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December 24, 2007

ABOUT In Women We Trust

Hunt_sundance_2In Women We Trust is a recognition of the dual roles women play in bringing about a more Sustainable world. I'm an example of that duality, behaving both as a marketing professional and as a consumer. In my lifetime I've purchased 10 cars, selected the furnishings for 3 homes & 4 apartments, and hand picked enough groceries for 24,000 meals. I'm guessing that makes me the average boomer woman.

This blog reflects both sides of the buyer/seller equation focusing on the primary buyer/influencer of consumer goods and services - women. While it's true we can't buy our way out of Climate Change, at the same time we do all need food, clothing and shelter which requires smart choices and new habits. 

What got me started...

Iwwt_2 I began this blog from a marketing-to-women point of view. I attempted to answer the question, “If both genders were equally competent at their job, who would you rather work with, men or women and why”? 

Overwhelmingly, women answered that they would prefer to work with other professional women when it came to choosing a doctor, CPA, lawyer, financial planner, realtor…  individuals offering specific services.

As to “why,”  the answers quickly became personal, “Other women listen to me… They don’t treat me like an idiot…. We laugh at the same things… They take me seriously from the beginning…"

It was clear that women were drawn to the umami of female friendship that they weren’t getting out of a mixed group or in their business dealings. With that in mind, I set out to see if those values could be defined, translated and incorporated into tangible business practices. 

What makes one company more female-friendly than another?

For consumer-based businesses, knowing the answer to that is a big deal. Women influence what’s purchased in over 80% of consumer products and services. It's a set trend. Yet, by the time I was through gathering the research for the book In Women We Trust and writing it, I knew it was time for me to get out of marketing as I was siding more for the consumer than for business. On top of this, Climate Change was becoming mainstream. It didn't matter if something was female-friendly if it wasn't earth-friendly first.

What turned me into a pusher...

Back in the 80s I was the president of an ad agency serving a mega mall in SW Michigan. For five years, my efforts helped a lot of people stay employed, but it was pushing stuff for the sake of stuff.  Eventually I closed down the agency, left the retail world and entered industrial business-to-business marketing.

For the next ten years I toured hundreds of factories, and marketed the pros/cons of plastic blow molding, powder coating, metal fabrication and literally thousands of other processes.

It left me torn as well. I needed a work, but wasn’t this even worse than selling retail products?

Theoretically, I was enabling thousands of products to be sent to hundreds of malls. Then, one of my accounts began manufacturing bio-degradable plastic bags made from corn starch.  I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced homemade-organic-bread until I learned that even sliced-homemade-organic-bread won’t degrade without water, air or light which is the condition at the bottom of a land fill. Consequently neither would that bag, nor all the stuff inside the bag, which brought me back to consumption, packaging and solving the bigger problem - Sustainable Capitalism.

Finding balance…

Mary_hunt_23 I was distraught. I no longer knew what I stood for. Should I cash in a 30 year career and go work for Consumer Reports? Was the answer to buy nothing, market nothing and go live off the land? I grew up on home-grown veggies, I could do it again. Before selling off everything, however, on a whim I typed “Sustainable Products” into my search window. I didn’t want “green or eco-friendly." My years in industry taught me that we'd blow past the fluff marketing into the "prove it" stage quickly. I wanted to see products with a standard behind them.

I clicked on the first offering and dialed the phone number. That’s how I met Mike Italiano, the CEO of Smart_label MTS, The Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability, a non-profit in Washington D.C.

My personal transformation…

Coming from a retail and industrial marketing background makes me skeptical of any pitch. I know greenwash when I see it and I’ve been comparison shopping my whole life. The first thing I did when I met Italiano was ask for a comparison of the SMaRT Standard (Sustainable Materials Rating Technology) against other "standards."

I’ve looked at it compared to 14 other multi-product standards and believe that it’s the most honest, balanced, consumer-friendly, and earth-friendly standard available on the market. When a product is SMaRT Certified, it’s been through a third party audit that looks across the entire supply chain from raw materials to manufacturing to eventual recycling and all the transportation in-between. That’s called a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). It’s grueling and not easy to achieve. SMaRT certified products won't have fire retardents, PVCs, dioxins... nor do they pollute the earth, water, air or atmosphere. If I was going to support a Sustainable Standard, this one had everything I wanted for myself and the world. AND, as a marketer, it gave me a product that was Public Relations proof as the world turned green. 

Climate Change - The last battleground

Hunt_pic_whiteI believe that putting down the guns of war will be much easier than putting down the latte of consumerism. It’s going to take effort from both buyers and sellers to jointly de-escalate and change our behaviors from piles-o-stuff to Sustainable thinking.

Yet, if we demand products that are SMaRT Certified or its equivalent, then we’ll clean up the earth, water, air and atmosphere while maintaining our retirement portfolios.

Women, as keepers of the household flame, are the majority stakeholders who can keep the buyer side of the bargain. In women we {better }trust to change how capitalism happens. Together with progressive thinking men, we can take the market from Greed to Green to Great!

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