February, 2012

February 27th, 2012

Ditching Green Marketing in favor of Leading by Example through Corporate Sustainability

Last month, GreenBiz.com released its annual State of Green Business report which observed the widening gap between corporate sustainability trends and a growing sense of indifference on the part of the consumer. To borrow from the report: consumers are more preoccupied with saving their jobs and homes than with “saving the planet.” Indeed, in tough times few have the capacity to care about social issues.

Last year a report entitled Mainstream Green found that 85% of Americans would rather be given guidelines on how to live a green and sustainable life and do it themselves, rather than have it legislated through government regulations and policies.

So why is there a gap between consumer intentions and their actions when it comes to sustainability? The answer lies in the unintended consequences of green marketing. This niche marketing has bumbled its way into the mainstream where the consumer audience is largely uninterested in being lectured on the importance of sustainability. Human nature inclines us to resist change in favor of the status quo, whereas sustainability means buying less and re-using more. Sustainability is edgy and different and generally not something John Q Public is clamoring for. Marketers of environmentally responsible products and services must come to the realization that “normal” is not a dirty word, but rather that it is the key to true sustainability.

One way to close this gap between unbridled consumerism and conscious consumption is to provide high performing sustainable choices. Some companies who are embracing this version of the new normal are Unilever and Levis.

Under their Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever’s Persil Small & Mighty concentrated laundry detergent saves 35 million liters of water a year in Europe. Similarly, Levi is now promoting Water>Less jeans collection, which reduces Levi’s water usage by an average of 28% per pair. Both companies are known and trusted; therefore consumers are not sacrificing quality for sustainable options.

So how do these companies rank according to Climate Counts? Unilever improved five points in 2011 to become the highest scored of nearly 150 major corporations. By embedding resource efficiency and emissions reduction targets into every layer of their value chain, Unilever has proven that true sustainability can only come from getting everyone involved from product development to product disposal.

Levi Strauss is up thirteen points from 2010 and is now striding at 74 points with a gold star*. Climate Count’s 2011Scoring Report notes two of Levi’s best practices regarding consumer engagement: Care Tag for the Environment and their Water>Less Jeans product.

Although Unilever and Levi Strauss are among the leaders in shifting consumer perceptions on sustainability, not enough consumer-facing companies are following suit. Consumers are looking for a normal and mainstream approach to “going green” without having to expend much effort to get it. It is up to the companies they buy from to better convey the importance of sustainability and nudge consumers in the right direction by offering green alternatives that don’t compromise cost or performance. To this end, perhaps it is better for companies to ditch green niche marketing and incorporate sustainability into their corporate strategy from the ground up.

- Susan Torman, Communications Intern- Climate Counts

*Gold star represents companies showing strong support for comprehensive climate energy policy.

February 10th, 2012

Sustainability Runs Deep in Ethics Ranking; Leaders at PepsiCo, Climate Counts, and PAX named to 2011 List

Of those named to Ethisphere’s “2011 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics” last month, readily apparent is the occupational diversity of the field.  Rare is the occasion that one sees the likes of Michelle Obama (#53) and Stephen Colbert (#48) listed alongside the Annie Kishens (#36 - Director of CSR for PepsiCo India) and Mike Bellamentes (#45 – Director of nonprofit Climate Counts) of the world.

The more subtle point to be drawn, however, is the unique cross-section of environmental thought leaders represented in the rankings.  A sign that eco-consciousness has become a mainstay in what is deemed ethical business practices, the 2011 list included several professionals either loosely or intricately tied to corporate sustainability trends.

While former Timberland CEO, Jeff Swartz (#24) made it his mission to embed resource conservation into his company’s psyche, sustainability blogger Marc Gunther (#66) was keeping companies honest through the written word.  Joe Keefe (#82), President and CEO of Pax World Investments, made his mark by way of innovative sustainable investing solutions, while Annie Kishen pioneered a pledge to make Pepsi’s operations in India water positive by replenishing more water than is consumed.

Although few operatives of environmental stewardship penetrated the top-quartile of the list of 100 –not surprising when up against the likes of corruption activist and hunger striker Anna Hazare- the increasing visibility environmental movers and shakers is cause enough for optimism.

Below is a list of honorees recognized for ethical contributions related to the environment.  To view the complete list of the 2011 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics, click here.

The Ethisphere Institute is a leading international think-tank dedicated to the creation, advancement and sharing of best practices in business ethics, corporate social responsibility, anti-corruption and sustainability.

·      #24 Jeffrey Swartz – CEO, Timberland
Category: Business Leadership

·         #36 Annie Kishen – Director of CSR, PepsiCo India
Category: Business Leadership

·         #45 Mike Bellamente – Project Director, Climate Counts
Category: Thought Leadership

·         #50 (tie) Yalmaz Siddiqui – Director, Environmental Strategy, Office Depot
Category: Design and Sustainability

·         #50 (tie) Leo Bonanni – CEO, Sourcemap
Category: Design and Sustainability

·         #66 Marc Gunther – Blogger, MarcGunther.com
Category: Media and Whistleblowers

·         #82 (tie) Joseph Keefe – President and CEO, Pax World Investments
Category: Investment and Research

·         #92 Jacquelynn Henke – Real Estate Green Strategy Officer, TD Bank
Category: Design and Sustainability

·         #94 Dennis Smith – National Clean Cities Director, Department of Energy
Category: Government and Regulatory

·         #100 Dan Phillips – Contractor and Home Builder, Independent
Category: Design and Sustainability

-Mike Bellamente, Project Director - Climate Counts

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