Over 2,000 business leaders in sustainable and corporate social responsibility are gathering this week in Detroit, to share and explore opportunities for making the world a better and safer place. For those attending Sustainable Brands Detroit 17, it starts in Redefining The Good Life.

In spite of a chaotic political arena, a majority of Americans share the view that The Good Life is defined by connections to people and planet more than by material wealth and consumption. Furthermore, Americans are looking to brands to take the lead in showing them how they can make a more fulfilling life according to a US study of 1,000 adults 18+ conducted in April 2017.

The Enabling the Good Life Report from Sustainable Brands and Harris Poll released this week, shows the dramatic shift in American attitudes and reflects a gap between people’s new aspirations and the ways business responds.

The research shows that today’s vision of The Good Life is different from the past, with 71% saying living the good life is different for them than it was for their parents – perhaps indicating a greater focus on simplicity, health and people over things and looking beyond oneself.

What we think of as the traditional elements of the “Good Life,” such as wealth and what it unlocks, may be shifting. There is an emerging desire for balance with two leading themes driving the new definition of the Good Life: 

  • Meaningful Connections: 76% believe the Good Life is defined by having meaningful engagement with families and their communities, including those in need and the environment. 
  • Balanced Simplicity: 66% believe the Good Life is defined by having good health and living a simple, yet balanced life. Americans are seeking reduced complexity and healthy behaviors - striking a tone of moderation, all actions contributing to their happiness. 

Financial independence (26%) and personal goals (10%) such as career and education trailed balanced simplicity (36%) and human connections (28%) in what Americans view as most important factors in defining the Good Life. 

While income (62%) is reported as a top obstacle preventing The Good Life, more than 3 in 4 Americans (78%) believe money cannot buy happiness.


Another study revealed that consumers factor a company’s core beliefs into shopping decisions. The 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study found that eighty-seven percent of those surveyed said they’d purchase a product because that company advocated for an issue they cared about and 76 percent or more than three-quarters said they would refuse to purchase a product if they found out a company supported an issue contrary to their beliefs, such as Hobby Lobby or Chic-fill-A. With so much turmoil, Americans are looking to companies to drive change in the future, especially around social and environmental issues.

The New Role for Business and Brands to Support the Good Life Journey

The research showed that brands have an enormous opportunity to help Americans achieve The Good Life. About half of Americans (51%) believe companies care about helping consumers achieve The Good Life and 75% of American consumers believe that if consumers demanded more products and services to help them achieve The Good Life, companies would change in order to provide them. 

Yet, the majority of people in America (65%) feel the products and services offered by companies don’t help them achieve what they see as The Good Life. Although brands are commonly looked to for value (18%) and health-related benefits (12%), fewer see a logical path for brands to connect them with others, issues, or their community. 

Companies mentioned as contributing to “The Good Life” include high reputation favorites such as:  Starbucks, Tesla, and Apple, Target, REI & Panera.

Industries that ranked the highest in terms of delivering on helping consumers live the good life include food (48%), technology (45%), and travel and leisure (40%) with fashion (25%), banking (29%) and other categories trailing. 

“Going forward, companies and brands must evolve from marketing, to mattering to people. Understanding what makes a difference in people’s lives is the force of innovation that leads to true brand loyalty,” said Chris Hollander, Head of Marketing, Panera Bread, a brand recognized by the research as helping people to achieve the Good Life. 

According to Sustainable Brands, that will require: 

  • Deeper engagement with stakeholders to better understand how brands/companies have potential to support the new definition of The Good Life. 
  • Using constraints as an opportunity to reimagine and create with consumers products/services that matter. 
  • Redefining value beyond “more and cheaper is better” as consumption does not meet the new definition of American’s view of The Good Life.


Not only are consumers demanding that the brands they invest in are mission-driven, but so too are employees demanding that their employer, speak up, speak out and take a stand on issues vital to developing a stronger community and better life.

A new survey also released at Sustainable Brands event in Detroit reveals that more than half (57 percent) of those working in America's largest companies feel that their employers should play a more active role in addressing important societal issues.  The study by Povaddo found that employees want their companies to act on issues such as:

  • Equal opportunity in the workplace
  • Healthcare reform, and
  • Renewable energy

Interestingly, only 35 percent of respondents feel assured that their CEO has a finger on the pulse of employee attitudes towards today's major societal issues. This is significant because roughly half of those surveyed (45 percent) indicate that the actions a company takes to help influence important societal issues impact their decision to maintain or pursue employment with a company.  More specifically, 38 percent say they would be less likely to continue working for the company long-term if their company and/or CEO made zero effort to make a difference on an important societal issue.

From a PR perspective it is vital that corporate executives start learning about what is important to their employees and communicate with them that they are listening.  Otherwise, they will have a difficult time retaining or building a quality workforce.

For example, Nestlé released its 2016 Creating Shared Value Report at Sustainable Brands 2017 in Detroit, Michigan this week. The report highlights the company's efforts and achievements in:

  • Nutrition,
  • Health & Wellness
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Rural Development & Responsible Sourcing
  • Water and
  • Social Impact

Highlights for Nestle, from this past year, include:

  • Achieving zero waste to landfill status at 60% of U.S. factories
  • Implementing a number of water efficiency projects that are projected to save more than 144 million gallons of water per year, and
  • Hosting the Company's largest single day of community service in celebration of Nestlé's 150th anniversary.

In addition,

  • Nestlé reformulated 1,830 products for nutrition and consumer preference, including reducing sodium and sugar, eliminating artificial colors and flavors, or increasing essential nutrients.
  • Nestlé implemented water efficiency projects across California that are projected to save 144 million gallons of water per year.
  • Nestlé brought on 1,400 individuals for internships, trainee and development programs, academic hires and apprenticeships through Project Opportunity.

Like Nestle, Whirlpool is also focused on sustainability showcasing their waste-reducing benefits of the latest products from WLabs, the innovation incubator of Whirlpool Corporation, in addition to providing a virtual look into its living research laboratory, ReNEWW House. According to Whirlpool, their involvement and investment in Sustainable Brands is one part of the company's larger commitment to sustainability. On the consumer product side, Whirlpool Corporation engineers its products to be more energy efficient than ever before -- for example, the refrigerators it makes today use less energy than a 60-watt incandescent light bulb. This commitment to sustainability is also integrated into supply chain and operations, where the company is incorporating wind energy to power its manufacturing facilities. With a zero waste-to-landfill goal for all of its global manufacturing facilities by 2022, Whirlpool Corporation continues to work to minimize its impact on the environment.

In Detroit, L’Oreal also announced The L’Oréal-owned hair care brand, Biolage, has received a sustainability certification for its R.A.W. Nourish Shampoo and Conditioner.

Farmers and ranchers are also leading the way. The U.S Farmers & Ranchers Alliance released their 2017 Agriculture in America Sutainability Report. The Alliance represents a majority of farmers in the US and their leading associatins.

The Report found that:

  • Soybean famers use 40 percent less land thean they did 30 years ago
  • Dairy farmers are using 65 percent less wanter than they were 70 years ago
  • Poultry famers are using 26% less daily feed than in 1960
  • Sugar beet farmers grow 255 more sugar per acre without using more land
  • Roughly 60 percent of the US Cotton crops rely on rainfall more than watering.

Companies are already working to save the world, but they just do a lousy job of telling us. CEO’s must talk more about purposeful leadership, consciousness in business and how they are working to make the world a better place – in the products they manufacture, how they treat their team members and in how they are loking at ways to make improvememtns little by little.

For more information or to schedule interviews with any of the companies noted above, please contact Daniel Cherrin, m. 313-300-0932, dcherrin@northcoaststrategies.com, @dancherrin.

About Sustainable Brands

Sustainable Brands® is the premier global community of brand innovators who are shaping the future of commerce worldwide. Since 2006, our mission has been to inspire, engage and equip today’s business and brand leaders to prosper for the near and long term by leading the way to a better future. Digitally published news articles and issues-focused conversation topics, internationally known conferences and regional events, a robust e-learning library and peer-to-peer membership groups all facilitate community learning and engagement throughout the year. Sustainable Brands is hosted by Sustainable Brands Worldwide, a division of Sustainable Life Media headquartered in San Francisco, CA. 

The Sustainable Brands and Harris Poll research provides insights for companies and brands leaders who want to know how to do business in an emerging environment where consumers are not just purchasing their products or services on their own merits, but who are also seeking guidance from companies in helping consumers attract the connections and simplicity they desire for a Good Life.