Okay, I realize my post was very critical and it genuinely wasn`t my intention to single you out and imply that you`re not doing your part. I also realize that my comments were rather heated, but I`ve been hearing more and more advice from folks who may or may not be genuinely trying to be more green, and a lot of it is either unsubstantiated or just flat out bad advice. Please accept my apologies for coming off like I was attacking - it really wasn`t my intention.
That said, much of the advice you provided in the initial post is, to be fair, only half the story. As you said, we all have a lot to learn (myself absolutely included), so I`m very aware that I don`t have all the answers by any means. My primary point in the above post was that most of the time we`re asking the wrong questions,
and so we get either incomplete answers at best, or outright wrong answers at worst.
For example, organic cotton is certainly better than conventional cotton, as it is produced without pesticides. However, the cotton industry is pretty destructive as a whole, and so the mere act of purchasing organic cotton isn`t necessarily "green." Another example would be bamboo. Bamboo is considered by many to be a sustainable material, as it`s quick to regrow and so requires much less energy, land, etc. to produce comparable quantities. However, it`s often treated with toxic chemicals (and many Chinese manufacturers don`t disclose the production processes used), and so it may not be as "green" as we are led to believe. So these options are not necessarily
the right choices in every given situation.
A lot of folks, including myself, believe that every little bit helps, and so we`re often quick to dismiss critiques like this as nitpicking. But in the process of choosing one material over another, or one product over another, we run the very real risk of forgetting that even as we opt for one step greener, we need to make these decisions with a fact-based understanding of the multitude of issues involved. "Lack of pesticides" is important, but if it`s being produced hundreds of thousands of miles away by workers paid pennies on the dollar, and then shipped by boat and truck to the final location, it may very well cancel out any "greenness" achieved by the lack of pesticides.
And this attention to nuance and multiplicity is especially relevant when making green claims about our own businesses. I applaud the business owners in this thread and elsewhere who are educating themselves about the issues, and making efforts (however small or large) to green up their operations. You`re obviously a really good example of the extent that we can go to to reduce our environmental impact. But when we make green claims, we walk a thin line. As a marketer of sorts (writer/designer), I am particularly sensitive (okay, prickly) about the claims companies make.
As a marketer, I have an obligation to my audiences (that means my clients, their customers, and
the public at large) to not
misrepresent what I push on them. I also have gotten to the point where I feel I have an obligation to speak up when I see businesses and their marketers spreading either misinformation or half-truths (whether intentional or through simply not knowing the whole story).
I think the green marketplace is in a very precarious place right now. We`re tapping into a weird gray area of consumer distrust of conventional corporate models, a growing demand for value-based business structures, and a very real and immediate need to dramatically change the environmental impact we`ve had up to now.
we discuss these issues (and the way
we market our businesses) is as important as what
we say (and what
we sell). My argument is that the way we deliver these new messages needs to change, as much as the products themselves do. We as companies need to be transparent, we need to be willing to ask ourselves difficult questions, we need to be willing to look beyond
the easy (and often incomplete) answers.
Because it really will self-destruct on us if we`re not careful. If we claim to be improving our environmental footprint, we better be able to back it up, or customers will take their business to a company that can.
Take your own company, for example. You`re obviously taking significant steps towards reducing your environmental impact by looking first to your operations.
But perhaps the answer for your company lies not in recycling your computer paper or timing your light switches, but in looking at the even greater footprint you leave. Every single product that you stock has its own footprint, so by purchasing and reselling those products, you`re contributing to that footprint. How can you adjust your business model to effectively, and not just piecemeal, reduce that massive footprint? Maybe it means not stocking everything at once, so you`re not creating unnecessary manufacturing demand. Or maybe it means being more selective about the products you offer and the vendors you work with. I don`t know, but I do know in order for a business to really shift their own environmental impact, they need to ask really difficult questions.
I`ll apply this to myself, too. I`m a marketer. I also happen to be a huge fan of the late comedian Bill Hicks, who loved to scream that marketers "are the ruiners of all things good." So, how do I change my business model to an ethical, environmentally sound one? For starters, I target social entrepreneurs and nonprofits. I tend to avoid working with retail clients so I don`t feel like I`m pushing more unnecessary stuff on the public. It absolutely has cost me money on occasion, but it has also profited my business in that it builds my credibility and attracts more of the kind of clients I do want to work with. But it also means that even if I had the opportunity to work with, say, Nike, my own business model would dictate that I turn down the work. Although I`ve got specific purchasing policies in place to ensure my supply chain addresses the sustainability issue, I`m also in the process of putting together formal policy for accepting projects. This may seem kind of backwards from a business perspective, but I believe strongly that the traditional business models need to change if we`re going walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
Okay, to answer your final question, unfortunately there aren`t many choices outside of MBAs when it comes to sustainable business management. My local SBA offers a course, and I earned a certificate through a state college here. But it`s painfully incomplete in my opinion (I`m actually toying with the idea of going the MBA route but the expense is, well, it`s a bridge I have yet o jump off of). Not sure of what`s around you specifically, but you might check the following:
So, you`re probably sick of reading this post by now - thanks for your patience with me. And much luck to you!
| Notes From the Rodeo
Strategic communications without the selling of souls.