RF Binder







The SB Innovation Open is a business plan competition for mission-driven startups and entrepreneurs held every year at our flagship event. The competition provided 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.

Sustainable Brands is proud to call Target a partner as host of the SBIO competition for 5 years in a row, their continued support allows the competition to become more ambitions each year. Target has a rich history of design and innovation which they believe are critical to continuing to successfully integrate sustainability into their business – from the products on their shelves to their operations.


Congratulations to our Semi-Finalists

These 11 finalists joined us at SB’16 San Diego to take part in the Activation Hub, pitch in front of our judges and the SB attendees.

Clean Copper Supply Chain Alliance, pbc

Conscious Period

Grubbly Farms





The Renewal Workshop

Smart Yields



Watch what happened last year

The Timeline

March 25, 2016 Entry form closes
April 4, 2016 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 10, 2016 Public vote closes
April 15,2016 Public vote winner announced and confirmed to pitch at the finals
April 19 – June 6, 2016 11 finalists are interviewed for the Sustainable Brands website and presented to the News & Views  community.
June 7, 2016 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.
June 8, 2016 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’16 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’16 San Diego
  • 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’16 San Diego 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’16 San Diego attending community
  • This presentation is broadcast around the world via Livestream and archived in the SB Library to extend its reach and longevity.


Target Award

  • $1,000 Target Gift Card
  • 3-hour consultation session from Target’s sustainability, merchandising, marketing and strategy & innovation teams to strengthen the winner’s business case/model.
  • $10,000 total charitable donation by Target on behalf of the winner to up to two charities selected by the winner. Note: Please see charitable eligibility restrictions below.*


Overall Winner

  • Golden SB ticket to grant access to all SB Conferences in the next 3 years.
  • 2-hour consultation with RF|Binder’s strategic and creative communications team.

*Eligible organizations are U.S.-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, 501(c)(3) subordinate groups, accredited schools and universities, and public agencies (e.g. tax-funded organizations such as law enforcement agencies, libraries, parks, etc.). Note that a public agency must be able to provide a copy of their government affirmation letter. Individuals are not eligible to receive donations and donations cannot be “earmarked” for a specific individual. Religious-based organizations cannot receive donations for religious purposes. Donations to support non-religious programs at religious organizations are eligible. Target will not provide support to organizations that discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, gender, national origin, citizenship status, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information or any other protected characteristics.


The Judges

KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz
Sustainable Brands

KoAnn is a seasoned business-to-business media executive who’s involvement with the intersection of environmental and human issues in business dates back to the mid-1980s when she launched international conferences on improving log utilization, reducing Waste Paper, and eliminating ozone-layer destroying chemicals (CFCs or chlorofluorocarbons). Throughout her career she has been engaged in testing the connection between purpose driven leadership and competitive bottom line performance. As a result, her teams have consistently outperformed peers in both growth and profitability. Since 2003, she has devoted her full attention to the emerging field of social and environmental sustainability, launching Sustainable Life Media in 2004. She has helped various media entrepreneurs and NGO’s including Sierra Club and establish their own paths to effectiveness and economic sustainability. In 2005, she produced the First International Conference on Cradle to Cradle Design in Practice with Bill McDonough, Michael Braungart, Peter Senge and others. In 2006, she launched what has now become and in 2007, the widely respected Sustainable Brands Conference. The Sustainable Brands community has grown dramatically each year, and has become the premier international community of sustainable business innovators, with engaged community members represented from all continents.Prior to founding Sustainable Life Media, KoAnn founded Organizations That Work a management consultancy focused on her passion for helping companies deliver breakthrough financial performance through purpose-driven leadership and improved organizational alignment and learning. Prior to that she served as Sr. Vice President of Miller/CMP Media, a multinational B2B media company, where she launched and built a $50million division focused on serving various emerging technology markets including the Computer Game Development market and others. While there, she launched several product brands, spearheaded a corporate rebranding initiative, and brought systems thinking and organizational learning principles to the executive level management team of the company.KoAnn has attended graduate level programs in business management and sustainability at Cornell and Wharton, and currently sits on the Advisory board at the Center for Sustainability at Pennsylvania State University. She regularly speaks to corporate, academic and professional audiences about sustainability as the basis of a new renaissance of business innovation and value, as well as the role brands must play and the steps they must take to survive and lead the way to a flourishing future. She lives with her husband Steve on the San Francisco Peninsula and is most proud of her two sons, Josh and Jake, who are each pursuing their individual passions in music, physics and philosophy.

Emily McGarvey
Director, Corporate Social Responsibility

Emily McGarvey is the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Target, a Fortune 50 company that has more than 1,900 stores in 49 states and Canada. In her role, she leads the enterprise wide sustainability steering committee comprised of 30+ senior leaders which creates and implements strategies to fulfill the company’s public sustainability commitments. To further drive Target’s vision of designing a better tomorrow today, McGarvey has trained over 500 Target employees in sustainability. Starting her career with Target in 2002, McGarvey has held many diverse roles from buying to sourcing to sustainability. McGarvey has a Bachelor of Arts in Business from Concordia College.

Eric Carl
Wellness Merchant
Target Corporation

Eric Carl is a Wellness Merchant for Target Corporation, a Fortune 50 company that has more than 1,800 stores in 49 states. In this role, Eric helps drive the continued expansion of Target’s wellness product offerings and services and along with furthering the awareness of Target as a key wellness partner for our guests. One of the key initiatives that Eric leads for Target is the Made to Matter platform, which initially launched in 2014. Made to Matter is a platform for pioneering Wellness brands to collaborate with Target and other Wellness brands to establish Target as the credible destination enabling our guests to live better lives for themselves, their families, and communities.

Prior to this role, Eric served in Merchandising leadership positions in Electronics and Grocery categories. Prior to Target, she was a consultant with environmental consulting firms on the east coast. He earned her B.A. in Social Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota.

Torsten Kolind
CEO & Co-Founder

As the former CEO of Venture Cup Denmark, Torsten has built web products since he started his first company at age 16. He’s passionate about the Global Startup Revolution and how entrepreneurs are changing the world, and regularly presents these findings as a keynote speaker at conferences around the world. Torsten loves algorithmic challenges and is an avid musician. He’s Danish at birth, European at heart.

Greg Shewmaker

Greg Shewmaker is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Target and the Founding Partner of the Food+Future coLAB in Cambridge, MA. We know less about the food we eat today than in any other time in history. The Food+Future coLAB is a new and ambitious venture aimed at taking this problem head-on, creating a modern and more sustainable food system that is equitable and personal for everyone. Learn more here.

Sandy Skees
Managing Director
California Fenton

Sandy Skees is west coast managing director for Fenton, responsible for San Francisco and Los Angeles teams who are accelerating progress through social change communications. She currently works in the LGBT and human rights, recycling and product stewardship, and national climate change policy sectors. She brings over 25 years in communications strategy with expertise in the sustainability, cleantech and social sectors, creating programs that give organizations a way to focus, share, and motivate change in the world. Skees previously ran her own firm Communications4Good, where she served early stage and Fortune 500 companies. Previously a partner at Porter Novelli, she managed the global HP account team in 20 cities/10 countries around the world and created programs, processes and predictive integration points as a framework for ensuring global implementation of cutting edge communications techniques. She sits on numerous boards including 100 Women Who Care, Breaking the Glass Ballot, Sustainable Brands, EORM, Mini Mermaid Running Club, and the Boomerang Foundation, advises the Bellevue University Communications Department and is a seasoned speaker on brand, messaging and communications strategy.

Jeff Mendelsohn
Founder and Chair
New Leaf Paper

Jeff Mendelsohn founded New Leaf Paper in 1998 with the mission of driving a fundamental shift toward sustainability in the paper industry. Through product innovation and his positive vision, he is driving real change in the marketplace. Jeff’s leadership in making business a force for good goes beyond New Leaf through frequent public speaking, involvement in Social Venture Network, and establishing New Leaf as a Founding B Corporation. Jeff is a 2011 Henry Crown Fellow of The Aspen Institute.

Mary Jo Cook
President & CEO
Pacific Community Ventures

Scott Beaudoin
CSO & Executive Managing Director, Corporate & Brand Purpose

Scott oversees RF|Binder’s purpose-inspired brand building work across the network working with tomorrow’s corporate, brand and foundation leaders to co-create platforms, programs and partnerships that not only deliver on purpose but also drive business and social/environmental impacts.

Scott is an award-winning industry veteran with 20+ years of experience in corporate social responsibility, sustainability , cause marketing; and is a leading voice in the marketplace on purpose-inspired brand building. He specializes in identifying and building upon the intersection of stakeholder’s passions and beliefs and a brand’s core competencies to drive brand reputation, affinity, equity, sales and “soul.”

Scott has created and supported many well-known signature purpose-driven campaigns in the marketplace including P&G’s Thank You Mom, Always’ Like A Girl, Pfizer’s Global Health Fellows, Sodexo’s A Better Tomorrow Plan, Yoplait’s Save Lids to Save Lives, General Mills’ Box Tops for Education, ConAgra Foods’ Feeding Children Better, and CVS Health’s All Kids Can – the largest corporate initiative focused solely on supporting children with disabilities in the U.S.

Through his work Scott has received top industry honors including a Cannes Lion for Good, Global SABRE Award, a PR News Corporate Social Responsibility Award, a PR News Platinum Award for Cause-Related Marketing, a Cause Marketing Forum Best Social Service/Education Campaign award, a Crystal Obelisk Award for Social Responsibility, a PR Week Campaign of the Year award and a Public Relations Society of America Silver Anvil.

Scott holds a marketing communications degree from Arizona State University and spent five years as a Rocky Mountain Emmy award-winning reporter, anchor and producer early in his career.

Dimitar Vlahov
Director Content Development
Sustainable Brands

Dimitar is the Director of Content Development at Sustainable Brands. He joined the Sustainable Brands team after earning a Master’s degree in Management Science & Engineering – focused on sustainable business – from Stanford University. Before Stanford, Dimitar worked in international development at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and also in economic consulting at Charles River Associates and NERA. Born and raised in Bulgaria, Dimitar left his home country for the first time about a decade ago to go to college in the U.S. He has since turned into something of an international man of mystery, thriving on global friendships, global food and global thoughts.

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.

Share the SBIO with Your Network



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 2015 entrants: StuffstrBaby Hero, LanzaTech, YOGO, MeterHero
  • 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 June 6-8, 2016 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 5:30-8pm, 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 our Causeway. 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.