innov_ex 2012 continues the sustainability journey and speakers both inspire and help delegates keep up to date with developments that are changing the business landscape. As part of his European Outdoor Group (EOG) Industry Challenge, Mark Held highlights the implications of high leverage campaign organisations – such as Fairwear – for outdoor companies. WRAP (Waste Resources Action Programme) leads the Sustainable Clothing Action Programme but what does it mean, what are the implications of moving towards sector targets and how will targets be measured? The WRAP presentation helps business grapple with this changing world. Sustainable design is a frequently used term and Martin Charter, Centre for Sustainable Design will highlight the global trends,development models and future trends in sustainable innovation. But what about inspiration around sustainability from large and small companies which can help get people started? See what could be learnt from Alexis Olans Head of adidas’ Sustainable Product Program and program manager of Better Place. Inspiration and understanding also comes from new start up initiatives. Don Gladstone, founder of Explore RED explains how recycling and reuse works in practice.
innov_ex has included a sustainability theme since 2008 and this led me to think about what the conference brings for business. Facing the scale of the global threat involves admitting that the rise in population growth and the demand for food water and energy is unsustainable. In our 2008 conference, the first Innovation for Extremes to address sustainability, we concluded that for the outdoors industries to move forward its members would need to collaborate, share knowledge and understanding and learn from each other.
Our 2011 conference conference theme was ‘Sustainability is a journey, not a destination’. We aimed to encourage companies on the brink of getting started that this was something that companies could try. Inspiration comes from seeing how other companies – large and small- embarked on their sustainability journeys, what inspired them, how difficult it was and where they have got to.
In 2011 there were two case studies that outdoors companies could learn from. We were keen to look outside the industry as well as within. Marks and Spencer have demonstrated through Plan A that sustainability is a viable business model. Mark Sumner of M&S showed the next steps of the Plan A journey.
With its Plan A, Marks and Spencer has become a role model for sustainable retailing. it was a model which showed that sustainability could indeed be profitable. Plan A is holistic rather than what I would called ‘bolt on sustainability’. For them sustainability has to link well beyond the company, making it holistic and linked to the whole supply chain. One of the biggest challenges is achieving consumer engagement. The key to their sustainability strategy is really getting to grips with their vast supply chain and addressing consumers’ use and re-use. They are also quite clear that to develop a truly sustainable policy means it is vital to make sustainable products that consumers want to buy. QR Codes are being used to empower consumers. A simple SMART phone app. means consumers can easily, while in store, scan goods to find out where they came from, how made and with what resources.
There is so much to learn from M&S, but small business owners sometimes feel: well they have the resources, they can conduct R&D, we aren’t big enough to make a difference.
Listening to Steve Taylor, the owner manager of the Castle Climbing Centre in North London shows the fallacy that only large companies can be sustainable. Castle Climbing centre has a turnover of about £2m and has around 3,000 individual customers each month. The inspiration for making Castle Climbing Centre was a personal passion from Steve himself and this is crucial, but so is getting buy in from employees and customers which is so vital for getting off the ground. What I liked about Steve’s presentation was that he didn’t pretend it was easy or that there was a blue print for making a sustainable business. But from listening to him I learnt about how important it was to get employees involved from start – with brain storming sessions shaping policy and deciding what they wanted to achieve and how. He showed how important it was to manage expectations and manage the change process. And, like Mark Sumner, he showed the importance of a holistic policy that reached down into the business. Transparency is also crucial to Castle Climbing Centre, as demonstrated by their Environment Report 2010. Crucially he showed that small businesses may be in the best place for getting started on sustainability- they are more flexible.