ISPO 2020 – Moments that make a difference

I have never ever been at ISPO and came home so inspired. And I have been going there for 25 years.

10 years ago, we had the vision to revolutionise communication around sustainability and no one understood what we meant be saying: it needs to be fair to the consumer, transparent, fact based and not just a label, but an explanation.

The common reaction was: that is way to complicated, no one is really interested, it is only about the price, sustainability is nice to have as a marketing argument, but not as a business case.

For a long time, (I consider 10 years being a long time) they were right. No one was really interested. No one was really looking beyond what they wanted to see and hear. Sometimes and in some areas of life, me included. I guess it’s because it is so much easier to deny reality then to face some very disturbing facts.

Loosing control is always at the beginning of something new

At this year’s ISPO it wasn’t just about business anymore. At the Sustainability Hub, the collective wake up was tangible. Our industry is not just facing challenging conditions to survive as a business for the next decade. Now it is about surviving as humanity the next, say, 200 years.

Top-level management opened up on their visions, challenges and hopes for the future. Panel discussions had huge audiences, questions were asked on expert level. Everyone seemed to suddenly know much more about sustainability, chemistry, material, circularity, etc. then a couple of month ago. Especially the younger audience was surprisingly well educated. And for the first time, there was a real discussion about what we have to face as an industry, not just the typical “we do this, so we are the best” kind of top down behaviours we have witnessed in the past.

Even the bright pink elephant in the room got tackled: “How much stuff do we actually need? Don’t we have too much of everything already?”

“Grow or Die” turns to “You will die for sure if you grow, and you will take everything and every one down with you.” In a finite system there is no endless growth possible.

A simple reality and common sense, yet it seems that this understanding has only reached the minds of business “designers” kind of now. And I guess just a small percentage of those people.

The only growth possible is within the circular approach by taking market shares away from a linear approach. Is this considered as “growth” in the business world? I guess it depends on who you ask.

“Path’s are made by walking” Franz Kafka

At the Sustainability Hub, there were lively discussions around new business models, that are not based on more and more linear cradle to grave stuff anymore but on a circular economy, where material is attributed a more realistic value with a long term vision.

We can just not afford anymore to not think about what happens at the end of life of a product we produce or purchase, or our children’s children will be out of useable materials and out of an economy all together. We are at that very edge- like it or not!

We, as GreenroomVoice, together with Brands for Good our co-organiser of the Sustainability Hub, were involved in a panel discussion with the Vice president of Adidas, the CEO of PrimaLoft, General Secretary of EOG and the sustainability manager of The North Face in a live-streamed event on the ISPO Academy Stage. And the main outcome of the discussion was clear:

Action towards a more sustainable way of “making the word go round” is a necessity. Re-generative farming and circular business models is the only viable future we have and communication needs to be fair to the consumer, transparent, fact based and not just another label, but an explanation.

It was a great joy to see, that our vision was holding true. And while it is a joy to realise, that we have invested our precious time, energy, effort and all other personal resources into a business vision, which moment of glory has probably come, it feels worrying at the same time. Why did everyone seem to have woken up so suddenly?

It is because the reality of climate change, of loss of biodiversity, loss of stock, of drinkable, accessible water, plastic pollution, you name it, has already hit us. That is a sobering fact.

I do have hope, though. Don’t get me wrong.

When I look into the eyes of the young, I see determination. It’s not about making money, it’s not about being nice and doing the right thing to feel better. It’s about survival.

There are so many examples of courageous start ups and one has caught my attention the most: two incredibly charismatic young ladies, a snowboarder/ architect and an engineer/ Permaculture designer proposing a whole system of waste to value, which means mining unusable plastic waste before it goes to landfill or being burned it becomes fuel and attractive material for construction and product design. The possibilities are endless and hurray, there is enough waste for everyone!

When I came home, my eight-year old son asked me what it was like at the show. And I said that sustainability is finally very important to people. Then he asked me what sustainability was. And I answered that it means that there is still a beautiful planet to live on for the children of his children and their children and that there is still enough of everything for everyone, and that we don’t use everything the planet has to offer right now in one big show of fireworks.

And he looked at me in a surprised way, like “But isn’t this obvious? What could be more important?” Well, nothing.

“Nothing is more important, not if we love our children above all else, like we say we do” (Greta Thunberg).


The cover shot comes from an inspiring slideshow about rethinking recycling from our dear friend Benjamin Marias (Air Coop). I took it during his presentation and feel, that it hits the nail on the head.