Collaborating and partnering for change is one of the main trends in the green business space. Companies are looking to adopt a collaborative approach, but given the magnitude of the challenges they face, what is the best way to do it effectively?
Just like last year, the event included two parts – first, a panel chaired by Jo Confino, Executive Editor of the Guardian and chair of Guardian Sustainable Business. The participants were Andrew Kassoy, Co-founder of B Lab, Helen Clarkson, U.S. Director of Forum for the Future, Kim Marotta, VP CSR at MillerCoors and Carrie Brownstein, seafood quality standards coordinator at Whole Foods. The second part included a couple of discussion groups that focused on various topics from building trust in relationships to sustainable value chains.
While last year I mainly wrote about the panel, I decided this year to focus on the discussion group, especially since I participated in one that discussed one of my favorite topics, ‘changing consumer behavior’ - the panal included representatives from two of my favorite companies – Unilever and Recyclebank. It was also a great opportunity to learn couple of interesting lessons on the important role collaboration plays in changing consumer behavior. Here are some of the main issues that came up in the discussion:
For example, Recyclebank has been working with Unilever for three years, helping the company create gamifying experiences, or what they call "learn and earn" for its brands (Dove, Lipton, Suave and others). These online games tell the sustainability story behind each product and incentivize you to play and give points for participation.
Recyclebank is trying to help Unilever with its platform, rewarding people for pledging to do it, doing a lot of post-surveys. They concentrated on asking people if they followed up with their pledge and if not, what was the reason for that, and if they did – did they also share it with family and friends?
But this is just one part of Unilever’s effort. Jonathan Atwood, VP Sustainable Living & Corporate Communications, explained that you need a multi-pronged approach in this case. He gave the example of the tongue-in-cheek showerpooling campaign targeted at 18- to 24-year-olds, which asks them to take a shower with a friend or a stranger to save water. A campaign like this can get the message across without being preachy. Saving water is a multi-faceted, very complex issue, he added, and pointed out a number of difficulties, including the challenge to actually measure the change the company is seeking. At the moment, he summarized, we still don’t have all the answers.
Raz Godelnik is the co-founder of Eco-Libris and an adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware’s Business School, CUNY SPS and the New School, teaching courses in green business, sustainable design and new product development. You can follow Raz on Twitter.
Raz Godelnik is an Assistant Professor and the Co-Director of the MS in Strategic Design & Management program at Parsons School of Design in New York. Currently, his research projects focus on the impact of the sharing economy on traditional business, the sharing economy and cities’ resilience, the future of design thinking, and the integration of sustainability into Millennials’ lifestyles. Raz is the co-founder of two green startups – Hemper Jeans and Eco-Libris and holds an MBA from Tel Aviv University.