs that are changing the way people view institutional food, or “onsite restaurants” as they like to call them.
When the company first introduced the idea of partnering with small farmers, it was told that it couldn’t be done (by the small farmers themselves). In fact, one reportedly said, “You don’t deserve my melons.”
Although a majority of the partnerships discussed at Sustainable Agricultural Partnerships 2010 focused on the environment, alliances prioritizing economic and social impacts were also featured. In an effort to stimulate sustainability in the dairy industry, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is engaged in a project called the Farm Energy Audit Program (FEAP). FEAP educates farmers about cost savings and GHG emission reductions associated with energy efficiency in order to drive audits. The USDA offers grants to farmers to diffuse the cost of energy audits (which average $1,500), to help farmers understand where and how they can implement efficiencies. Implementing the recommendations is estimated to average $11,000, but with a reduction of 30,000 kWh per year, farmers can save about $2,400 annually, according to the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. All this adds up to a payback period of six years. In order to facilitate implementation, industry organizations are considering offering microloans to dairy farmers. More financing solutions like this are direly needed and do exist; in the Northeast, The Carrot Project provides microloans to small and mid-sized farmers. While funding small farmers in developing countries has grown popular, there is clearly a need for similar programs to support agriculture here in the U.S.
What good are sustainability efforts if the consumer doesn’t understand them? Consumers are driving demand for a sustainable food system, so communicating with this stakeholder group is key to the long-term viability of triple bottom-line products. With such an array of sustainability indicators, companies must impart those most relevant to the consumer to effectively inform purchasing decisions. Likewise, companies must engage these conscious consumers in meaningful dialogues around this information.
At Sustainable Agricultural Partnerships 2010, presenters shared consumer research exposing what matters most to the target demographic. Multiple sources revealed that customers purchasing fresh produce deem “pesticide-free” a top concern, with organic falling significantly lower on the list of importance. Research also uncovered that for conscious consumers: the food and beverage category is one of the most important; buying local is important to support local farmers; and there is cynicism that big business can be truly sustainable. Information like this has fueled successful campaigns and efforts for myriad companies in this space.
If you haven’t noticed by now, there are a lot of eco labels out there. Consumer Reports’ Greener Choices lists 150, but one panelist at Sustainable Agricultural Partnerships 2010 cited a whopping 328. According to Scott Exo of Food Alliance, publicly available third parties back only a handful of these labels. So how do we navigate this cluttered landscape of certifications and agree on a standard? The answer may very well be that we don’t.
When it comes to defining standards, in the past, the concept of an outcomes-based focus trumped prescriptive practices. After all, how can we expect a farmer in California to implement the same practices as a farmer in Wisconsin? Different soils, different crops and different climates require different irrigation platforms and cultivation techniques. Standardizing across all of these anomalies is not only extremely difficult, but also potentially less effective. The question then becomes, where do we need consistency and where do we need flexibility in these efforts? Certainly being technology neutral is one example of flexibility but determining the consistencies may prove more trying. In the meantime, tools like the Keystone Center’s Fieldprint Calculator help growers benchmark their farming activities against regional, state and national averages.
Regardless of uniform standards, certifications function to acknowledge compliance or added value through differentiation and should ultimately verify traceability. The ability to track a product from cradle to consumer bolsters transparency throughout the supply chain. Dole has provided three-digit tracking numbers on organic bananas, which consumers can enter on the Dole Organic website to learn about the plantation of origin. Similarly, Stone-Buhr Flour launched Find the Farmer, a site connecting consumers to the Pacific Northwest farmers who grew their organic wheat.
As these concepts evolve, what will true transparency mean? Will we go beyond the farm to see all of the players in each product’s supply chain? Moreover, could an undertaking such as this avoid the creation of more labels?
Ali Hart is a sustainable communications and engagement strategist with a passion for life’s essentials: food, water and storytelling. Her background in the Entertainment industry, penchant for humor and MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School are Ali’s secret weapons in her quest to master the art of behavior change and to make sustainability inconveniently fun.
Building on the idea that what gets measured gets managed, Michael Levine of Fonterra presented a carbon footprint Life Cycle Analysis for the dairy industry, illustrating that 85% of the carbon is produced on-farm (59% of which is cow-produced methane), 10% comes from processing and 5% results from distribution. He noted that one might assume that distribution would be the most emission-intensive part of the life cycle due to the exportation from New Zealand to Europe but this was clearly not the case. Thus, rather than focusing on more efficient ways to distribute dairy products, it is clear that the industry should seek to reduce carbon in on-farm activities.
Yesterday morning at Sustainable Agricultural Partnerships 2010, Sylvain Cuperlier, VP of Worldwide Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability for Dole, set the tone for the day by asking What are the priorities in sustainable agriculture? Of course, the answer was simple: it depends who you are, where you are, and what you produce. Other panel sessions drew equally nebulous conclusions. While the day’s theme was Strategies and Benefits on Building Innovative Partnerships and Creating Success Stories, the hottest topic became how to measure sustainability and the trouble with metrics.
Betsy Cohen, Nestlé’s Vice President of Sustainability, explained that her company considers different goals and different certifications for different inputs and products. Brie Johnson, Straus Family Creamery’s Sustainability and Communications Manager, relayed that many sustainable practices can’t be measured; for example, we don’t yet know the effects of GMOs or antibiotics. Regardless of the obstacles, there appeared to be a consensus that choosing the right metrics is key, as is the operational context.
This coming week, I will be covering Sustainable Agricultural Partnerships 2010 in downtown San Francisco. The conference is the 4th summit in a global series on sustainable agriculture from American Business Conferences and sister company London Business Conferences.
The summit focuses on case studies and strategy formulation for sustainable water and carbon management practices throughout the agricultural supply chain. It is billed as the first corporate driven summit to include the active participation of growers and small-scale suppliers. There is also a strong emphasis on stakeholder engagement amongst the attendees who are primarily food and beverage manufacturers / processors and retailers, farmers, and suppliers.