A new era of Planet Centric Design

Last week, we had the honor to present the award for the ‘Sustainability Leader of the Year’ at the annual Sustainability Leaders Forum. The London-based awards event brought cross-sector companies together, united by their intent to build a responsible future for global business through innovation, creativity and collaboration.

The world of commerce is slowly evolving its relationship with the planet. In the current system business interests are not always aligned with the interests of the environment. However many of the leaders at the forum are driving a change.

Through putting the needs of the planet first in business, sustainability becomes a catalyst for future strategies that are truly long-term. Product and services are engineered to fall in line with the environment’s capabilities, as well as the end user and consumer needs. Aligning businesses’ financial objectives with environmental agendas is an increasingly important next step for companies.

Over the past decade we have appreciated the power of ‘User centered design’, but we believe that as designers we can go one step further. We have been initiating a shift from ‘User-centered design’ to ‘Planet centric design’, this approach forms the core foundation of our methodology as Impossible designers, creators, engineers and thinkers.

“The reality is that under the current system business success is measured by how much value it provides to its customers,” says Kwame Ferreira, co-founder of Impossible. “What is taken for granted is that all businesses exist on a shared planet, and to be sustainable, they have to provide value to the planet as well, by taking established practices and putting them in a planetary context.”

In line with this thinking, we breakdown our top five stand-out projects from across 17 category shortlists at the Sustainability Leaders Forum. Each of them stands out for its own unique approach to building better business practices for a future generation, and for the planet.

Head & Shoulders shampoo bottle made of beach plastic. Image source: Packaging Europe

Sustainable supply chains : Terracycle, P&G and Suez

Ocean plastics are a growing problem worldwide, with scalability of recycling often being the toughest problem to solve. Addressing this issue, TerraCycle formed a new partnership with Suez and Proctor & Gamble (P&G) to create the first recyclable shampoo packaging composed of beach plastic. Through creating a supply chain including NGOs and volunteers, over 3,000kg of beach plastic pellets have been utilised to create over 170,000 Head & Shoulders shampoo bottles, each made up from up to 25% PCR (post consumer recycled) beach plastic.

UBS 5 Broadgate by Make Architects

Sustainable building of the year: UBS

A new benchmark for energy efficient workplaces was set by UBS in their latest development. Addressing the issue that energy consumption amounts to two thirds of the companies global emissions, UBS conceptualized a new headquarters in London, 5 Broadgate designed by Make Architects. Addressing both external and internal factors, the architecture of the building includes a rainwater harvesting system and passive infrared lighting but UBS also implemented new strategies which increased the employee rate of recycling significantly. The new building has reduced the previous suite of individual workspaces energy use by 50%.


Energy management : Brau Union ÖSTERREICH (BUO)

By-products are increasingly being viewed as a new resource. Leading a new wave of brands utilising their waste, Brau Union are closing the loop and able to run breweries on 100% renewable energy. As Heineken’s operating company in Austria, the Brau Union Österreich’s Göss brewery produces 1.4 million bottles of zero carbon beer every day, strongly supporting Heineken’s commitment to a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions from production by 2020. Through processing spent grains and other residual waste into biogas, over 1,200 tonnes of CO2 are being saved each year. BUO were recognized for this commitment to moving towards circular system design.

Adnams brewery

Sustainability manager of the year : Ben Orchard

Ben Orchard, the CSR manager of Adnams brewery and distillery was awarded for his commitment to a triple bottom line — people, planet and profit. His holistic sustainability strategies have brought clear commercial benefit and improved the company’s carbon footprint, biodiversity of the area as well enabling the business to send zero waste to landfill, “Ben’s impact outside Adnams is unarguably over three times the vast savings achieved within our business”, says Richard Carter, Adnams’ head of finance and sustainability.

A demonstration boat to promote human rights of workers in the Thai fishing industry is pictured near a pier in Thailand’s Trat Province in December 2017. Photo credit: Thai Union

Sustainability leader : Dr Darian McBain, Thai union group

Traceability of food products is a crucial chain for the FMCG industry. Tackling the issue of transparent supply chains within the seafood industry, McBain was commended for her focus on putting workers rights first, “Darian has ignited a global shift in thinking around sustainability within the seafood sector”, said the Sustainability Leaders Forum Judges. McBain is currently pioneering Fishermen Centers in Thailand to provide survivors of human trafficking in the seafood supply chain. Proving the need for open systems between competitors, Thai Union’s tuna commitment, which McBrain also developed, has now been adopted by other retailers as a standard for sustainable sourcing within their own supply chains.

Over 2018 we will be exploring different strands of planet centered design. For a full breakdown of the winners of The Sustainability Leaders awards go here.