Sustainable Brands 2013 Day One | San Onofre Goes Solar!

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Well, alright, it hasn’t happened yet. But listening to various panelists talk about consumer research they’ve conducted, it’s clear the public wants solar power much, much more than nuclear. Sustainable Brands 2013 launched with a day of workshops on a wide range of topics, with all sorts of interesting news. The panels I sat in ranged from one on Life Cycle Assessment to one on Systems Thinking. Driving past San Onofre on the way down from LA, it looked as ominously dormant as it did when it was active. They’re threatening to re-open it, but with solar getting so cheap, is it really worth the risk?

Artist's rendition of San Onofre retrofitted for sustainable energy production.
Artist’s rendition of San Onofre retrofitted for sustainable energy production.

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Label Network’s SVP Kathleen Gasperini presented on the findings of their Sustainability and State of Youth Culture study. She pointed out that many brands don’t understand the youth market. Hence the need for a study. 75% of this demographic, comprising 56 million Americans aged 13-25, is at least somewhat interested in sustainability, according to the sample they interviewed. Of them, 30% are very interested. One interesting point included that teens have significantly less trust of brands’ “green” messaging. In another panel, I learned that the FTC has guidelines for green messaging, which can help rebuild that lost trust. The younger generation are also much more likely to prefer clean energy such as solar, and choose thrift shopping for a multitude of reasons, including environmental and social impact, according to their research.

Other interesting trends I picked up on today include: businesses aiming to have a net positive impact, either in energy use (easy, if you’re selling it back to the grid from your roof), but also in water? That’s no small task. Collaborative consumption is still a growing trend, and one that businesses are keen on finding ways to engage in profitably. Another panelist spoke of consumer research from a perspective that enabled a deeper understanding of what the customers actually wanted. She spoke of listening for the conflicts and aspirations in order to find the underlying issues around how they transport themselves around town — control, safety, and agency. Stay tuned for more as the conference continues.

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