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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.
The way 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:Assoc. for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher EducationUSC Center for Sustainable Cities business outreachCity of Santa Monica Environmental Programs Division
So, you`re probably sick of reading this post by now - thanks for your patience with me. And much luck to you!
I haven`t been around for a while, thanks to a busy schedule among other things, but I feel the need to pipe in here as this thread continues to grow, and I start to see some pretty questionable "ideas" being thrown around.
Everyone here really needs to be aware of the concept of "greenwashing," and what that both means and does to those who are genuinely attempting to make real environmental change. When you replace one environmentally unfriendly practice for another, and claim you`re being "green," you`re greenwashing. When you tell only half the story about your products (perhaps you use recycled content in a product, but the energy used to produce that product is higher than if you used virgin content), you`re greenwashing.
These practices do real harm to both your business and to the environment you claim to be protecting. Consumers are not idiots - they are becoming increasingly more aware of the tactics businesses (and their marketing departments) use to mislead them simply to sell products. You can say you`re as green Kermit the Frog, but that doesn`t mean you can live off a diet of flies - saying so doesn`t make it so.
If you`re a business owner and you are genuinely interested in improving your operations and reducing your environmental footprint, you`re going to need to go a lot further than simply swapping out one bad piece of the supply chain for another. Here`s my advice for anyone who is about to make a claim about just how green they are:1. Do your research. Know what you`re talking about, or your decisions will very likely be misinformed, and may do more harm than good.
2. Consider the entire supply chain. If you`re using recycled paper, but that paper has to get trucked in from across the country, and then you have to go drive for an hour to pick it up at the big box store, you may very well be causing more environmental damage in that process than if you were to walk to your local independent retailer and pick up a ream of virgin content paper manufactured in-state. You need to look beyond the simple, obvious step, and really consider the entire footprint/implications of your decisions.3. Explore alternatives. Look for unusual or creative options to solve your problems. I was having a real problem finding recycled brown envelopes in the size needed, so I joined FreeCycle instead, and lo and behold someone was giving away a box of 500 of exactly what I needed. I didn`t have to go out and buy new non-recycled envelopes from a company, thereby increasing the demand for such products. I also could have switched my approach and chosen a different color or size of recycled envelopes.
4. Remember that although "green" products are better than "non-green," not consuming more stuff is the even better option. The problem with our current methodology is that the rate at which we consume products, green or otherwise, is not sustainable. That is, the resources required to produce anything are diminishing at an irreplaceable rate.5. Be wary of green claims. Don`t assume that just because a company claims they`re green, that they really are. See Six Sins of Greenwashing for more details about a recent marketing study that found that of over a thousand green marketing claims, all but ONE was either false or misleading. Again, do your research. If you`re looking for ways to evaluate just how green a company, you can check out my article on the subject.6. Ask yourself if the claim you are making can be supported by scientific facts. Can you provide legitimate, 3rd-party information backing up the claims you make? Are you willing to disclose the details to consumers who might ask? If not, you may want to reconsider making such claims.
When I read suggestions like, "Reduce paper consumption and your carbon footprint by sending clients/prospects USB drives" I have to shake my head. Electronics are made with toxic chemicals that are as bad or worse for the environment than the chemicals used in paper manufacturing. This is not necessarily a greener alternative, and to claim it is is irresponsible and misleading. I don`t mean to single people out, but businesses who make false or misleading claims make the rest of us look bad.
The real question shouldn`t be "what kind of tchotchkee should I send to prospects," the real question should be "what is the most effective way to market my business to prospects without sacrificing the environment or public safety to do so?" From there, you might just find that a quick phone call to a well-targeted prospect is better than sending out thousands of pieces of junk to random people that will just collect dust in a desk drawer, or worse, a landfill.
It`s not just a matter of swapping one thing for another; whole business models need to change if we`re going to have any real impact on the environment. And that includes the way we market our businesses and the kind of claims we make.
Sorry to be a downer here, but I`m a little tired of businesses jumping on the green bandwagon only to steer it off course for those who are genuinely making real changes to their business structures in order to measurably reduce their environmental footprint. There`s a reason the phrase "green fatigue" has begun being tossed around in relation to consumer behavior, and it`s because of the deluge of false claims being made.Roughstock7/2/2008 1:09 PM
I just posted this in reply to the green packaging thread, but thought it might get more eyeballs here...Free "Recycled Packaging" rubber stamp art
I created this artwork for another forum, and posted it to my blog for
anyone to download. You can send it to any rubber stamp maker and have
them create a stamp for you to let customers know you`re using recycled
or reused shipping materials. You can see it in action here:Final stamp (be sure to click on the thumbnail for the full effect)
If you do use it, just let me know (and spread the word!).
It`s been a while since I`ve made it around these parts, but it occurred to me that some of you might find good use for this:Free "Recycled Packaging" rubber stamp art
I created this artwork for another forum, and posted it to my blog for anyone to download. You can send it to any rubber stamp maker and have them create a stamp for you to let customers know you`re using recycled or reused shipping materials. You can see it in action here:Final stamp (be sure to click on the thumbnail for the full effect)
If you do use it, just let me know (and spread the word!).