Products of Change

DRIVING SUSTAINABLE
CHANGE TOGETHER

Tue 19 Oct 2021 | by Rob Hutchins

Meeting the Advisors | Products of Change talks with June Kirkwood

When it comes to sustainable licensing, few are as clued up and plugged into the conversation as Nutmeg Licensing's June Kirkwood - a licensing aficionado with a portfolio that includes the Eden Project and an accreditation from the Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership's Business Sustainability Management Course. With such a background and depth of knowledge within the topic of sustainability, it's fair to say that Kirkwood's role as an inaugural member of the Products of Change Advisors arm is an alignment of the stars. Here, we catch up with the licensing specialist to find out a little more about her own sustainability journey. June, it’s always lovely to catch up with you, how are you? For those who have not yet had the pleasure, you are the founder of Nutmeg Licensing, an agency with a passion for driving sustainability across the sector. Can you tell us, where does this passion come from? I’ve been working with the Eden Project on their licensing programme for many years, during which I’ve learnt a huge amount about sustainability. It’s also helped me to understand that life is far more fulfilling when there is a purpose to your work; for me, that’s become helping to promote sustainability within the licensing industry. You’ve had an illustrious career within licensing and worked with some very big names across both – including Formula One and HiT Entertainment (Mattel). When did you make the move to become a ‘sustainable licensing agent?’ Formula One certainly wouldn’t be the natural place to start with sustainability! While at BBC Worldwide (now BBC Studios), I felt the licensing was justified by the educational values that their programming was built around. Similarly, the Eden Project has sustainability at its heart and I found this really chimed with me. So, during lockdown, I built on what I’d learnt from the Eden Project by successfully completing the Business Sustainability Management Course run by the Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership. This foundation of knowledge gave me the confidence to pivot to being a sustainable licensing agent. And Nutmeg Licensing – what’s the story behind the company name? I thought long and hard about the name; I wanted it to be based in nature, but didn’t want to use the word ‘green’! I see Nutmeg as ‘the missing ingredient’; it’s not just about finding licensees, it’s about ensuring that the values of a particular licensee are aligned with those of the brand. You could also say that sustainability has been the missing ingredient in many licensing partnerships until recently, so Nutmeg Licensing's aim is to help make sustainable change relevant and accessible. So with that in mind, and sticking to the culinary theme - What do you and Nutmeg Licensing bring to the kitchen? How do you help companies perfect their recipes, and what does a perfected recipe often look like? It’s clear that consumers are increasingly concerned about the negative impact we’re having on the planet. Whether those concerns focus on climate change or biodiversity, for instance, they are starting to vote with their wallets. Retailers, licensors and licensees are reacting to this however, for some, it’s difficult to know where to start. So, in terms of what Nutmeg Licensing brings to the kitchen, my role lies in demystifying sustainability, helping companies to understand what it is all about and how to get started. There is a clear business case for becoming sustainable and there are often cost savings to be made in the process, both key ingredients in bringing companies into the kitchen. Some ingredients provide quick wins, however it’s likely to be a slow cook recipe with additional ingredients being added over time. Every recipe is different, depending on the company, but the best recipes will really embed sustainability within a business and continue to evolve over time. And it is this level of expertise that you are bringing to Brand Licensing Europe next month in your role as a Products of Change Advisor. Can you tell us, what does this job entail – both outside of the show and during the show? Helena and I have been talking for a while about the potential for Products of Change to provide support, over and above the educational and practical elements that are already offered to its members and beyond. Products of Change Advisors is intended to answer that call, offering a sliding scale of practical support and advice, including access to expertise on specific areas and workshops to explore key topics. Advisors will be available during the show to listen to people’s questions and to offer tips on how to get started and how we can help the process. The very fact that Products of Change has now established an Advisors arm is an encouraging thought – that companies are seeking out advice and the means of making their businesses more sustainable. Is this how you view the industry right now, in a state of active change? Absolutely. There are some great examples of companies which are already making systemic changes to their businesses and who are true leaders within the industry. Many of these companies are willing to share their knowledge and to collaborate pre-competitively to help move the industry forward, with Products of Change providing a platform for many of these conversations. Collaboration is a key tool of this active change; sharing information and learning from each other will help to speed up the process, reducing costs along the way. Do you think that the licensing space can become a sustainable industry? There are those that might suggest that the terms sustainability and consumer products are somewhat at odds. Can there be a harmonious balance struck? The challenge to the industry is this, in order to live sustainably within our planet’s finite resources, we need to buy better and buy less. We currently use 1.6 times the amount of resources our planet can sustain each year, so it’s inevitable that we will run out of resources unless we make serious changes. The word ‘consumer’ is in itself problematic. We need to start seeing ourselves as guardians, rather than consumers, of products. We need to design out waste throughout our businesses and make products from existing (rather than new) resources, for instance by using recycled materials. These products need to be more durable so that they be used over a longer period of time, be constructed in a way that they can be repaired and be shared in a way that we get the best use out of them. These are all principles of a circular economy, which is the way forward, providing a realistic approach that enables the terms sustainability and consumer products to sit happily alongside each other. How can people looking to strike that balance take their first steps towards sustainability? Does it all begin with booking a time slot with you at BLE next month? A great place to start is by taking time to explore the Sustainability Activation curated by Products of Change at BLE. This will provide more insight into the types of initiatives already being led both by colleagues within the industry and by companies outside the industry. While people understand the imperative of sustainability, it’s those first few steps which can feel the most difficult. The Products of Change Advisors will be on the stand, ready to answer your questions and help you make those initial steps; we’d encourage you to set up meetings with us prior to the show, by emailing advisors@productsofchange.com We can imagine people ask you all the time what sustainability in licensing looks like. Why would we be any different… Can you tell us – what does it look like? What is the best example of sustainable licensing in action right now? My favourite example of a company that is actively working to make sustainable change is LEGO, which as a company has a mission 'to make all core LEGO products from sustainable materials by 2030.’ (https://www.lego.com/en-gb/sustainability/environment/)  It’s really worth following this link and having a good look at their website to learn more about the different ways in which they are working towards a more sustainable future. I understand that Sine Litgaard Møller, Sustainability Transformation Director at LEGO Company, will also be on the Products of Change stand, ready to share her knowledge and experience. Another, very different but similarly positive example is that of Carousel Calendars, where Steve Plackett and his team first started to address their carbon footprint several years ago. Amongst other initiatives, Carousel is working to achieve plastic free packaging, which to date has included the redesign of its Wall Calendars through an iterative process that looked at every stage of production. Steve is similarly generous with his time and has actively collaborated with the calendar industry to share Carousel’s learnings, as well as providing support on Products of Change Net Zero panels and talks. Finally, I may be biased, however there will also be some great examples of sustainable licensing on the Eden Project stand, which is part of the Sustainability Activation at BLE.  Award-winning Eden Project partners include LSA International whose recycled, mouth blown glassware range, Canopy, is inspired by the biomes at Eden and Lifestyle Garden, whose design-led, sustainable DuraOcean ® garden furniture uses 3.5kg of recycled maritime waste in each chair. Please do come and take a look. So, it’s a sector that relies very much on innovation and creative thinking. How can we better encourage people to think of sustainability from this level? Given that innovation and creative thinking are core requirements of sustainable change, the licensing industry would appear to be well placed to take on the sustainability challenge. The structure of the licensing industry has also created a powerful network of interlinked companies. Given that collaborative change will bring the quickest results, I would suggest that the licensing industry is perfectly positioned to move forward with purpose. How would you encourage people to think better on their sustainability measures in general? As with all challenges of this nature, there is a tendency to procrastinate due to a lack of knowledge or understanding as to where to start. Often, in taking those first few steps you discover it’s not as difficult as you thought it was going to be. Why not take those first few steps onto the Products of Change Sustainability Activation at BLE, where the POC Advisors will be pleased suggest a few quick wins to get you started, coupled with a willingness to support you on your journey. June, this has been illuminating and fascinating. Thank you so much for chatting with us. One last thing before you go – anyone looking to book a consultation with you at BLE next month, how can they get in touch? Anyone wanting to touch base can contact me direct via the Meetings Service on the www.brandlicensing.eu website, or by email through POC Advisors - advisors@productsofchange.com.