We're about a month away from our upcoming conference, Greener By Design 2009, and I wanted to share what's coming and why I think this will be an extraordinary event. I also want to share information about a limited number of unpublished deep-discount registrations I have available for a few lucky blog readers. (More about that in a moment)
Greener By Design focuses on the intersection of product design, innovation, supply chains, and sustainability — how both large and smaller companies are baking environmental thinking into their products and manufacturing processes in a way that makes products not just greener, but better. This year's theme, "Greener Products for Leaner Times," reflects the elephant in the room — the economy — and how companies are aligning green considerations with the need to make products cheaper, lighter, simpler, and more energy efficient.
Suffice to say, this is no mean feat, though part of the problem is perceptual. Most companies still view that designing and building greener products is a costly endeavor resulting in products that are inferior, either in quality or in their ability to be cost-competitive with their conventional counterparts. As we report regularly on GreenBiz.com (and GreenerDesign.com), this is no longer the case. Companies making everything from clothing to cleaners to chips are finding their way.
And it's not just small innovative companies, though many of them are leading the pack. According to a recent survey by the research firm Forrester, a large number of companies are developing greener products, looking at outside factors as well as who within companies are pushing for product changes. Eighty-four percent of the consumer product strategy professionals surveyed said that their companies have environmentally conscious or socially responsible products in development or on the market.
We saw ample evidence of that at last year's Greener By Design (click here for video and other highlights), with companies ranging from 3M to Nike to Xerox — as well as upstarts like IceStone and Method — shared their learning and insights.
That trend has only grown over the past year, as the twin pillars of environment and cost-cutting have led companies to accelerate plans, as Forrester found. Much of the pressure is coming from retailers like Wal-Mart, which itself is ramping up efforts to push suppliers to innovate, reducing or eliminating packaging, making products more energy-efficient, and reducing toxicity — without raising prices. Clearly, this is no longer a "nice to do." It is the future of product design.
This year's event builds on that theme, as well as on last year's success. It includes keynotes from green design master Bill McDonough and iconoclastic entrepreneur Tom Szaky of Terracycle, along with the kinds of panels you'd expect. But also things you wouldn't: a hands-on workshop on innovation, by the renowned firm Systemic Inventive Thinking; small, consultative "guru" sessions with designers and innovators, in which attendees can pose their own design questions and challenges; and an Innovators Showcase, with entrepreneurs doing lightning-fast elevator pitches of their creations. We'll also have products on display from the latest electric vehicle to a new machine that's about to be released across Whole Foods Markets that I can't yet describe. (Click here for the current agenda.)
One of the things that most impressed me about the audience at Greener By Design is the sheer diversity of professionals it attracts. In my opening remarks last year, I scrolled the job titles of everyone in the room across the screen. It was a remarkable assemblage: designers, brand managers, and supply chain professionals, of course, but also engineers, biologists, chemists, and chief marketing officers, among many others. It was that diverse and high-level mix that contributed to the event's success just as much as the program itself.
So, about that discount: Thanks to the generous, record sponsorship we've had this year — from Autodesk, HP, Steelcase, UL Environment, and others — I have a handful of sponsored conference passes for less than half-price of the going rate — sort of my Earth Day gift. I'd like to make them available first to loyal readers of this blog — first-come, first served, and there are only a couple of minor qualifications required for eligibility.
If you're interested, send a note ASAP.