I’m interrupting this 1-16 Eco Sales tips to report on the Sustainable Brands 2010 Conference, held last week in Monterey, CA last week.
TAKE AWAY ONE: Prove it!
Transparent Tracking of everything you do and being able to hand those quantified results to a government or a customer is finally coming into the marketing and sales experience.
Panelsts, David Mallen, Brooks Beard, and Scot Case addressed how greenwashing isn’t being tolerated by the legal courts or the courts of public opinion anymore. Watch for FTC Green Guides to come out in October 2010 covering such topics as:
- Be specific
- Substantiate and be able to show proof within 30 days
- Consider all claims from the perspective that a customer truly understands the implications of what you’re saying.
- Be careful with logos and seals, use ANSI approved, consensus made, third party audited certifications which are consistent with ISO standards.
Besides the guidelines for product development, also pay attention to NAD, National Advertising Division, they’ll be watching for truth in green advertising on national products.
Apple was the shining example of sustainability, for using the EPEAT standard process to back their claims. I love Apple, it not only builds great products, but at the same time is building the next generation of advertising. Instead of fixed offline ads, the online world can eliminate the clutter we see everyday and serve up information when we need it via our ipod. Who needs a sign when an app or a GPS located can find whatever you need?
On a global scale, the World Resources Institute (WRI) hosted a grueling, workshop with 96, fine-print slides demonstrating the path they took to create their global, product sustainable standard. The standard (or protocol) should be ready for the public use in December. Watch for the public comment period this fall and add your two-cents on what you think this global standard should include or leave out.
WRI used the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) as it’s backbone which has been adopted by 60% of the Fortune 500. The WRI protocol is building on that work to create a something that international companies can use in any country. In layman’s terms, WRI is trying to provide one set of rules, (like baseball) and then let companies play on a T-ball or Major League level. Competition always lives at the top, so expect the games to begin soon after this is introduced, but not before all the other 600 or so standards have a say… I’m already hearing rumblings that this standard/protocal takes the Kyoto lite approach according to another competing standard.
TAKE AWAY TWO: Embed Eco Manufacturing through all Processes
SB10 provided a nice cross-section of big business such as Nokia, IBM, Ford, Best Buy and smaller companies such as Timberline… all had great stories on how they are integrating their processes.
John Viera, a Director at Ford admitted that they are turning dark green to stay ahead of government regulation that can destroy a five-year plan. If they stay ahead of the curve, they can progress at a steady rate instead of retrofitted a manufacturing line. I’ve been a big critic of Detroit’s Big Three on my other blog, this presentation made me want to buy stock in Ford.
Nokia’s Kirsi Sormunen, told us how Nokia repackaged their phones into a smaller, more sustainable container and saved thousands of carbon-shipping miles and MONEY through that one simple act. Kirsi also shared how Nokia embedded a warning bell into each phone to remind the 1.2 million who have a Nokia phones to unplug them after it’s charged. (saving wasted energy).
Clorox offered an afternoon session providing a step-by-step overview on how they organize and execute on sustainable product development. They consider the entire product life cycle in this process from raw materials to, “will Wal Mart approve,” to how will the customer dispose of it?
All companies we heard from spoke to making sustainability as core to your business as profits.
TAKE AWAY THREE: Pay Your Passion Forward
One of the more honest and passionate stories came from self-made earth saver Paul Stamets the author of Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Save the World. I have to admit, his passion moved me to tears and I have a copy of Mycelium Running in my hands. I wouldn’t be surprised if Avatar’s writers, didn’t read his book before creating the movie. He tapped into my little biological soul when he told of a the 2,400 acre fungi in Oregon that was 2,200 years old, only to be cut in half by loggers.
Mike Harrison of Timberline (the boot people) told a different earth keeper’s story and how it revitalized their brand from the inside out. At Timberline, not only did they recreate the waterproof boot in a better eco image, but have planted over 1 million trees in the China to help stop desertification. They did that for six years before they even went into the Chinese market. Was it a blatant long-term sales program? Probably, and I hope more companies do the same. It sure beats boondoggles in long-term brand and earth growth.
Along that same line, Phil Berry explained how third world factories can replace philanthrophy with LOANanthrophy. It’s an updated version of the “give a man a fish…” adage. He showed how investing in tiny village factories turned the villages around, providing money to eat and incentive for the kids to stay in school. In one village, only 5% of the kids went to school before the factory, 95% attended after it was in place. “They create factories where people are happy, not just happy to have a job,” Phil said. If you don’t know what social equity is, that’s about as good of an example as you can get.
MY CONCLUSION? As Nike says, “Just do it”
Sustainability is here to stay. Start with a transparent and trackable product. You don’t have to be perfect, but you should know what your goal is and how to get there. Take your customer on the same journey. Teach your sales staff how to handle the most difficult questions a customer may have about sustainability.
Past Brands were about creating a personality to go with the product. Sustainable Brands will come with an embedded, unshakeable personality just like people do. To paraphrase Emerson, Who you are as a company should speak so loudly that it enhances everything that you say sell.”