15 Cool Things I Learned at Sustainable Brands 2010

Sustainable Brands 2010Reporting from Sustainable Brands 2010 is a daunting challenge – most speakers are given 15 minutes to state their case, and their presentations rival TED talks. Imagine 4 days of rapid-fire, high quality content. So, I figured I’d share with you some of the coolest things I’m learning – the things that I would want to share with folks that didn’t get to attend.

Open Innovation

  • Not all the smart people in the world work for you. Open up the innovation process to include ideas from the outside world.  Myoo Create, who presented in the Sustainable Brands Innovation Open, enables just this with a crowdsourcing platform to solve sustainability challenges. We are smarter then me. (Disclosure: Myoo Create is a client of mine.)
  • To inspire creativity and innovation, ask open-ended questions rather than limited requests.  For example, ask for at least 3 suggestions rather than only 3 suggestions.  Responses will double.
  • When brainstorming in a group, if individuals take a few minutes to step away, think alone, and come back to the group to continue discussing, new ideas are generated faster and develop further.

Trends in Sustainable Brands

  • Companies don’t talk to their consumers.  Consumers feel like they can’t change companies.  So, talk to your consumers — you never know what you’re going to learn. ~ Patrick Glinski, Idea Couture
  • Companies are allocating more and more to cause marketing.
  • Being green is no longer a differentiator.

Social innovation at the corporate level (Jason Saul, Mission Measurement)

  • “If God can measure what he does, so can you.” (Something Saul learned in Sunday School.)
  • Companies are expected to solve social problems, not just mitigate their impact on society.
  • “Social innovation is what happens when the engine of the business causes social change, not just the fumes.”
  • 4 components of social innovation are an intentional business strategy, using the core business itself, solving social problems rather than making them less bad, and profitability.

Design for behavior change (Bruce MacGregor, IDEO)

  • “People feel pressure to change.  Pressure can become desire.  Desire creates change.”
  • Correcting behavior is less effective than inviting the desired behavior.  In one example, a fly was etched into a urinal to encourage men to aim at it, and men using these urinals had 80% less spillage!
  • Speak joy not fear.
  • Use judo — tap into the forces that are already in play to drive change.
  • Create the crowd.

There’s so much more to say, but this is just a taste.  For those who attended or followed along — what other key learnings did you come away with?  For those not there, what would you want to add?

Editor’s Note: Follow @triplepundit on Twitter for more insights, themes, and soundbytes from Sustainable Brands.

Amie runs Cobblestone Solutions, LLC, a consultancy focusing on business development, marketing, communications and strategy for mission driven companies. Previously, Amie served as Director of Business Development for Viv (a Bay Area environmental start-up), Program Manager for Social Venture Technology Group (a boutique consulting firm focused on measuring social and environmental impact), and Associate Consultant at Bain & Co (a global management consulting firm). She is particularly interested in innovations that reduce waste, altering consumer behavior for good, and leveraging the power of business to solve the climate crisis. You can read more from her on her blog, on GreenBiz.com, and on JustMeans.

7 responses

  1. Companies don't talk to their consumers? Really? Every successful company I've ever worked with over my 20+ year career has made talking to consumers a huge priority. It used to be harder in the days before social media, now the ability to converse in real time with consumers is one of the driving reasons why brands have rapidly adopted social media, esp. in the B2C space.

    1. Lynn,
      Thank you so much for your comment. Yes – I think great companies talk to their customers. I think Patrick was saying that many companies still don't. The example he made was the United breaks guitars debacle where they should have been in conversation sooner to avoid the situation.

  2. Annie,

    Thanks for your response. It is difficult at times to follow these sessions just via tweets and blog posts, so I appreciate you clarifying his comments! I was surprised, though, from the tweet stream, that no one brought up social media as a means to do so – seemed like such a natural segue. Oh well, next year I really hope to be there in person! I've found some great tweeps from the #SB10 hashtag.


  3. Surprised by the comment “Companies are expected to solve social problems, not just mitigate their impact on society.” … I think this really depends where you live. In this part of the world (SE Asia), companies are considered first and foremost a source of income and employment, hence social stability.

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