Morning Plenaries: Sustainly, Cisco, Brambles and Philips

Tuesday’s plenaries started with Matthew Yeomans, founder of Sustainly, telling us why sustainability needs social media. To answer this question, Matthew took us back 11 years, to the birth of Facebook. The birth of social networks gave everyone a voice and changed the rules of the game.

According to Matthew, social media gave sustainability a brand new audience of real people who do care, but who don’t want to hear about it from a sustainability specialist. This fact poses big challenges for companies, which need to deeply understand who their audience is and what the best way to reach them is. Moreover, the company needs to be very clear on what it actually has to say, understanding its strengths and weaknesses, and knowing how to be transparent, creative (even when the topic isn’t) and useful. Matthew also highlights the importance of identifying when you need a partner, and when it’s right to prompt behaviour change (“Sometimes you just need to!”).

So, how do we talk to real people about sustainability without using the “S” word? Matthew calls this “the new era of soft sustainability”, and explains that it’s important to appeal to the things that really matter to us, giving as an example The Lego Movie. He closes his presentation by quoting the infamous Michael Corleone “It’s not personal, it’s all about business”.

Later, Nicola Villa, from Cisco, came to #sb15bcn to show us how to unleash social, environmental and economic value from the Internet of Everything. This is a new phase of internet connectivity, which opens up a world of opportunities. We produce enormous amounts of data, of which we only use 4%. According to Nicola, increasing this percentage could redefine the relationship between people, and between people and the environment.

Nicola describes the three main challenges in the big data world: volume, variety and velocity, and encourages us to rethink the way in which we manage information. He states that the network is now the database, the tool we can use to manage companies and cities, and warns us that “The transformation has begun!” citing the examples of Google driverless car, Uber, buzzcar and Tesla.

Cisco has worked with Barcelona’s city council on several initiatives such as smart lighting, buses, water, bus stations, parking and waste. Nicola believes that the latest shift is that of smart cities to smart citizens, and that this will drive massive change across the world.

Juan José Freijo, Global Sustainability Director for Brambles, and Lara Noivo Fernandes, Global Manager at Philips Lighting, shared with us a rich discussion on circular economy strategies. Starting from questions such as how can our waste build capital? and what if we never owned our products?, both companies rethought their business models, looking for more sustainable ways of doing things. Both Laura and Juan José agree that this is not something you change from one day to the next. Circular economy is a systemic change, a strategic move with a drastic impact on the whole value chain. It’s a change in the consumer’s mindset, from ownership to access, from buying to leasing, from selling to providing a service. The good news? It works!

Rocio_Orden Rocío is currently pursuing an MBA program at IESE. She is passionate about urban sustainability and corporate family responsibility. She is a member of IESE’s Responsible Business Club and part of the organizing committee for the Doing Good Doing Well conference, the largest student run sustainability conference in Europe.


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