The SB Innovation Open is a business plan competition for mission-driven startups and entrepreneurs held every year at our flagship event. In it’s 6th year, the competition will provide an opportunity for next generation brands to showcase their innovative solutions to today’s pressing environmental, social and economic challenges, as well as connect and collaborate with multi-national brands, accelerators and thought leaders in sustainability. Given the right support and exposure, mission-driven brands are poised to challenge the status quo of business and Sustainable Brands is here to catalyze their success.


Watch Innovation Open 2016 Finals


The Timeline

March 31, 2017
Entry form closes
April 4, 2017 
Public vote begins – A shortlist of entries will be presented for the SB community to vote for who they want to see make it to the Innovation Open finals.
April 16, 2017
Public vote closes
April 18, 2017 
Public vote winner announced and confirmed to pitch at the finals
April 18 – May 22, 2017
11 finalists are interviewed for the Sustainable Brands website and presented to the News & Views  community.
May 23, 2017
The pitch! The 11 semi-finalists will pitch their ideas to our esteemed panel of judges. Four finalists will be chosen to present at the conference on the following day.
May 25, 2017
The finals! The top 4 pitch in front of the full SB audience on the main stage. A live vote will be held to pick a ‘People’s Choice Winner’ and the judges will determine the overall ‘SB’17 Innovation Open Winner’. Finals are available to the global SB community via livestream and post-event in the SB Library.


The Prizes

11 Semi-Finalists

  • An All-Event conference pass to SB’17 Detroit
  • An Activation Hub staff pass (does not include access to conference program)
  • Table space for 4 days in the Activation Hub
  • Pitch to the entire SB’17 Detroit conference attendee and Activation Hub audience, filled with influential brand representatives and thought leaders
  • Promotion leading up to the conference through SB News & Views
  • One on one time with our expert panel of judges
  • 4 days worth of networking opportunities
  • Company description published in conference event guide

4 Finalists

  • Present on the plenary mainstage in front of entire SB’17 Detroit attending community
  • This presentation is broadcast around the world via Livestream and archived in the SB Library to extend its reach and longevity.

Overall Winner

  • Golden SB ticket to grant access to all SB Conferences for the next 3 years.


How to Win



Innovative design
Social and environmental impact – specifically coupled with identified impact metrics (for example, “our business innovation helps customers lower their carbon footprint by XX% compared to the product we’re disrupting”, or “our innovation will help customers increase savings by XX% and keep their money local, leading to more stable local economies.”)

Team quality

Particularly as it relates to demonstrated track record and understanding of systemic issues of sustainability

Economic scalability

Growth and impact potential

Above and Beyond

Bonus points for disruptive innovation. The idea has approached the issue from a new perspective and is offering a solution that will truly shift the market as we know it.






It is free! It is important to note, Sustainable Brands takes no fees or equity from the startups.  Thanks to Target and our other sponsors, applying and participating in the SB Innovation Open is 100% free.

This new venture showcase is focused on identifying and promoting innovative new consumer brands, AND ventures that support existing corporations in achieving their sustainable brand innovation goals. We are looking for companies in their:

  • Post-Launch Phase: The venture is operational and has some early operating metrics and/or proven Beta/prototype to share. In investment terms we are considering “Late Stage” and “Series A” funded companies.

You can apply via the ‘Apply Now’ button above or completing an entry form here:

You will need to include the following to complete an application into the competition:

  • 30-120 second video describing your company mission, your product, and the impact you are hoping to achieve.  See example of 2016 entrants: Grubbly Farms, Conscious Period, ReGrained, Kizazi, Soofa
  • elevator pitch
  • website
  • commitment to sustainability
  • specific metrics into your business model and plan [NOTE: these metrics are confidential to SB judges only, not accessible to public vote]
All semi-finalists are given table space at our Activation Hub which runs May 22-25, 2017, so we recommend taking advantage of the 4 days. We are awarding semi-finalists an Activation Hub Staff Pass so that you can man your space with one team member and have another be your pitch expert and attend the conference programming.  The semi-finals are on day 2 of the conference and the 4 finalists selected will pitch again on day 3.  So it’s possible that the person on your team who will pitch could still compete but only be present for those two days, leaving unattended space in the Activation Hub.
We offer one full conference pass to each semi-finalist startup, one Activation Hub Staff Pass and can provide at-cost passes to any additional team mates should you wish to bring them.
No. The Activation Hub is open Monday 6:30-9pm, Tuesday and Wednesday from 12-7pm,  and Thursday 12-3pm.  While you are required to be present in your space in the Activation Hub during peak hours (12:30-2pm lunch, 5:30-7pm reception), we encourage you to take advantage of the morning plenary sessions.  If you do take advantage of the Activation Hub Staff pass then you can leave one team member with the table space while the other explores the afternoon content.
Not for this competition although we encourage you to find out more about non-profits participating in the Activation Hub. For this competition we’re looking for businesses who can successfully balance People, Planet AND Profit.
Not at this time. We are convinced that the networking, introductions, leading-edge speakers & publicity generated by taking part make any expense a worthwhile investment. We will however offer any discounts when/if available to us.

You, the applicant, are solely responsible for your intellectual property rights, trademarks, copyrights, etc. If you think you have intellectual property rights, we recommend you consult an attorney before you apply for the competition. Applicants are expected to submit a compelling presentation without disclosing critical intellectual property. By submitting an application, you acknowledge that applying for the SBIO could result in disclosure of your intellectual property if such information is included in your application.

SB wants you to know that there are always certain risks involved in competitions of this nature. SB is not in a position to protect or advise you on your intellectual property rights, SB cannot and does not take any responsibility for doing so. Please be aware that SB does not require non-disclosure agreements or other confidentiality obligations from anyone involved in the SB Innovation Open.