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8 posts from May 2008

May 29, 2008

BlogHer Goes Mainsteam with Advertising Age

Ad_ageCongratulations Lisa, Jory and Elisa for capturing the attention of Advertising Age with the study of BlogHer's bloggers and readers. For those who don't live in the marketing world Ad Age is the defining publication for marketers.

That's why this has such impact, mainstream publications are taking women bloggers seriously - enough to report on research that includes more than mommy bloggers. Consequently, companies will be listening even more to what women bloggers are saying.

To give this some perspective, when I attended the first WOMMA.com meeting a few years ago, women - as the word-of-mouthers of goods and services - weren't even part of the conversation. Go figure. I was dumbfounded. Everyone knew at that point that women bought the majority of consumer goods. It didn't take a big leap of imagination to know that they also talked to each other about their purchases; yet, without a sanctioned study, women as a group of influencers were overlooked.

The study, given in detail in the article, shows just how mainstream blogging and the influence of that action has become; plus the mainstream online women profile is pretty darn close to the women blogger profile.

"Demographically, BlogHer users are fairly similar to average online women, although they skew much higher in the 25- to 41-year-old Gen X range, with 68% of the BlogHer users in that age range vs. 42% of overall women.

With so many similarities, the BlogHer co-founders said they believe their user population is a harbinger of online women's habits and preferences in general. "We are almost a beacon of what's to come," Ms. Des Jardins said.

By Ad Age publishing this study, BlogHer and the women writing the blogs, just became a mainstream media that corporations will want to "court" for their word of mouth endorsements.

Now the question becomes what do we(women) want to tell the courters?

Do we want greener products?  Tell them. Do we want products without lead in the paint or that put toxins into our system. Tell them.  We don't have to go any further than our own blogs to make suggestions.

This is the same study that was unveiled at BlogHer Business this spring. Be sure to read the full article, it's a great tribute to BlogHer and all who contribute to its chorus of voices.

Now what category do I put this under? Marketing to Women or Social Change? I think I'll use both as the buyer/seller conversation just evened up a notch.   

Study Shows Blogging Now 'Mainstream' Among Women

Many Web Users Actively Contributing, Not Just Surfing

YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- "Blogosphere" may not be a pretty name for it, but it is a pretty attractive destination -- for women at least, and maybe for marketers courting them, too.
According to a recent study by BlogHer and Compass Partners, more than one-third (35%) of all women in the U.S. aged 18 to 75 participate in the blogosphere at least once a week. And that number increases if less-frequent visits are factored in. Of those women who are online any amount of time, 53% read blogs, 37% post comments to blogs and 28% write or update blogs, according to the study....

http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=127354

May 28, 2008

When do we stop being "those people"?

Pogo_2Back during the first Earth Day in 1970, Pogo put "us" all in the same basket, as in humanity vs. the planet. That's changed in the recent years. Have you noticed how the word "consumers" has taken on the derogatory nature of "those people"? The "us" has fractured into two camps.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like it's getting to be an us vs. them world with corporations lining up on one side and consumers on the other in this big love/hate relationship. The problem is, I live on both sides of the line and it's messing with my head.

When I speak with marketers, they talk about "the consumer" as if they are one, big mass of faceless wallets waiting to be manipulated into a buying frenzy. And because "mommy" gets attached to other words, i.e. soccer mom, mommy blogger, eco mom, enviro mom, moms rising... it's the "moms" that most often become "them" - the unwashed, the sitting ducks, the targets...

Meanwhile, "them" (or us) are being called upon to lead the green charge to change how corporations perform. Apparently they can't do the right thing unless we tell them to do it. 

Blog_comment The article above goes on to say, "In two-thirds of the markets researched (UK, US, Mexico, Brazil, Germany and France) people felt more strongly that companies and their brands should be finding solutions compared to the government."

I agree with that. Manufacturing/consumption did get us into this pollution mess and it will have to get us out. The government is just the middle man in the conversation.

So how do we go from "them" to "us" working together again?

Maybe it begins by stop talking about "us" as someone to market TO and start thinking about "us" as partners to work with.

Patagonia_3Is this an impossible balance to achieve in a capitalistic world? I don't think so. Look at Patagonia for some hints on how to do it right. Talk about living your brand. They even Trademarked "Environmentalism: Leading the Examined Life." What does "leading the examined life" have to do with outdoor wear, nothing and everything. For Patagonia it makes perfect sense. They've been walking the environmental walk for decades and the statement rings with absolute authenticity during these paint-it-green times.

Patagonia makes me feel good about the tough decisions I have to make. I can be a responsible adult even though I'm playing in their clothes.

Patagonia IS cooler, faster, stronger, greener...  from the inside out. For that reason, Patagonia continues to build a family of supporters. This is a much different mindset from product evangelists who might just LOVE the functionality of the product, this is about loving the functionality of the whole company and supporting their leadership.

When you cross the line from "home" to "work" the mindset strays from "things that won't hurt my family" to "profit at any cost," but at Patagonia it's home at work. Together we are citizens of the world working together as spiritual and capitalistic partners. They make the stuff I need and I buy it because A) it's going to last a long time and B) I like their style of leadership.

HoodyAt the same time I'm voting with my wallet for a hoody made of 85% recycled fibers, I'm voting with this post. I want to go on the record that this is the kind of corporate leadership that doesn't make me take sides or feel like a target. We're "us," working together to rebuild society - and definitely not "those people."

May 21, 2008

The Women of Kenya: Practical Leadership for Troubled Times

Kathe_schaaf Guest Blogger: Kathe Schaaf / Changing the World

As 2008 began in Kenya, her citizens huddled terrified in their homes for protection from a wave of violence and killing sweeping through their country. Anger and frustration over a corrupt national election process had bubbled up into a river of rage that quickly became a familiar ‘us vs. them’ battle drawn along ethnic lines. Thousands of homes were burned and stories drifted into the global media about violent deaths at the hands of angry mobs of young men.

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By February 200,000 Kenyans were living in tents in primitive camps for ‘internally displaced persons’ with little food and even less hope of returning home. All of this unfolded in a country already struggling with incredible challenges; the short list includes high incidence of HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; a shortage of drinkable water and fuel for cooking fires; lack of educational opportunities especially for girls and rural youth; little sustainable employment; and a primitive infrastructure which complicates transportation, hygiene and safety at a most basic level.

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Following the news of these events, I kept saying to myself over and over again: I trust the African women to restore sanity to Kenya. My faith in the women of Kenya has its foundation in relationships with courageous women from that country. In Bondo, Kenya in December 2006, I had the opportunity to attend the Grassroots African Women’s Conference, spending four days in the company of 513 grassroots African women leaders.  These women were remarkable, tackling the enormous problems in their villages with practical ideas using whatever resources they could find.

  • Ten mothers in a small village on the shores of the Indian Oceanhad organized to integrate 50 orphans into their families.
  • Women in remote rural areas had created their own ‘merry-go-round’ micro-lending programs to develop small businesses and a sustainable source of income for their families.
  • Successful strategies for purifying water and solar cooking were being developed, shared and replicated.

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It was easy to develope warm relationships with these women, both at the conference and traveling to visit them in their villages.  I witnessed firsthand their self-sacrifice and hard work, their creativity and persistence, their collaborative spirit and their commitment to their families. I danced with them, singing their songs of hope and enjoyed their easy laughter. I was hugged and welcomed into their homes and their hearts. We nurture our friendships through the miracle of e-mail.

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So when news coming out of Kenya was at its worst, I took solace in knowing that the women would eventually be able to emerge from their homes and do whatever it takes to pull Kenya back together. I knew that they would begin to care for the children and feed the hungry and find homes for the homeless. I knew that they would talk among themselves about the roots of this violence and quietly find ways to bring reconciliation and healing.  I knew that the women of Kenya would show up fully in the face of this craziness and bring sanity back to their land.

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It is what they have always done.

www.KatheSchaaf.com

http://katheschaaf.blogspot.com/

May 19, 2008

Six Reasons Women will Love the SMaRT Sustainability Standard

Smart_logo_2 Let's get SMaRT(er), shall we? (Sustainable Materials Rating Technology)

If women have to buy the right stuff for their homes and specify the right stuff for their companies and clients, then it's time we all knew about how to go about that process.

I've been told that the subject of Sustainability is just too hard for we mere consumers and citizens of the planet to understand. Oh paLEEEZE. How about we give it a shot. Women are not only the dominate consumer, but the dominate gender in marketing. If we're greenwashing products it's out of ignorance, not stupidity.

Stuff_toxinFirst a quickie class in the issues. Have you seen Story of Stuff yet? (kudos to Annie Leonard). It now has over 2 millions views. It's a great example of what is part of a product's Life Cycle Assessment. LCA's pull the documentation of the carbon emissions, energy and waste pollution generated in the production process of goods together. It tallies the "stuff" that goes into other "stuff". When you know the bottom line of where the energy and pollution is being saved/used/abused that's when you can start to improve it.

SMaRT is a standard that quantifies and puts the info into a balanced rule per se. You can't be certified as sustainable if the you're saving energy, but polluting the water, or using safe processes, but destroying forests. It also factors in social equity like child labor, a company must be transparent with its working conditions worldwide. SMaRT is like playing baseball, once you have the rules, you can play on a T-ball level or major league, but the rules and tools are the same.

To keep everyone above board, SMaRT has third party global certification & auditing through Ernst & Young. It's a label you can trust.

The SMaRT scorecard/matrix categories:

1. Safe for Public Health & Environment (pollution footprints)

  • SMaRT requires documentation of Feedstock Inventory.
  • SMaRT requires input and output of Stockholm Protocol Chemicals. These are the pervasive baddies which greatly affect our food chain: Aldrin, Chlordane, DDT, Diedrin, Dioxins, Endrin, Furans, Heptachlor, Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) Mirex, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), Toxaphene. You may know them as insecticides, fire retardants or the plastic in product packaging or the backing of carpet. Input covers chemicals going into the product and output is what happens during the making of the product. SMaRT documents over 1200 Stockholm Protocol chemicals across air, water and earth impacting 3600 touch points. (can you imagine how long it would Congress to pass a bill covering that subject?)
  • SMaRT gives points for  minimizing air carcinogens and VOCs, green cleaning using clean greening procedures,   
  • SMaRT gives points for minimizing indoor formaldehyde emissions.

Still with me? Moms Rising wants fire retardants out of fabric, form and carpet because of what it's doing to kids, pets and breast milk. In Story of Stuff, Annie notes that breast milk is the #1 Toxic food source, "toxins in - toxins out."  The Center for Environmental Health and Justice wants PVCs out of the system and NOT recycled. They don't want a second chance of putting them into our air, soil or water.

The only way to get these things out of the system is not put them into the system by A) following a standard or B) creating a law to ban it after the fact.

2. Renewable Energy & Energy Reduction (carbon footprint issues)

  • An energy inventory is required of current usage and renewable usage.
  • Points are awarded on an increasing scale for Cleaner and Greener Certification, Certifications for Climate Change Emission reductions.
  • More points are given if the supply chain's energy is also renewable. This covers those who provide materials for the manufacturing of the products even if they are located in China.

3. Biobased or Recycled Materials (more carbon footprint and pollution footprints)

  • Once again, an inventory of all materials is required. If a company is using PVCs(plastic) to back a carpet, then this is where it shows up.
  • SMaRT gives the most credit to organic bio-based meeting EPA best management practices because these products have no toxic constituents including endocrine disruptors.
  • The highest points go to products made with NEW bio-based material vs. recycled material. Why would SMaRT do that? Because it's trying to encourage new products that start green to stay green vs. recycling what got us into this mess and a lot of that came from plastics and that comes from oil - that we're running out of and is getting more expensive.

4. Facility or Company Based Manufacturing (more footprints)

  • This is where SMaRT looks at the operational side of manufacturing, is the company walking the walk? Required is an EMS Environmental Policy & Targets, Social Indicator Reporting and that LCA Process
  • Social Indicator Reporting for Suppliers. It covers the working conditions for the supply chain that may not be in the US. The SMaRT audit happens globally and sweat shop conditions aren't rewarded. 
  • Transparent Primary and Secondary Materials Reclamation System (no dumping)
  • Environmental Management System Certification
  • Sustainable/EPP Product Transaction Disclosures

5. Reclamation, Sustainable Reuse & End of Life Management (keeping the footprint light)

  • Points are given for durability. How long will the product last before it needs to be recycled?
  • Once that product is ready for recycling, what programs are in place to take it back?
  • How much can be reused?

6. Innovation in Manufacturing (preventing footprints from the get-go)

  • Cool new products get extra credit for paving the way for others to follow.
  • Are they doing more with less material? The get credit for that as well.

Who decided all of the above - a balanced board of of people and interests from trade associations, financial institutes, government, Non-governmental groups, environmental groups, citizens-at-large over eight years of discussions.

Before you say, "Wait a minute, that's not democracy. I didn't vote for any of that," look around you. Everything you sit on, live in, work in, eat or drive were made via standards that you never voted on. Standards help trade groups work together. They are the "laws"of the free market. The SMaRT Standard simply pulled all the multitudes of standards for sustainability together, eliminated the redundancy and provided one, balanced standard that rewards entry level or superior performance.

What SMaRT doesn't reward is greenwash. In fact, it eliminates it. SMaRT is fully transparent and in that transparency peer pressure happens and competition begins. If corporations do one thing really well, it's knowing how to compete. SMaRT just gives them the rules to play by that we all can live with and cheer.    

May 10, 2008

Adding their Best to Best Buy

In 2006, I interviewed Julie Gilbert of Best Buy. At that time they had 120,000 employees, today they top 140,000. Then, Julie was a Vice President of WOLF (Women's Leadership Forum) and Entrepreneurial Initiatives; now she's a Senior Vice President of Retail Training, Learning and Innovation, Winning With Women, and WOLF. On top of all that, she also has taken on Sustainability issues, turning Best Buy into a woman-friendly, earth-friendly corporation. My kind of woman.

According to a recent profile, "Through her leadership in WOLF, Best Buy increased female market share by more than $3.6 billion, increased the number of female job applicants by 37 percent, and reduced female employee turnover by 5.7 percent." Hummm.... Best Buy has 20,000 women employees, that means 1140 stayed at Best Buy because of the WOLF program. Cool.

GilbertApparently Julie wants to do better than 5.7%. On Wednesday this week, she was in town (Anaheim, CA) with about 1000 other "blue-shirters" and WOLF Omegas (women who are not part of Best Buy). The Blue Shirts and the Omegas formed one, big brainstorm to continue exploring why employees and customers stayed with Best Buy and why others left.

Fortunately, the conference was only about 5 minutes from my place, so I was able to join Julie and other manager and Omega types for happy hour at the Hilton. Since this conference was all about making women happy, I took with me a request from Eco-Mom, Kimberly Pinkson. She wanted Best Buy to, Take back the e-waste [recycle] and show her what they are doing with it. "I don't want my old computer to end up over in Africa polluting the landscape for the kids over there," Kimberly told me.

Kimberly will be happy to know that Best Buy is working on the beginning of that wish list. According to Julie, they are doing a test in three stores located in Minneapolis, Baltimore and San Francisco. People can take any kind of e-waste to the store regardless of where they bought it. Currently at all Best Buy stores you can recycle print cartridges, batteries and cell phones. They are also greening up the buildings as well adding solar panels.

When it comes to the "show me" part. Kimberly isn't alone e-waste disposal, over at Envio Mom they addressed the same concern. Trust, but verify! No one wants to recycle only to find out that we messed up some other country's back yard. I have two old computers sitting under my desk for that very reason. I don't trust where they'll end up if I take them to a recycling center. That picture in the National Geographic of E-waste in third world countries is too vivid. I'll be the first one to champion Best Buy's program when they are able to show and tell the full story.

TaihaI also visited with Omega consumer, mom and small business owner Taiha Wagner. She was there, traveling with her incognito sister to answer questions from Best Buy employees. Taiha was encouraged by Best Buy not to hold back (she didn't) and wasn't given any advice on what to say before she came. (Taiha's the one with the white shirt)

So why would you love a company as an employee and customer?

Over on Best of Mother Earth, Karen Hanrahan explores why she stays with her company. It started with products that she could trust as a consumer of eco-safe cleaners. Years ago she had to switch to a chemical-free lifestyle as cleaning agents bothered her health. When she found products that allowed her a way to not only live safely, but also make a living she was hooked and never left. "They just fit who I am as a person," Karen told me. "I've always been told I'm a mother earth sort, and these products let me live that life."

The more I read blogs and pay attention to what women want, it always comes down the same thing, give them something they can believe in - oh, and prove it.

May 05, 2008

Hank&Cheef - what goes around comes around

I'm one of those people who carry a blue bandana in her purse. It's a leftover habit from my Girl Scout Camp director days when the "AP" (All Purpose) cloth used to hang from my belt loop. I had to smile when I saw this return of the Hanky. It's stepped up to meet eco-expectations, and definately not what my grandmother would carry. I don't know if it will catch on in this germy world, but I applaud the effort and the designs.

Can Wall Street Help Your Street?

What does Wall Street have to do with women's green groups? Let's connect some dots, but first let's hear from someone who makes a living managing funds, Mindy Lubber. She is the President of Ceres an organization of investment fund managers.

Mindylubber"Climate change is the mother of all sustainability issues and will have an impact on every economic sector, whether from new regulations, physical impacts of growing demand for climate-friendly technologies. Thus, climate risk is embedded in every business and investment portfolio, which is why more Wall Street analysts are beginning to factor corporate response to climate risk into their evaluations of the companies they cover."

Ceres collectively oversees over $4 Trillion (that's with a T) in investments, Mindy flagged the issue that is quickly becoming THE issue. How do you measure and react to climate risk when it comes to investvestments?

At the same time, women's groups are gathering to manage the effects of their own climate change risk. My thanks to Diane for making me wish I lived in Washington DC. for Creating a Climate of Change: Women, Nuclear Energy and Justice in a Warming World an event on May 6.

"Women often lead the way in their communities in conserving precious natural resources, adapting their food crops to changing soil and climatic conditions, and rebuilding following floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters...Women's experiences, creativity and leadership must be part of the solution if we, whether from North or South, are serious about addressing global warming."

Creating a Climate of Change is hosted by the Nobel Women's Initiative , in partnership with the Green Belt Movement, Friends of the Earth, Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), Oil Change International , Action Aid , Feminist Majority Foundation , The International Forum on Globalization , U.S. Climate Action Network / and Heinrick Böll Foundation. I'll be the first to admit that I hadn't heard of many of these groups until Diane's email and yet they are all firmly entrenched and helping women around the world deal with their lack of natural resources.

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On the home front we have womens' groups forming to pro-actively change the world before they have to react to a world without water or food like those do in the above groups need to - Big Green Purse, Eco Mom Alliance, HolisticMoms, eco-chick... thankfully everyday more pop up.

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Can Wall Street fix your street? No, it can't, not by itself. In a twist of irony, it's the women on your street supporting the right kind of big business that will help turn things around. Wall Street depends on the the confidence and attitudes of the general public to keep their portfolios growing.

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Smart_101Investors need guidelines, consumers need guidelines and that starts with education on both sides. If we don't have guidelines, we will get more websites selling more unsustainable stuff to women and furthering the problem that out of control consumerism has given the world. Begin here Download smart_sustainable_standards_101_5208.pdf. Learn what can keep consumerism in line with our eco concerns.

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Under bloggy disclosure, I'm the editor for www.sustainbleproductsblog.com. (a non-profit in DC)  Along with that I do a lot of volunteer work on bringing Sustainable Standards to women. If your group would like a free webinar, please contact me at Mary@inwomenwetrust.com.

May 02, 2008

ORGANIC STYLE no longer an Oxymoron

In the 60s organic style meant wrapping myself in hemp and not wearing makeup. Today I can actually say the word "style" along with organic and have a different vision.

Organic_styleCheck out the new magazine called Organic Style. Get your free copy here. It covers women's green issues but with an even split of men and women contributing ideas. That's the 50/50 I've been waiting for, along with topics that can we can all live with. 

This issue features Julie Butterfly Hill who spent 2 years living on top of a tree to keep it from being cut down. That's walking the walk!  Thank goodness we don't have to do that anymore to make a point. It also covers Denis Hayes, the first Earth Day coordinator. He compares Earth Day 1969 with Earth Day now, offering us all perspective and hope. (I'm with him on carbon credits.)

Let me know what you think of it.