As the remaining few passionate citizens demonstrating with Extinction Rebellion were being forcibly removed from the streets of London, beneath the streets of Paris, hundreds of passionate change makers were meeting in the caverns of the Louvre.
A fortnight has passed since 2019’s Sustainable Brands conference in Paris. Thinking back to the largest and most packed agenda SB has seen this side of the pond, I’m left with the feeling that this year resonated well with the wider, very exciting moment of change we are going through.
Three things in particular stood out…
A step up for circularity
For the last 15 years I’ve had many earnest and ambitious conversations around circularity, cradle to cradle and closing the loop. The great attraction of circularity being that if only you can solve the twin problems of waste and sustainable sourcing, you wouldn’t have worry about challenging your fast fashion, built-in obsolescence, upgrade culture business models that keep the money coming in. However, in reality, the genuine solutions to these challenges have mostly been elusive. This year at SB Paris however, we saw two genuinely impressive examples of circularity. First, Adidas’ 100% recyclable running shoe – a remarkable innovation, using variations of the same material for both sole and upper. Secondly our client KAO, who have just launched their new sustainability strategy, demonstrated their consumer healthcare packaging solutions (some of which can be seen here). Amazingly, this sachet/dispenser set up has managed to move the Japanese market to around 80% of sales going to re-fills, massively reducing waste and product loss (the bit that’s left in the bottom of the tube/tub/bottle) at the same time. Finally, a working model for significantly minimising plastic waste!
Futerra’s mission is to make sustainability so desirable it becomes normal, so it was incredibly heartening to see signs of two brands breaking sustainability through to the mainstream. First up, was one of our own, Tommy Hilfiger, who launched their new sustainability strategy – Make it Possible – only a few weeks before the conference, on stage telling an excited crowd about how the brand is using it’s iconic position in American culture to be at the forefront of sustainable innovation in fashion. This includes a new ‘adaptive line’, created with the 1 in 5 Americans currently living with a disability in mind.
Second up, and my favourite new sustainable brand, the ever-audacious Tony’s Chocolonely were at the conference. With demand growing rapidly, they’re taking their delicious chocolate and their bold message about eradicating slavery in the coco supply chain, to the mainstream – and with free samples for conference goers, I couldn’t have been happier.
The next generation
My final reflection is just how passionate and ambitious the next generation of young people and their educators are in putting sustainability front and centre. The conference featured about 50 ‘hacktivators’ – students who were there to ask difficult questions and to challenge the ‘grown ups’ to do better and think bigger. I spoke to about half a dozen of them as they came over the Futerra stand – a brighter, bolder bunch you could not find – they’re going to put this whole sustainability thing into overdrive when they get their hands on it. And that’s to say nothing of their educators. I met several teachers, professors and inspirers who were over the moon to discover our Good Life Goals conference stall. When they found out what we’d done with the UN SDGs to make them simple, understandable and meaningful for everyday people, they wanted all the information they could get their hands on. Perfect to inspire their student’s projects and help them understand what can be done about challenges the world is facing, if you haven’t seen the resources already, check them out here.
So well done SB Paris. A great and timely show. With the world is changing faster than any of us could have imagined a year ago, it’s great to spend a few days surrounded by the passionate, the ambitious and the resolute. Until next year!
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