Today's program : you might be wrong, we always learn !
Welcome to "nouveau monde", sort of a "nouveau genre" newsletter to better understand how to make the world better through the lens of retail. This is #28!
Let’s talk in nouveau monde this week about the wrong path to become a sustainable company and we will give you some insights from the recent Reshape conference by Insider that was covering Sustainability and Retail.
Things move fast nowadays, we’re really happy to help you get the right tips on those two matters and be inspired…
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Today's newsletter is 973 words, a 4-minute read.
I might be Wrong
Do you know the B Corp certification ? If you don't, in a few words, it's a label that companies can get by changing their mindset from being the best companies OF the world to being the best companies FOR the world, which, yes changes it all.
B Corp (for Benefit Corporation) comes from the US and is now spreading across the globe with now more than 4000 companies certified in 77 countries. If you want some name dropping : Patagonia, Ben & Jerry's, Allbirds (remember nouveau monde #5?), NxtFood (remember nouveau monde #19?) and Danone trying to certificate all its business units to get a global certification.
To become a B Corp, like in any certification, you need to comply to a wide variety of topics around Governance, Community, Workers, Environment and Customers. Then you pass through an audit process and you get the label, easy ;-)
We'll, no, the process is not that simple and and getting the precious certification can be a bit hard and is supposed to bring a great transformation in companies.
So, it's really interesting when a company that got the precious graal take a look back and gives us a few tips to avoid pitfalls. That's what Ace & Tate, a prescription and sun glasses retailer, who became a B Corp this summer, did.
Here are the 5 bad moves from Ace & Tate to help you become a B Corp :
Little self-promotion ;-) : I just became a B Leader myself, which means that if you want to be accompanied to get through the process, Mestawet can be a help :-)
#1 Overlooking our social impact
During the process, Ace & Tate realized that they were not really aware of the good conduct they should have taken, they thought they were doing things quite good but realized that they had a lot more to do. First action : write a Code of Conduct for themselves and their stakeholders !
#2 Aesthetics over real impact
When you get into environmental impact, an easy biais is that you want your "green products" to be recognized as green, then you might do the wrong thing, use the wrong product. Ace & Tate used bamboo fibers melted with virgin plastic which looked great but wasn't recyclable at all. Think about it !
#3 Setting an unrealistic carbon goal
When you turn on the radio nowadays, you often hear about this or that company pledging to be carbon neutral by 2050, 2040 or even 2030. THat's what Ace & Tate did, maybe a little too fast, they then realized that this goal was unreachable as they have stores, they ship products...
Don't promise something that you can't reach ! Instead of promising a net carbon goal, Ace & Tate went into a reduction target and a compensation program.
#4 Decreasing CO2 emission, ignoring the rest
Sustainability is a complex thing and when you act on a topic you might have an hidden impact on something unseen. That's what happened to Ace & Tate : while they reduced the carbon footprint of their packaging with a new process, they realized that had a greater and significant impact on water consumption.
#5 Just scratching the surface of sustainability
In 2020, Ace & Tate created a responsible retail concept that led to a loss in their identity while having little impact on the environment. So, is it worth it to have little impact and decrease sales ? Obviously not !
As they say, they went back to the drawing board and searched for a concept that had a real positive impact, on business AND on sustainability. Because, of course, if you're dead, it won't be easy to pursue a mission to deliver great low impact products :-)
I found these 5 exemples came from common sense but when you're a company, pressed up by your customers or stakeholders to move, you might need that common sense to move forward in the path of positive impact
Go ahead and share your thoughts !
Speaking about Sustainability in Retail
Attending to online event is a good opportunity to learn more about your favorite topic, and the Covid-era has multiplied by thousands the possibility around here.
Insider, a platform for individualized, cross-channel experiences, set up this week a 2 days online event called: “The Experience Code”.
The pitch is that “business and technology need to redefine their purpose and become enablers of positive change”. Agree.
“The age of one-sided relationships is over. We’re in a new paradigm, one where brands and customers are equal participants in experiences and work together to disrupt and invest in things that matter to the future of humanity”. Yes, it’s coming.
“Consumers want to connect with companies who care about the impact their actions have on people, the environment, the economy, and society – on the local, country, and global levels. Customers are buying more than products. They’re seeking meaning and building an identity through their buying decisions. They depend on their tribe to make those decisions. Companies who understand that and connect with tribes through technologies have an opportunity for growth”. Again, yes.
There were some speakers part of sustainability panels that I wanted to share with you, and follow them somehow on social networks because of the brand they represent or because of the deep background on the matter. Another opportunity to discover new faces and go deeper into some facts.
Carolina García Arbeláez is Global Sustainability and Innovation Director at Anheuser-Busch InBev. She’s involved in sustainability for years, involved in social entrepreneurship and good causes I would say. AB InBev is involved in this domain at different levels: agriculture, water, and packaging.
Through the 100+ Accelerator (jointly with Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever) they are looking for partners who can deliver breakthrough advancements in water stewardship, farmer productivity, product upcycling, responsible sourcing, green logistics and more. Their 10 challenges were developed with input from AB InBev colleagues and third party experts around the world. Successful applicants receive mentorship, funding and access to new networks.
Ryan Shannon is Managing Director of BAM Bamboo. BAM bamboo clothing started in 2006 as a sustainable answer to one of the worst polluting industries – the clothing industry. Their speciality is bamboo fabric for fitness and leisure clothing and they are now leaders in the field.
Bamboo has many benefits for the environment:
bamboo is a great carbon sink and absorbs 5x more than hardwood trees
it stores two thirds of that carbon in its roots and in the soil. When the bamboo is harvested the carbon isn’t dug up but stays in the ground – unlike trees and cotton
bamboo releases 35% more oxygen than its equivalent in hardwood trees
bamboo doesn’t need lots of water or irrigation
it grows up rather than out and uses half the land cotton does to produce the same amount of fibre
it doesn’t need pesticides, which can contaminate drinking water and damage the soil and surrounding ecosystems
That said, bamboo fabric is made using a chemical viscose process. Much of the viscose industry is highly polluting. Anyways BAM is driving improvements in the viscose industry, working closely with suppliers to ensure good governance. But bamboo fabric has potential—it is much less costly to produce than cotton, avoids the extensive use of pesticides in non-organic cotton production, and production is not as chemically intensive as polyester.
BAM is addressing its impact, not only on the environment, but on every aspect of business, with the ambition to become fully Impact Positive:
reduce carbon footprint to zero by 2030
ensure every person in their supply chain – including the growers – are paid fairly and treated with dignity
zero waste to landfill, zero pollution and zero wastewater by 2030. This applies to every process in the supply chain and afterwards, from the growing of the bamboo, to the manufacture of their clothes, to the way their clothes are recycled
Sustainable fashion? Probably more to do yet.
I’ll follow-up on a coming newsletter when the videos from the panel will be available.