« September 2010 | Main | November 2010 »

7 posts from October 2010

October 27, 2010

Women are the Will...

Women are the Will; Corporations are the Way; and Sustainable Standards will keep us all honest. Every day more and more examples of that new economic model are revealing themselves.

Women are the Will...

BlogHer, that force of feminine nature with 76,000 registered bloggers, re-published Diane MacEachern's post on the front page of BlogHer. Diane's post had a disturbing title -- Little girls are worrying about bras when they should still be playing with Play Dough. In the post, Diane raises the question as to why this is such a prevalent problem. According to one study, one of the culprits could be Bisphenol A (BPA) found in plastics and the lining of canned goods. 

Diane's post came after Beth Terry's post on Yogurt Containers and Snack Bags Made From Corn? along with a very detailed explanation of how Stonyfield Farms is trying to solve the problem with PLA packaging.

Yesterday, Andrea Learned chipped in with When Consumer's Get Beyond Green Packaging. She cites how much smarter consumers are becoming, mainly because they read posts by women like Diane and Beth, and then they ask the hard questions as well. She flags a warning to corporations that they had better be ready with the answers.

Corporations are the way...

The good news -- behaving in an authentic, (prove it) way was THE topic at this year's Sustainable Brands Conference. Corporations are the ones manufacturing, packaging, shipping, selling and (hopefully) taking back and recycling products. Let the competition begin for being greener than the next guy.

The bad news -- this June the supreme court determined that "corporations" are people too and can vote, but can't be stopped like ordinary citizens can. In short, corporations don't have to play by the same rules that hold you and me accountable to our behavioral laws, such as not killing or harming others. There is nothing to keep corporations in check. Some companies will take the high road, like those at the Sustainable Brands Conference, others won't. Hold that thought...

Brands such as Stonyfield Farms, Forbo, Ben & Jerrys, Seventh Generation and Patagonia are leaders in sustainability and corporate social responsibility because they were the first to take a stand for more sustainable product lines. They are now being showered with the kudos that goes with leadership position.

It's why I'm mentioning them here in glowing terms. I may die tomorrow, but my words provide these companies permanent, positive promotion - the holy grail of modern consumer marketing. None of them paid me to endorse them I'm doing it willingly because their manufacturing processes and social responsibility practices are making the world a better place. 

Aren't a lot of men saying these things as well? Sure, and it all helps, but men don't have the circles of friends who buy things like women do -- 62% of those reading BlogHer have children living at home making them top consumer buyers. It's all about who's holding the purse strings and who do the purse string holders influence. 

But wait, there's more...

While corporations are making the stuff and women are buying the stuff, we can't leave out those who are distributing the stuff and giving green credit to the biggest corporation of all -- Wal Mart. Without Wal Mart coming on board and reinventing themselves as the lead buyer of sustainable goods, we wouldn't have a snow ball's chance on a summer's day parking lot of solving the market tipping problem and with it Climate Change and our HUGE pollution problems

Wal Mart controls its vendor list and those vendors also sell to other big box stores. Without items being available to mainline consumers all these great posts mean nothing -- we need both buyers and sellers working together to co-create the next economy.

In full disclosure, I'm not a Wal Mart shopper, but I do recognize the gift of peer pressure it gave the economy when it told its over 60,000 suppliers that they WILL become sustainable or they won't be selling to Wal Mart in the future. (Thank you, Wal Mart)

Sustainable Standards will keep us all honest

So far, so good -- we have consumers willing to act as buyers and megaphones of sustainable products. We have corporations racing towards the green finish line -- but which finish line?

There are HUNDREDS of sustainable standards covering individual industries (paper, wood furniture, textiles, electronics, food...) and more that are duking it out to be THE global, one-size-fits-all standard.  Underwriters Laboratory has their ULE version, the Sustainability Consortium is trying to come up with a system, and WRI will have a new standard by December. [EcoLabel Index]

Even HOW you talk about your accomplishments is under fire, that where our government has stepped in and is releasing a new set of FTC green marketing guidelines in December 2010.

Once we have the rules of the green game established, corporations will know how to play and we'll know when to cheer. Luckily it appears that 2011 will be the year of the breakout sustainability standards.

Which standard(s) will win depends on two things, money and money -- consumer money and corporate money. Consumer money keeps the corporate coffers full, making their stocks go higher and that leads us back to those in charge of the purse strings -- WOMEN. 

The emerging economy will be global in scale crossing all borders, affecting all international manufacturing and consumers worldwide. Money and influence from the majority buyers - women -will drive the movement. Corporations will respond by doing what they do best - compete for the dollar and the influence. Sustainable standards will become the new law(s) of the global, free market. 

Keep up the discussion, ladies, corporate ears are open to a co-created market. 





October 19, 2010

"Living Downstream" - the Documentary Every Parent Must See

My thanks to Karen Hanrahan for flagging this important film Living Downstream by scientist, Sandra Steingraber Ph.D. Screen shot 2010-10-19 at 7.39.57 AM

While we face the dangers of climate change and not enough water, this film demonstrates the issues we face in the water we have left -- even our fresh rain, falling from the sky, contains chemicals other than H2O, resting water has up to 66 chemicals.

That's not good for us or the planet. It's why we all need to understand and support sustainable standards around how our products are made throughout the supply chain. 


October 18, 2010

Who is Tracking Your Kids (and you) Online?

Screen shot 2010-10-18 at 8.03.50 AM
Check out this interactive tool from the WSJ that explains how everyone is being tracked on the web. On first blush, it's disturbing; on the second, as an eco-marketer I wanted to know what I was missing...

Nuf said, follow the link and learn...


October 14, 2010

Don't Cross this Green Advertising line with Mom's

It's the "guilt" line according to a focus group conducted by Shelton Group.

Concerned Moms are most motivated by their kids, but there’s a line that marketers should NOT cross. That would be the Line of Guilt. Positive messaging about future generations worked really well. Guilt messaging – such as “you’d better change your ways today or else your kids and grandkids will pay the price” — really fell flat. It insulted them. A representative comment to one such ad: “I’ve bent over for my kids… How dare they tell me I haven’t done enough?”

What else can you do to ring the green bell of action? Concerned Moms liked "facts delivered directly" -- regular people giving real tips are what registered the best. Protecting the jobs/family and future generations also resonated well as long as it didn't cross the guilt line. 

The best part, the green market rose 41% from 2004 to 2009. Does that mean that more people want to buy green products or that more green products are simply more available to buy. Go here for the full article.

This all is terrific news for Wal Mart who announced their push for buying local and organic food. That's something that everyone can live with. 

October 10, 2010

If a Consumer Complained in a Forest about Climate Change, Would Anyone Hear Her?

The bigger question is, Would anything change because they did hear her? 

If a company takes a step towards sustainability do we applaud loudly in a blog post, or just let our dollars do the talking? Recently, a third option surfaced when Frito Lay took their compostable Sun Chip's bag off the shelves because of "customer complaints" regarding the noise.

Really? We have nothing more to do in our day than react to a crackly bag? Apparently over 44,000 did so on Facebook and that was enough for Frito Lay to back peddle.


These postings weren't highly considered decisions, like the pro/con list that Beth Terry wrote about on Fake Plastic Fish, the Facebook posts were twitter length, gut reactions -- enough of them that Frito Lay pulled a production line. Do you have any idea how much money they must be losing to pull an entire production line?

Holy smokes, the bigger story isn't that they pulled the line regardless of its eco-friendly intentions, but that they LISTENED and then pulled the line. Yes, it was a wimpy move and no doubt will be cited as an example of packaging gone wrong in college courses and they could have turned the noise into, "the sound of doing the right thing" BUT AT LEAST THEY ARE LISTENING. For that, reason, I'm excited and have hope for a co-operative future. 

Today 350.org is holding a 10.10.10 party for Climate Change.  Climate Mama is hosting the Green Mom Carnival on the subject. While we took a step backwards for sustainability, let's take a moment to understand the new-found power in this moment.  We no longer have to go through the political system to evoke change when we have a direct connection to corporate decision makers at our fingertips. 

Think about the ramifications of that in a co-created capitalistic universe? What would you ask corporations to do to bring down Climate Change or...

October 08, 2010

80,000 synthetic drugs... how many are in you?

October is breast cancer awareness month - 1 in 8 women will have it. Usually email reminders from friends start showing about now to remind me to get my screening.

This time why don't we also start screening our products? Begin by asking the question, "what's in this can/box/bag anyway..." Some day all products will be put through life cycle assessments and pass sustainable standards that will keep toxic chemicals out out of supply chains, until then start asking...

Dedicated to Laura, I miss your calls. 

The FTC Wants Your Green Marketing Comments by December

Screen shot 2010-10-08 at 1.29.22 PM Ok green bloggers, here is your chance to influence governmental policy without going through that painful voting process -- the FTC wants to know what you think about the messaging on green products. In other words, how do you want them to put truth into green advertising via their Green Guidelines?  Go here to tell them, you have until December 10, 2010. 

Some example language...

• Marketers should not make unqualified general environmental benefit claims. They are difficult, if not impossible, to substantiate. (The current Guides state that marketers can make unqualified claims if they can substantiate all express and implied claims. Otherwise, they should qualify the claim.)

• Qualifications should be clear and prominent, and should limit the claim to a specific benefit. Marketers should ensure the advertisement’s context does not imply deceptive environmental claims. (In the current Guides, this guidance appears only in examples.)

Certifications and Seals of Approval

• This new section emphasizes that certifications/ seals are endorsements covered by the Commission’s Endorsement Guides and provides new examples illustrating how those Guides apply to environmental claims (e.g., marketers should disclose material connections to the certifier). (The current Guides address certifications/seals in only one example in the general environmental benefit section. 16 CFR 260.7, Example 5.)

• Because an unqualified certification/seal (one that does not state the basis for certification) likely conveys a general environmental benefit claim, marketers should use clear and prominent language limiting the claim to particular attribute(s) for which they have substantiation. (This provision highlights guidance already provided in current Guides’ Example 5.)

• Third-party certification does not eliminate a marketer’s obligation to have substantiation for all conveyed claims.

For the full write up go to http://www.ftc.gov/green.

These guidelines are extremely important as they become the backbone for all marketing material being created. It's one thing to be green and another thing to convey the attributes correctly and not mislead the public. 

The guidelines also cover:

  • Degradable materials
  • Compostable materials
  • Ozone-Safe / Ozone-Friendly
  • Made with Recyclable Materials
  • Free of AND Non-toxic products
  • Made with Renewable Energy
  • Carbon Offsets

Green is no longer a nice thing to do to create a new marketing edge. It is THE thing to do and we need a common, public way to talk about the accomplishments.