How might we raise the stakes for going all-in with sustainability?

This is a serious question. And growing more serious by the day. As I discussed on our blog recently, according to a 2018 report from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world has only 12 years to contain global warming or else face catastrophic results. But there is hope. Sustainability leaders such as Patagonia are influencing everyone in their ecosystem to create a sustainable future.

How Patagonia Sets the Sustainability Standard

I have always been inspired by Patagonia. This brand become an industry leader, but they’ve done so while keeping sustainability at the heart of everything they do. Its mission is “to save our home planet.” And Patagonia lives that mission – not only by creating sustainable products but also by setting the sustainability standard for everyone they work with – from customers to suppliers. Patagonia exemplifies what it means to operate as an ecosystem. Patagonia got into the agriculture business – outside its industry — by adopting regenerative agriculture, which cuts down on carbon emission. Then Patagonia applied the principles of regenerative agriculture to its own cotton supply chain.

And yet, Founder Yvon Chouinard is not satisfied by any means. He is a harsh critic to himself, Patagonia, and anyone who embrace consumerism. As he puts it:

“Everything man does creates more harm than good. We have to accept that fact and not delude ourselves into thinking something is sustainable. Then you can try to achieve a situation where you’re causing the least amount of harm possible. That’s the spin we put on it. It’s a never-ending summit. You’re just climbing forever. You’ll never get to the top, but it’s the journey.”

Source: Fast Company interview with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard

That burning desire to put in check our impulses to buy, create, and produce more stuff spurs Chouinard and Patagonia to push sustainability to new heights.

Fortunately, Patagonia is not the only business making a sustainability impact outside of their four walls. We see more brands making a shift towards embracing sustainable practices as consumers demand a shift as well. Procter & Gamble is another great example. 

How Procter & Gamble Collaborates with a Sustainability Ecosystem

 Procter & Gamble sets aggressive goals (e.g., 100% of its packaging will be recyclable or reusable). For instance, recently P&G aligned with other firms – including competitors such as Unilever – to join Loop, a new e-commerce platform developed by international recycling company TerraCycle.

Loop wants to give people a consumers a platform to purchase personal care products in a way that eliminates packaging waste. Consumers use Loop to shop for durable products, have them shipped to their homes, and then return the products to Loop. Loop then hygienically cleans the empty packages people send back so that they are ready for reuse. For Loop to work, a critical mass of consumers and suppliers need to be onboard, which is where businesses such as P&G come into play.

Companies such as P&G go beyond asking “What can we do as a company?” They ask, “What can we do as an industry?” and “What can we do beyond our industry?”

Taking the First Steps

Setting the sustainability standard and collaborating with sustainability ecosystems requires a shift. Here is where design thinking and innovation techniques can be applied for good. We believe the design sprint is the perfect process for bringing together diverse groups of people to co-create sustainable outcomes.

To go all-in on sustainability, brands can draw inspiration from the Patagonia’s and P&G’s of the world. Through setting a higher standard and collaborating with sustainability ecosystems, the opportunity to make a real difference through sustainable outcomes has never been greater. This opportunity hinges upon adopting a “me” to “we” mindset that’s rooted in a process of co-creation

Mike Edmonds

Mike Edmonds

Managing Director, VP Product