Category Archives: Supply Chain

The Best Running Shoes Come From The Ocean

Adidas Parley UltraBoost

It could get busy around here.

The polarising struggle to argue out the sustainable consumption oxymoron often misses the point. Consuming more sustainably than we have done before has to be part of the real world incremental improvement process whilst we scramble for the step-change improvements that are really needed. Yes, that may very well not be quick enough to avoid catastrophic environmental change for many of ‘us’, but we are where we are, this is what we have, pragmatism has its uses and credit to those who are trying. Many aren’t.

Last week we saw Apple throwing its marketing nous behind Earth Day, this week we see Adidas (there is no alphabetical component here) upping its sustainability commitments and profile including ‘one million pairs of shoes made from up-cycled marine plastic in 2017.’

One million. Many people have little to no idea or the vaguest concept of the scale of industrial production, but such big numbers should make you sit up. One million pairs of running shoes made from up-cycled plastic has to be progress. Say it with a Dr Evil pinky finger to your mouth, I dare you.

Every second breath we take is generated by the Oceans,” commented Cyrill Gutsch, Founder of Parley for the Oceans.

We are now into the territory beyond climate denial but not quite mainstream consumerism (i.e. purchasing dictated by sustainability criteria). Yet. Apple, adidas and many other leadership companies are exploring key themes such as the circular economy and the Sustainable Development Goals and momentum is building week after week. Expect to see many more innovative products and processes conveyor belted out as the market is tested for acceptance.

Companies like Interface and their work in a similar vein to Adidas’ partnership with Parley with Net-Works are also even possibly more worthy of praise as they were way ahead of the pack, but alas, carpet tiles have yet to become a dominant brand category in your face 24/7 in the way the usual suspect consumer brands have.

For disclosure. I adore my adidas UltraBOOST running shoes. For many, many years I had always shown a strong brand affinity for Nike (whom I even worked as a football freestyler and tester of prototype football boots in my non-linear career story) or Asics for great running shoes and avoided Adidas after a bad experience before the New York marathon. I explored a pair when setting out to train for my first ironman distance triathlon 18 months ago (and survived in surprisingly good shape), and instantly fell in love with the astonishing levels of comfort for a performance running shoe.

Worth noting is how the bigger consumer facing brands are increasingly pushing out high profile product and communications. We are past tipping points now and heading into consistent mass market positioning rather than the niche deep green audiences of not so long ago. I hate to admit it, but this could get boring as sustainability innovation today becomes the norm of tomorrow.

For the brand lovers and runners out there check out the shoes and vote with your wallets for a great product now combined with great provenance. You could also check out www.adidas.com/runfortheoceans as week of support around World Oceans Day, June 5 -11.

For the sustainability people, and activists wanting to look beyond the communications frontage, adidas also shared their latest Sustainability Report.

*Oh, and if anybody at Adidas or any of their close friends should read this, and need a UltraBOOST size 9 product tester, I’m your man!

 

 

 

Apple’s Greatest Video?

Credit where credit is due.

I’ve roasted Apple (should that be baked?) many times, especially during the Steve Jobs era, but I had a feeling that Tim Cook would take a very different approach to sustainability. His supply chain background almost dictated it.

So, without further ado, here is Apple’s latest effort to use its brand for good, and that matters. It really matters. Watch the videos and then read why it meant so much to me.

 

Not your usual Apple slick, minimalistic, polished marketing advert!

Apple were the epitome of laggards, hiding away from disclosure or action whilst they focused on selling as many of their beautiful innovative tech toys as possible. Nothing new about that. Countless business still take that approach. Probably most businesses in all honesty.

But, Apple were and are one of the biggest mainstream brands in the world, with the accompanying leadership position that should elevate any authentically responsible business to push sustainability not only through their own operation and products, but also their widest sphere of influence including their customers and fans.

Five years ago I wrote a blog hoping, and predicting Tim Cook’s appointment would be a catalyst for change. Such a change was always going to take time. One tweak here, a new appointment there, a commitment to solar, a video celebrating diversity and now this. (notice I omitted Liam the recycling robot – Apple’s Howard the Duck moment)

The video above feels like a milestone moment because it shows Apple is now comfortable enough to be creative and step away from brand norms – which is very out of character – and bold. We desperately need more bold. The work has been done internally and my new hope is that this video is the start of a confident new leadership brand in the sustainability space, or should that be iSustainability?

The biggest challenge of our time is convincing the non-usual suspects to look at the issues people like me call sustainability in a way possibly only Apple could do, to change behaviour at scale.

Congratulations Tim Cook, Lisa Jackson et al, your mark has been made, but how high can you go?

 

 

Global to Local Goals Through IMPACT 2030

 

 

 

“Volunteerism is a source of community strength, resilience, solidarity and social cohesion. It brings positive social change by fostering respect for diversity, equality and the participation of all. It is among society’s most vital assets.”

Ban Ki-Moon

 

impact-2030

 

In case you hadn’t noticed, we are 12 months in from the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals. This week is #GlobalGoals (a much better brand to reach the great unengaged audience we need) week as the UN General Assembly gets underway and year two of fifteen toward 2030 begins.

Recently I reached out to one promising initiative aligned to a pet project back in Liverpool. The reason I reached out to IMPACT 2030 was primarily for one key reason. It is private sector led. Whilst UN backed this is the business world rapidly coalescing from their own acceptance of responsibility and ability to lead. There are a whole host of reasons to explore IMPACT 2030, but for me when the private sector steps up, stuff gets done. Admittedly that stuff isn’t always the most morally acceptable when created in isolation, but this is different, it is a genuine and transparent partnership platform based on overcoming the biggest social and environmental challenges.

Another key element is the language being used. Volunteering, like CSR and other terminology has an image problem. IMPACT 2030 aims to reframe the debate using ‘human capital investment‘ in place of the more patriarchal terms like pro bono and volunteering, often seen as a cost or superfluous bolt-on activities. To encourage the private sector to significantly increase participation they have to see returns on investment, and in terms they understand and also appeal across the boardroom.

Philanthropy also absolutely has to be part of the equation as there will often be challenges that will never strategically fit investment propositions, but this focus on a more accepted private sector language can only increase awareness and impact.

So, in short, IMPACT 2030 aims to stimulate human capital investment in employees and align with the 17 Global Goals through awareness raising and support. The demonstrations of successes so far were a clear sign that the initiative’s momentum is building.

The standout case study of the Summit was between GSK and SAP combing their data and healthcare expertise to carefully listen to the local needs in Rwanda, map relevant employee skills and deliver a pilot project with Partners in Health within a mere three weeks. IMPACT 2030’s potential for human capital investment leverage is huge within their global remit. “These companies, so far, represent millions of talented people across 220 countries” said Executive Director Dr. Tauni Lanier.

The Mayor of Philadelphia was also in town to share the city-wide story of commitment to IMPACT 2030 and the wider Sustainable Development Goals, with particular emphasis on schools.

 

 

The always entertaining, and originally from Liverpool, Sir Ken Robinson shared wonderful insights from a creative and education perspective, even managing to connect the population explosion to the release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!

I understand that IMPACT 2030 is only twelve months old, yet has made significant impacts and collaborations, but I did get a sense that the 99% was being overlooked. I often attend similar events and the reasoning for corporate focus is clear. Scale, or rather the appearance of ability to scale, as this isn’t always the outcome. The business world below the corporate threshold is yet again the audience that scarce available resources are appearing to push too far down the priority list. Approximately 50% of private sector turnover comes from SMEs which also has approximately 60% of employees in many global economies. If we are really going to make the Global Goals mainstream, it is essential that far more consideration is given to engaging with the smaller business community.

IMPACT 2030 will not be a US based ivory tower. A growing army of territory based Regional Voices has been identified to ensure, and trust me, I saw this passion, that the Global Goals become very Local Goals too. By having people on the ground who understand the needs of local communities, acting as advocates, brokering partnerships and reporting measured impact back to a centralised portal the project should deliver results.

The also originally from Liverpool (can you see any patterns here?) IMPACT 2030 Vice Chair, Sue Stephenson perfectly summed up the whole event with the wonderful African proverb

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

 

For more information check out the links below:

#Impact2030

www.impact2030.com

Twitter list for Impact 2030 (shout out if I missed you!)

 

 

A Cunning Plan That Might Just Work

Did you know whilst the world goes to hell in a handbasket à la Trump, Brexit, ISIS, all reality tv, plastic microbeads et al, there is actually a plan to counteract much of humanity’s blatant disregard for our planet and respect for each other?

Ok, that may actually be a first world vision of the underworld, and the real global challenges sit lower down Maslow’s hierarchy, but that is probably too close to the blissfully ignorant view of those outside the Sustainable Development Goals bubble.

As part of my own humble action for #GlobalGoals week I’m going to post every damn day, which for me will be a near miracle when I pull it off, and some of it may even make sense, possibly even inspire an action or several.

So to kick the week off, and the next 14 years, here’s the big plan. It is not mine, but I do like it…

 

Amongst a few ideas I have I will also share an amazing trip last week to New York to jump into the world of #Impact2030 where the private sector is pushing its own efforts through human impact investment (or volunteering if you prefer). I may even cover entrepreneurship, technology, sport and BCorps, but who knows? I don’t. You’ll just have to stay tuned to enjoy the fun!

But, please, do one thing extra this week. Make an hour to read, share or just do something, anything. If you let me know what you did I may even send you a present.

#GlobalGoals

#2030Now

#Impact2030

 

Is Liam Really #TechForGood, or #MarketingForApple?

29 arms of recycling innovation robot beautifully presented (of course) and they call it Liam? Only in the world of Apple.

Whilst hastily allowing myself to lose all focus on the writing I should have been doing today I jumped at the chance to join @TomRaftery as guest co-host for his #TechForGood Google Hangout tomorrow. As I explored previous shows to get a feel for my responsibilities I stumbled back across the ‘Liam’ element of Apple’s recent keynote.

The last few weeks have been something of a blur with many new discussions and projects appearing like the Rebel Alliance out of hyperdrive, but all with an eerily connected technology flavour. The Apple announcement was momentarily noted for their strong focus on responsibility at their key communications event of their calendar, before being usurped by the usual social media avalanche.

I’ve been a long standing frustrated critic of Apple, more from a wasted potential perspective than their actual social or environmental accomplishments, which have been markedly improving over recent years. Tim Cook has many achievements to take credit for, as it can’t have been an easy task to push sustainability up the priority list of the culture moulded by Steve Jobs.

Whilst on the day Lisa Jackson (SVP of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives) was conspicuously front and centre, and the privacy debate raging with the FBI obviously adding its influence, Liam felt like the physical hook of attention for a more confident responsibility ethos away from the usual line-up of product launches.

Yes, I know there are only so many ways you can innovate with a phone, and this could be Apple running out of innovative product steam, but the eternal optimist in me is seeing Apple want to be seen as more than just a purveyor of beautiful ‘stuff’. That beauty could be creeping into their approach to their wider responsibilities.

Liam is an allegedly, as I’ve not seen many at all, 29 arm robot that can in a mere 11 seconds recycle a notoriously difficult product into component parts like never seen before. I’ve dreamed of Apple applying its design mastery for a stronger purpose than just music and communications. Was this it?

Maybe. Maybe not. After all there is only one Liam, I believe, and at full speed, could disassemble 1.2 million iPhones per year. Actually, only potentially 1.2 million iPhone 6s units until they teach it about the rest of their product back catalogue. That total would be in the billions. Last year alone Apple sold 230 million phones.

Innovative? Absolutely. Open source and shareable by the whole industry to reduce e-waste? Probably not going to happen (but hoping). Expensive? Absolutely and certainly prohibitively so. Chances of Apple opening recycling depots full of Liams? Slim. Marketing gimmick or potential for true impact? Actions speak louder than YouTube videos, so we shall see.

With over 1 billion smartphone products alone sold every year. A few weeks after the launch Liam now feels more like a lonely Disney Wall-E type character, desperate for a real purpose, a few friends and more trees, but I continue to hope.

Join me and Tom tomorrow at 4.00pm UK to explore this week’s #TechForGood news.

 

 

FIFA – ‘Show Me the Money’

The ‘beautiful game’ is free-falling through the ugly tree and hitting every branch.

Ugly football FIFA

Global football is witnessing another slow painful eruption, but this could yet be an big extinction level event for many that has been developing, and well overdue, for decades. Football is by no means isolated as Continue reading

CSR = Your Better (Small) Business

YBB logo

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Vodafone’s ‘Your Better Business’ website, which describes itself as

“an open exchange of ideas and opinions that can help shape the future of business. It’s also a platform where the brightest business brains will contribute and share information on the latest best practice models, give expert business advice and talk about the role technology is playing. ”

Here’s a short extract and a link (below text or image top right) to an article I  wrote on real world CSR for small business…

“In an increasingly connected world, where political upheaval and environmental challenges are gathering pace, there’s pressure on business to adapt.

As a result, the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is becoming more and more relevant – even critical – to the success of businesses of all sizes. The problem is, it’s commonly misunderstood, and its power underestimated. So dismiss it at your peril.

Definitely worth further investigation via the Your Better Business website and via Twitter at @betterexchange