Opening keynotes at Brand-Led Culture Change featured insights from unconventional brand partnerships and keys to helping people and brands alike move beyond fear and embrace the changes we need to create a flourishing future for all.
Partnering to protect soil, for pets and humans alike
Image credit: Nutro
Regeneration will play a central role in adapting to the untold damages to the planet. During the opening night plenary at Sustainable Brands®’ Brand-Led Culture Change event in Minneapolis, experts in the field of regeneration and behavior change shared insights into how to inspire regenerative behaviors in business and consumers alike.
Every five seconds, the world loses a soccer field’s worth of soil. The billions of organisms in a teaspoon of soil are vital to our global food system, for humans and pets alike — and industrial agriculture’s penchant for monocultural farming has greatly depleted our soil health. As a company reliant on natural ingredients, Nutro was spurred to get involved.
The pet food brand has partnered with Kiss the Ground — the advocacy group behind the 2020 documentary of the same name, which exposed whole new audiences to the principles and benefits of regenerative agriculture — to direct the power of brands toward accelerating regeneration of natural ecosystems.
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“No brand, no company, no organization alone can make the change that needs to happen,” said Mindy Barry, Senior Director Marketing at Mars Petcare, which owns Nutro. “It’s through the power of partnership and many layered actions that we will start to make an impact.”
Consumers are increasingly aware of where their food comes from; but they aren’t as aware of the role of soil health in the process. Nutro created messaging from the point of view of pet parents to propagate that message to expand beyond pet food. Kiss the Ground put soil regeneration on the map, so a partnership in sharing this message was a logical step for Nutro.
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While there’s hope in regeneration, Nadya Zhexembayeva — founder and Chief Reinvention Officer of The Reinvention Academy — asserted that irreversible damage to nature has been done. Now, humanity’s ingenuity must shine.
“We are past the moment of prevention for almost every [environmental] issue we face,” she said. “The only thing we can do with many of these issues is adaptation. Whatever shit could happen most likely will happen — so, now we have to get very good at figuring out how to regenerate.”
After globalization, industries need to reinvent themselves at least every decade. From oil and gas companies to nimble startups, “not a single industry in the world right now can stay away from reinventing itself every ten years.”
Some are reinventing themselves every 12 months or faster — a speed, she noted, no sector has ever seen. But we’re still not moving fast enough; and it’s not because of a lack of facts.
“The problem is that we are scared as human beings, not stupid,” Zhexembayeva said. “It’s not about scaring people into behavior change — it will not inspire people to move. It’s an emotional problem; so, how do we engage an emotional problem?”
The law of diffusion of innovation helps leaders understand how to activate first followers to inspire others to cast aside fear and adopt planet- and people-positive habits. As Zhexembayeva explained, these early adopters fall in love with purpose, impact and importantly, themselves — because they are empowered to chart their own journey and dispel fear in the process.
“We are in the middle of one of the most challenging transformations that humanity has ever known,” Zhexembayeva said. “From a scientific point of view, we’re a bit late in this transformation. But the mother in me still believes that this century can be an incredible century.”
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L-R: Target's Amanda Nusz and Cassandra Jones, Unilever's Jeff Hofmann
“I’m a believer, as a leader in retail and merchandising, that it’s our role to not only create business — but through building that business, we are impacting humanity and culture,” said Amanda Nusz, SVP of Corporate Responsibility & President of Target’s Target Foundation.
Target and Unilever collaborated to promote more sustainable brands in retail stores, one of them being Seventh Generation. This has grown over time to encompass not only product manifestation in stores — but labor, packaging and how to move beyond niche offerings and truly scale sustainability in every aspect of CPG retail. Taking cues from consumers and early adopters, Target launched its Target Zero initiative in 2022 to inspire and enable consumers to live zero-waste lifestyles.
Jeff Hofmann, SVP of Customer Development at Unilever, pointed out the ever-evolving nature of the effort: “It’s not a box check; it’s never one and done.”
Working with new brands is important, said Cassandra Jones, Target’s SVP of Essentials & Beauty, but less of a lift in terms of driving sustainable change; equal focus must be placed on heritage brands, as they have an established presence in homes across the world.