McDonough Innovation and MBDC share their Sustainable Brands ‘22 Takeaways

The Sustainable Brands Conference, which took place from October 17-20 in San Diego, CA, was held with the purpose of bringing together and enabling sustainability, brand, and innovation leaders to drive successful brand transformation. On Monday, October 17, William McDonough delivered a keynote fireside chat, From Cradle to Cradle – Regrounding in First Principles on the Path to Remaking the Way We Make and Do Everything, alongside Sustainable Brands founder and Chief Executive, KoAnne Vikoren Skrzyniarz, with a focus on McDonough’s language and design frameworks surrounding Cradle to Cradle and the Circular Economy. 

The conference was also attended by Mcdonough Innovation Chief Technical Officer, Aly Khalifa and Research and Development Engineer, Madeleine Brancaccio Read more about the seminars they attended and conference takeaways below. 

Q: What seminars did you attend and what were the key takeaways of each? 

A: [Aly Khalifa] Three seminars were of particular interest: “Engaging Consumers on the Scope 3 Journey”, “U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol: Harnessing Field-Level Data to Measure and Improve Environmental Footprint”, and “Customer Trends on Amazon and the Shift to More Sustainable Goods”. Here is the breakdown of the discussions of each: 

Engaging Consumers on the Scope 3 Journey [Madeleine Brancaccio] 

This seminar was led by P&G Sr. Communications Director, Elizabeth Kinney, and Logitech’s Head of Global Operations and Sustainability, Prakah Arunkundrum. Through their discussion, Kinney and Arunkundrum made it known that what we directly control is only 10% of our total impact–from design to manufacturing to use. Therefore, engagement with the supply chain and consumers in sustainability efforts is crucial. This also means that sustainability needs to be baked into the way a product is designed and used. A question to consider is how do we engage with suppliers to create the best product possible? 

U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol: Harnessing Field-Level Data to Measure and Improve Environmental Footprint [Madeleine Brancaccio]

Barry Evans, a cotton farmer in West Texas, described the agricultural challenges the industry is facing and identified certain strategies and regenerative practices to combat the harsh climate and ensure survival of the crops. He identified the advantages of no-till practices, including preventing dust storms, rebuilding soil structure, and allowing for twice as much rainwater capture in the soil. Another key point of discussion mentioned is that nitrogen fertilizer is by far the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions in cotton production. Evans noted that strategic cultivation of legumes for fixing nitrogen in soil, as well as the use of cover crops, can help reduce GHG emissions from cotton agriculture. However, there is no “one size fits all” solution, and the specific sustainability strategies used are highly dependent on geography and local climate. Guidance provided by the US Cotton Trust Protocol is critical because it empowers farmers to manage sustainability solutions and determine local best practices. 

Customer Trends on Amazon and the Shift to More Sustainable Goods [Aly Khalifa]

This seminar discussed the value and growth of Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly badge in the market. Products join the list through external certifications, such as Cradle to Cradle–for which our sister company, MBDC, is an assessment body for Cradle to Cradle Certified®. After a product earns a Climate Pledge Friendly badge, their average page views are expected to increase by 10%, and in 2020 alone, over 300 million Climate Pledge Friendly products were sold. 


Q: As the conference came to an end, what are any other themes or trends that you witnessed happening right now? 

A: [Aly Khalifa] Overall, Sustainable Brands has become much more detail-oriented and has increasingly gained the attention of the ESG crowd. We are also seeing more harmonization across ESG frameworks with GRI and SASB being the most widely-used. 

Lastly, sustainability is local. Specifically with agricultural practices, impacts are determined by the local environment. Companies must invest in understanding and building relationships with their supply chain, and local managers and practitioners must be empowered to create solutions to determine best practices.