Nov 13

Closing Time: #BSR13

Eric Bloem

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2013: The Power of Networks. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference here on this blog.

Our third-annual BSR conference came to a close last week, bringing an end to three energizing days of networking, plenary sessions and workshops.  What came through loud and clear at this year’s conference was the degree to which BSR’s network has developed over the past 21 years, and how this network has served as a powerful catalyst for inspiring solutions to the most challenging sustainability issues. 

From  expanding efforts to promote worker safety in global supply chains, to understanding how businesses can best operate in a climate-constrained world, it’s that promise of collaboration and impact that keeps BSR members coming back year after year.

As we leave the annual BSR conference to again focus on our own challenges with a renewed sense of purpose, here are a few additional key insights and takeaways.

  1. Numbers matter. Innovation and new ideas are important, but to make true impact, we must scale solutions. In one session, Seth Goldman – co-founder, President and “TeaEO” of Honest Tea – discussed his decision to accept a major investment from Coca-Cola in order to “democratize” a lower-calorie drink option. In another, a speaker referenced Thomas Edison as a powerful example of the importance of scaling solution. Although Edison wasn’t the first person to come up with the light bulb concept, he was the first to be able to take it to scale.
  2. Anyone can be a leader. During our working lunch with Arizona State University and Triple Pundit, the Weber Shandwick team participated in a great dialogue about what it means to be a leader in sustainability. The consensus was that there is no shortage of ways to be a leader. They key is to choose an issue you want to lead and an issue you are best equipped to lead. Once you’ve discovered that issue, push for innovation, drive engagement among employees, consumers and other key stakeholders and communicate the impact of your programs.
  3. Solutions to our most critical challenges can come from unexpected places. We heard from the CEO of Participant Media, Jim Burke, who demonstrated how movies and documentaries are drivers of social change. Who would have thought we could develop a framework for inspiring social change using the movie industry as our guide? To drive understanding and inspire action, people need to relate to an issue area.And storytelling, whether through cinema or otherwise, is the method to make it happen.  
  4. The time is now. Perhaps the most powerful moment at BSR 2013 was Mary Robinson’s plenary discussion. Mary is the president of the Mary Robinson Foundation and former President of Ireland. As a self-declared “elder” in the social change movement, Mary spoke through the lens of her decades of experience. She recalled hearing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s “I Have a Dream Speech,” and being motivated by his powerful call to action: ”the fierce urgency of now.” While the issue may be different, Robinson pointed to this same sense of urgency in calling upon businesses to work with stakeholders to lead on climate justice.

Thank you to everyone who played a role in this year’s conference – we look forward to seeing you next year at #BSR14 in New York City!



Nov 8

BSR 2013: Pop Culture as a Driver for Social Change?

Eric Bloem

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2013: The Power of Networks. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference here on this blog.

How do we accelerate social change?

With movies. 

According to Jim Berk, movies can be a strong catalyst for change. Berk is the CEO of Participant Media, a company dedicated to developing entertainment that inspires and compels social change. Participant Media is responsible for well-known movies and documentaries, including The Help, Food Inc., An Inconvenient Truth, Lincoln and Contagion. 

At the BSR Conference this week, Berk outlined a framework for catalyzing social change based on what he’s learned working on major motion pictures. These key elements are applicable not only to the entertainment industry, but to businesses, NGOs and any just about anyone who wants to incite social change.

  1. Tell a story. And make sure it resonates on a human level.  In The Help, audiences learned about the fight for civil rights in very personal terms, through the eyes of African-American domestic helpers.
  2. Enlighten. Simplify a complex issue.  Contagion, for example, informed and educated its audience about health epidemics in a compelling and suspenseful way.
  3. Inspire. Connect with the audience. With An Inconvenient Truth, Participant Media turned a PowerPoint presentation into a film, making climate change and its impacts a vivid reality to millions of people.
  4. Collaborate. With the release of Food Inc., Participant Media built a coalition of more than 100 NGO’s to educate the public about nutrition.
  5. Engage. The audience needs to feel part of the experience by offering them simple actions to take.  At screenings of The Cove, Participant Media invited moviegoers to tweet their disapproval of Japan’s treatment of dolphins to the U.S. Ambassador to Japan.
  6. Empower. Provide information in the context of a solution.  In A Place at the Table, the issue of food insecurity is highlighted, but the focus of the film is how to inspire a solution.
  7. Inform. With the release of Lincoln, Participant Media connected with a network of high schools to provide students with a discussion guide that taught them about the importance of the 16th president in American history.
  8. Relate. Frame issues in ways that link them to people.  In The Soloist, the audience becomes deeply connected to a homeless, Juilliard-trained musician.

By taking these cues from the movies, you too can inspire social change.  



Nov 8

BSR 2013 - Day 2: In Conversation with Honest Tea

Catie Caborn

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2013: The Power of Networks. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference here on this blog.

On the second day of the BSR 2013 Conference, I participated in a session featuring Seth Goldman, co-founder, President and “TeaEO” of Honest Tea, a Bethesda-based company with a “Mission in a Bottle.”

The company was initially started by Goldman and one of his business school professors, Barry Nalebuff, to fill the gap between the zero-calorie and the 100-calorie, sugar-laden drinks on the market. To that end, they created Honest Tea, with 20 calories.

Over the course of 15 years, the company has grown from a single niche product to offer beverages in five product lines – including a lower-calorie beverage for children. Since 1997, the brand has offered the first organic and Fair Trade-certified bottled tea, eliminated billions of calories from the American diet, supported the growth of organic agriculture around the globe, and promoted fair trade labor standards in the developing world.

But what’s particularly interesting to those of us in the social impact space is Goldman’s ability to scale a once-small company into a large, commercially successful one owned by a major global conglomerate – Coca-Cola – all while maintaining the company’s core social mission.

To take a step back, in 2011 Coca-Cola purchased Honest Tea after recognizing the growing consumer trend toward health and wellness, environmental consciousness and social responsibility. While on the surface it may seem like Goldman sold out to the big brand, the partnership has allowed the brand to scale the distribution of its beverages in a way that “democratizes” lower-sugar, organic, and free trade drink options. Goldman has also used the opportunity to influence Coca-Cola, by encouraging the company to offer its employees a 401(k) package that incorporates Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) options.

Goldman is one of the great examples of an entrepreneur who maintained the integrity of his brand by preserving a focus on health, the environment and social responsibility, while building a strong partnership with an organization that can help take that “Mission in a Bottle” to grand scale.



Nov 7

Insights from BSR 2013: Launch Initiative Illustrates the Power of Networks

Catie Caborn

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2013: The Power of Networks. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference here on this blog.


Discussions around some of the most pressing issues facing our society, such as climate change, global poverty, or lack of access to healthcare, can often result in a gloom and doom outlook – but one of the things I love about attending the BSR conference each year is the positive conversation around how organizations have accelerated progress and made an impact through a future focus.  I had the pleasure of attending one such session that featured speakers from Nike and USAID (in the interest of full transparency, both clients of Weber Shandwick).

The session introduced and discussed the work of the LAUNCH collaboration, which is a global initiative between Nike, USAID, the US State Department and NASA formed in 2010 to identify, showcase, support and accelerate innovative approaches to a sustainable future that meet those urgent challenges facing our society.  Since its inception, LAUNCH has conducted challenges focused on issues surrounding water sustainability, health and human development, efficient use of energy, and waste. Through these four challenges, LAUNCH has identified 40 game changing innovations that at scale, help create a better world. Innovations from previous LAUNCH challenges include:

  • Carbon For Water: delivering the technology to provide access to clean water to 4.5 million people in Kenya.
  • Gram Power: providing thousands of people in India with affordable, renewable energy.
  • Bioneedle: a biodegradable, implantable needle that delivers vaccines and dissolves in the body, allowing for mass distribution and minimal waste.

Currently, the LAUNCH collaboration is focusing on systems innovation to uncover innovations that will transform the system of textiles and fabrics to advance equitable global economic growth, drive human prosperity and replenish the planet’s resources. When you consider that each year,  about 150 billion garments are created by a textiles industry that employs 40 million people globally, it is clear that there are major gains to be made in this field.

Working together, the organizations that act as conveners of the Launch Initiative acknowledge that they are able to accelerate progress and positive change that simply wouldn’t be possible without the collaboration. In this way, the session very accurately illustrated this year’s conference theme, “The Power of Networks.”

To learn more about the LAUNCH Collaboration, visit To follow along with the conversation happening around the BSR 2013 Conference,  follow the Storify stream at




Nov 7

Three ideas I fell in love with before breakfast


Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2013: The Power of Networks. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference here on this blog.


Yesterday I mentioned the importance of focusing your conference take-aways to make the most out of your experience.

This morning’s breakfast presenter at the BSR Conference 2013, The Power of Networks was Marina Gorbis, Executive Director of the Institute for the Future.  Of her many thoughtful and moving comments, these three on education stuck with me.

The world as a classroomMarina spoke of creating a disruptive, socialstructed movement to decentralize education (along with government and the way we work) and expand learning in a way that no organization can do. She shared the example of HyperCities a research and education platform where you can use your phone to travel back in time to explore the history of buildings and city spaces in an interactive environment.

Moving from episodic to continuous learningMaria spoke enthusiastically about how content as a commodity leads to continuous learning and the rise of extreme learners. These are learners that are interested and motivated to soak up all resources available to them at any given time. Shespoke of the rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs), which provide interactive user forums to build communities of extreme learners.

From institutions to learning flows Maria spoke of learning no longer being confined to a place or an institution, but a flow. A river that you can dip in an out of. She referenced leafsnap, a free mobile app where the curious can take photos of leaves and visual recognition software can help identify tree species.  Amazing. No hike will ever be the same.

This idea of open data as a means to move our work, learning and governance from institution-based to citizen-controlled was more breathtaking than the pastry bar. Maria asked the room, what idea have you fallen in love with this week? I think I just found it.

 This post was authored by Megan Torres.