Tag Archives: sustainable brands

Screw AppleWatch. Give me LYF!

Lordy, is it really 4 months since I last posted? Shame on me!

Well, it’s only fitting that I should break such a prolonged period of radio silence with news from my favourite discovery of 2014: the brilliant LYF Shoes.

If you haven’t come across this little gem before, clear 15 mins in your calendar to watch LYF founder Aly Khalifa’s talk from the Sustainable Brands conference in London last November. Seriously, do it. The design – not only of the product, but also the entire ecosystem and customer experience it spawns – is genuinely breathtaking in its scale and ingenuity and, as you pause and reflect on it, you’ll wonder why shoes would ever be made any other way in this day and age.

That’s why I couldn’t be happier to be one of the lucky few to be involved as an LYF Pioneer, shortly to receive my ‘LYF Fit Kit’ and begin the journey towards my first ever pair of custom-fit, one-of-a-kind, made-to-be-made-again footwear.

This may be the first time in my life that I’ve ever truly been an Early Adopter. I couldn’t give a stuff about all the hype surrounding the latest gadgets, like the AppleWatch, but LYF is different.

You see, I’m a sucker for anything to do with sustainability-inspired innovation, and the chance to play some small part in the development an enterprise with the potential to disrupt an entire industry is simply too good to miss. I also happen to be 6’7″ with size 14 feet, which means I’ve struggled for pretty much all of my adult life to find clothes – and especially shoes – that fit.

LYF, with me at least, has hit the mother of all sweet spots!

I’ll let others rave about the opportunity to design their own uppers and create a truly individual fashion statement (I am, after all, a 42-year old straight white male, which makes me something of a fashion vacuum).

What really intrigues me is the chance, for the first time ever, to own a pair of shoes that has been individually customised to the length and width of each of my feet (that’s right, folks, different sized feet receive different sized shoes!); more than that, to own a pair of shoes that will actually capture biomechanical data on the way I walk, using a device embedded in the heel, so that the design of the next pair I buy will be refined to fit even better; and all serviced by a closed-loop, circular business model that eliminates harmful substances from assembly, uses 100% recyclable materials, and spurs local economic development by encouraging micro-enterprises to spring up and fulfil all parts of the value cycle from Original Equipment Manufacture to assembly and retail.

Normally it’s my missus who has the exclusive preserve on getting excited about a pair of shoes but, on this occasion, I’ll gladly buck the trend.


The best quick-read sustainability book… ever!

Drum roll, please…

After much procrastination, an expanded second edition of Live Long and Prosper: The 55-Minute Guide to Sustainable Brands has finally hit the virtual shelves.

Rather than me crapping on about what’s ‘new and improved’, I’ll let someone else do the talking – the title of this post coming courtesy of an extremely generous 5-star review from Brian Moss on Amazon (thanks, Brian – your cheque is in the post!).

Here’s what he says:


For those who have already read the first edition of “Live Long and Prosper”, you know how fantastic this little treasure is. I don’t know how he did it, but author Dan Gray has updated and improved his 55-minute Guide to Building Sustainable Brands and has (in my humble opinion) created the best guide to how environmental sustainability issues can and will influence business in the opening decades of the 21st century. For anyone with an interest in the future of business and brand value, you owe it to yourself to get this book!

[About me: I recently completed a multi-year graduate degree in sustainable business at a top-ranked US business school, and when I read this book I was amazed at how it manages to combine the most important themes from my (very expensive) education into 100 thoughtful, concise, and easy-to-digest pages.]

A few of my personal favorite updates in the 2nd edition include a feature on “Creating Shared Value” first advanced by Michael Porter at Harvard Business School, an explanation of the dichotomy between thin vs thick value, and a new section on “Design for Sustainability” and biomimicry (the most exciting field within sustainability today).

This 55-Minute Guide has been near the top of my sustainability reading list since it was first published, but now that it has been updated it is going right to the top of the pile. I can’t recommend it highly enough.


Not bad for a book you can read from cover to cover in under an hour, eh? So what are you waiting for? Get hold of your copy now!

10 books by the spring?

Given that I haven’t blogged in over two months now (busy, busy, busy!), it’s probably ambitious in the extreme to set such a target for the 55-minute guide series that Kevin Keohane and I started up a couple of years ago.

Nevertheless, with five books already in the bag (attracting nothing but four- and five-star reviews on Amazon too, btw), another three in the latter stages of development, plus ideas for at least another two, maybe it’s not a total pipe-dream?

To these hopefully soon-to-be-completed guides – including the 55-minute-guide to corporate branding (Dave Allen), user-centred design (William Hudson) and cross-cultural communication (Indy Neogy) – it’s also probably about time to add second editions to the books that started it all off, namely The Talent Journey and Live Long and Prosper.

For my part, I just started thinking this morning about my opening gambit for an updated book and figured I might as well share it here. Have a butcher’s and let me know what you think…


Preface to 2nd Edition

So, what’s changed since the first edition of this book was published two years ago?

The short answer, somewhat paradoxically, is both everything and nothing.

Slightly depressingly, what hasn’t changed is the vast majority of companies’ understanding of what it really means to be sustainable.

The ones who get the concepts and arguments laid out in this book have got it for a long time already. These include not only more recent start-ups, like the brilliant Icebreaker in New Zealand, for whom sustainability is the very essence of their business; they also comprise long-established corporations like Interface in the US and Marks & Spencer in the UK, who have recognised the changing frame conditions within which we’re now operating and that their long-term prosperity depends on nothing less than the redesign of core business strategy and operations.

Meanwhile, in general, those who didn’t get it before recession struck still don’t get it now. Indeed, if anything, all recession has done is to entrench short-term thinking.

And yet…

Everywhere I look, momentum is growing. Sustainability is no longer the exclusive realm of hair-shirted environmentalists and pie-in-the-sky idealists.

The need for business to reconnect strategy to a sense of social progress – that creating shared value is perhaps the competitive advantage of the 21st century – is rapidly gaining currency, even in the hallowed corridors of Harvard Business School and other temples of traditional, left-brained management thinking.

When strategy guru, Michel Porter, starts proselytising about a more constructive form of capitalism, you know it’s time to pull on your track shoes. The kind of stuff that people like Paul Hawken, Ray Anderson and Jonathon Porritt have been talking and writing about for ages has finally hit the mainstream!

And for every poster-child of old-world CSR to have come an almighty cropper in recent times (not least BP, whose ‘Beyond Petroleum’ greenwash has come back to bite them royally on the bum in the wake of the disaster in the Mexican Gulf), there’s a story of another major corporation embracing new-world sustainability.

Consider the launch last year of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, for example, explicitly framed by CEO, Paul Polman, “not as a project to celebrate, but a new business model to implement,” based on the fundamental understanding that materially addressing sustainability not only offers opportunities to save costs, but is also a critical engine of innovation and brand equity.

In short, then, the case for building sustainable brands – and for a book that gives sympaticos and sceptics alike a quick and easy way of getting to grips with the big idea and how to action it – has never been stronger.

Don’t worry. While slightly expanded, with additional thoughts and visuals culled from my blog and my practical experiences of consulting with clients, I promise you’ll still be able to read this book from cover to cover in under an hour.

I hope you enjoy it.

Live long and prosper!