Most Americans Support Government Action on Climate Change.

30 01 2015

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The poll found that 83% of Americans, including 61% of Republicans and 86% of independents, say that if nothing is done to reduce emissions, global warming will be a very or somewhat serious problem in the future.

An overwhelming majority of the American public, including nearly half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times,Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future.

Among Republicans, 48 percent said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change, a result that Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of political science at Stanford University and an author of the survey, called “the most powerful finding” in the poll. Many Republican candidates either question the science of climate change or do not publicly address the issue.

Although the poll found that climate change was not a top issue in determining a person’s vote, a candidate’s position on climate change influences how a person will vote. For example, 67 percent of respondents, including 48 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of independents, said they were less likely to vote for a candidate who said that human-caused climate change is a hoax.

Over all, the number of Americans who believe that climate change is caused by human activity is growing. In a 2011 Stanford University poll, 72 percent of people thought climate change was caused at least in part by human activities. That grew to 81 percent in the latest poll. By party, 88 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of independents and 71 percent of Republicans said that climate change was caused at least in part by human activities.

Although the poll found that climate change was not a top issue in determining a person’s vote, a candidate’s position on climate change influences how a person will vote. For example, 67 percent of respondents, including 48 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of independents, said they were less likely to vote for a candidate who said that human-caused climate change is a hoax.

Jason Becker, a self-identified independent and stay-at-home father in Ocoee, Fla., said that although climate change was not his top concern, a candidate who questioned global warming would seem out of touch.

“If someone feels it’s a hoax they are denying the evidence out there. Many arguments can be made on both sides of the fence. But to just ignore it completely indicates a close-minded individual, and I don’t want a close-minded individual in a seat of political power.”

Source:  The New York Times.





Carbon Trust: 2/3 of public unable to name businesses that take sustainability seriously.

23 09 2013

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In a recent survey of more than 1,800 adults in the United Kingdom, The Carbon Trust Fund found that 68% of people were unable to name a company that is taking sustainability seriously.

In addition, just 5% of respondents see businesses as being most effective in helping the environment.  Despite the significant efforts many companies across the world are making to turn their business operations to more responsible and sustainable entities, the UK study underscores how poorly those companies are communicating their actions.

According to Tom Delay, the chief executive of Carbon Trust:

“While it’s clear that consumers still care about the environmental future, their perspective on where the responsibility falls is skewed. It cannot be solely down to environmental groups to shoulder the weight of protecting our planet’s natural resources. Businesses have an enormous role to play here and need to be seen to be doing their part.  As businesses look for more ways to grow, sustainability should become a golden opportunity for investment, allowing them to become more resilient to future environmental resource shocks and to cut their costs and grow their revenues. The smart companies will invest now and put sustainability inside their businesses.”

The same survey of UK adults did have some encouraging signs regarding concern for the environment.   The demand for green products appears to be increasing with only 6% saying they are less likely to buy a sustainable product and/or service than five years ago while almost three in ten (27%) said they are more likely.   Increased concern about the personal impact of what they buy on the environment was the most important reason for this (45%) and 43% of the public surveyed said they lead a more sustainable life than five years ago.





Adidas DryDye: T-shirts made with less water.

9 08 2012

Adidas is rolling out an initial production run of 50,000 DryDye t-shirts – demonstrating their leadership in the production of apparel with less use of water.

The sportswear company has released a line of T-shirts made of fabric dyed with compressed carbon dioxide (CO2) rather than water.

Adidas says the DryDye technology – developed over the last five years with Thailand’s Yeh Group – uses zero water for dyeing, compared to 25 liters for a typical shirt. In addition, the process reduces chemical use by 50 percent, the company said.  In a commercial, Adidas claims the apparel industry uses the equivalent of the amount of water in the Mediterranean Sea each year.

For the summer season, Adidas has produced 50,000 DryDye tees with designs promoting the innovation. Using a traditional dyeing process would have required roughly 1,200,000 liters of water.

Adidas said it will begin using the DryDye process for more apparel pieces over the next few seasons.

Besides saving water, DryDye also uses 50 percent less energy and 50 percent fewer chemicals, according to DyeCoo, the Netherlands-based company that built the first commercial waterless textile-dyeing machine.  Adidas expects to save 1.2 million liters of water by using DryDye technology over conventional methods.

Together with Thailand’s Yeh Group, one of the first textile mills to implement the technology, Adidas will be rolling out 50,000 DryDye T-shirts over the summer. Because a single tee can require up to 25 liters of water during the dyeing stage, Adidas expects to save an estimated 1.2 million liters of agua over the usual route.

This is only the beginning, according to Adidas. The manufacturer expects to use the DryDye process with more apparel pieces over the next few seasons.





Gibbs & Soell: Only 21% of Americans Believe Business Is Committed To Going Green.

2 05 2012

In their 2012 Gibbs & Soell Sense & Sustainability study, the research demonstrates that public doubt that corporations are making a sincere commitment to going green continues to run high.

Despite their skepticism, the majority (71 percent) of consumers wants to know more about what companies are doing to become sustainable and green, and 75% feel the media are more likely to report on green business when the news is bad rather than good.

Read the summary report and news release announcing the results of 2012 Gibbs & Soell Sense & Sustainability Study at these links.

Key Findings:

  •  The general public and business leaders remain skeptical of corporate America’s commitment to sustainability. Only 21 percent of U.S. adults and 25 percent of executives believe that a majority of businesses (“most,” “almost all,” or “all”) are committed to “going green” – defined as “improving the health of the environment by implementing more sustainable business practices and/or offering environmentally-friendly products or services.”
  • While one-third of executives report having no green steward, up from years past, there is a trend toward dedicated teams for those who do. This year’s results show that 34 percent of executives indicate there is no one at their company who is responsible for sustainability or “going green” initiatives, up from 25 percent in 2011. More than one out of five (21 percent) corporate leaders report there is a team of individuals whose jobs are specifically and solely dedicated to sustainability, up from 17 percent in 2011 and 13 percent in 2010.
  • Most consumers and business executives also believe corporate sustainability activities are more likely to be covered by the media when the news is bad than good. The number is comparatively higher among consumers who are confident in corporate America’s commitment to “going green.” Three-quarters (75 percent) of U.S. adults and 69 percent of executives feel the media are more likely to report on “bad news” than “good news” when covering how companies are addressing efforts to “go green.” Specifically among the 21 percent of consumers who believe “most,” “almost all,” or “all” companies are committed to “going green,” 83 percent feel there is a bias for bad news in the media.

 Said Ron Loch, senior vice president and managing director, sustainability consulting, Gibbs & Soell. “The results reveal growing efforts by business communicators in relating their corporate responsibility stories, but also underscore a deficit in general understanding and trust.  It’s clear much more needs to be achieved in terms of relevant engagement with consumers and the media around corporate sustainability.”





Ogilvy Earth. Mainstream Green. Bridging the Green Gap.

27 03 2012

A major new research report was issued this week from marketing agency Ogilvy Earth studying the barriers to mainstream consumers acceptance of sustainability behaviors and enlightened brands.

The focus of the study was both in the United States and in China, two of the most populated and carbon intensive countries in the world.  In the chart below, the report shows that the majority of people surveyed recognize the importance of living a sustainable lifestyle, a gap exists between knowledge of its importance and actual behavior.  The gap is 14% in China, and more than double that – 30% – in the United States.

In analysis of the research, Ogilvy Earth observed what this blogger has believed for 3+ years:

“The marketing communications industry knows how to do this. We popularize things; that’s what we do best.  But we need to embrace the simple fact that if we want green behaviors to be widespread, then we need to treat them as mass ideas with mass communications, not elite ideas with niche communications.”

In their analysis, the researchers found that “82% of Americans have good green intentions, but of those 82%, only 16% are dedicated to fulfilling those intentions, putting 66% firmly in this middle ground.”  As indicated in the chart about.

In their conclusions, the report’s authors identify 12 key ways they believe the Green Gap can be bridged.  They conclude:

1. Make it normal.

2. Make it personal.

3. Create better defaults.

4. Eliminate the sustainability tax.

5. Bribe shamelessly.

6. Punish wisely.

7. Don’t stop innovating.  Make better stuff.

8. Lose the crunch.

9.  Turn eco-friendly into male ego-friendly.

10. Make it tangible.

11. Make it easy to navigate.

12. Tap into hedonism over altruism.

For more detail and explanation on these intriguing and provocative gap bridging strategies, read the entire research report here.

Mainstream Green Report from Ogilvy Earth





KPMG: Expect the Unexpected. Building business value in a changing world.

21 02 2012

In a massive report, KPMG’s study, Expect the Unexpected: Building Business Value in a Changing World, identifies 10 “megaforces” that will significantly affect corporate growth globally over the next two decades. It explores issues such as climate change, energy and fuel volatility, water availability and cost and resource availability, as well as population growth spawning new urban centers. The analysis examines how these global forces may impact business and industry, and calculates the environmental costs to business.

Michael Andrew, Chairman of KPMG International, said: “We are living in a resource-constrained world. The rapid growth of developing markets, climate change, and issues of energy and water security are among the forces that will exert tremendous pressure on both business and society.”

“We know that governments alone cannot address these challenges. Business must take a leadership role in the development of solutions that will help to create a more sustainable future. By leveraging its ability to enhance processes, create efficiencies, manage risk, and drive innovation, business will contribute to society and long-term economic growth.”

The study also highlights that up to one third of the world’s population now live in persistent deprivation.  With 72% of the world’s poor now residing in middle income countries.  The report declares that “persistent inequality is not only wrong, it’s bad for business – it prevents huge swathes of the population from being workers and customers and it increases the risks to business from the type of instability seen in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011.”

Yvo de Boer, KPMG’s Special Global Adviser on Climate Change and Sustainability, said global sustainability megaforces will significantly increase the complexity of the business environment. “Without action and strategic planning, risks will multiply and opportunities will be lost. Corporations are recognizing that there is value and opportunity in responsibility beyond the next quarter’s results; that what is good for people and the planet can also be good for the long term bottom line and shareholder value,” De Boer said.

The report was released last week during KPMG’s business leader summit in New York City in cooperation with the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).





Bloomberg: EPA Providing Water to Homes Near Pennsylvania Fracking Site

21 01 2012

By Mark Drajem – Jan 19, 2012 8:48 PM CT
The Environmental Protection Agency will deliver water to four families in Dimock, Pennsylvania, where residents say their water has been contaminated during hydraulic fracturing by Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (COG)

The EPA will also test water at 60 homes to assess whether any residents are being exposed to hazardous substances, the agency said in a statement.

“EPA is working diligently to understand the situation in Dimock and address residents’ concerns,” EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin said in a statement. “Conducting our own sampling will help us fill information gaps.”

Residents and activists protested outside a venue where EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was speaking in Philadelphia last week, urging her to force Houston-based Cabot to clean up wells they say were contaminated after drilling started nearby. The company is using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process that injects water and chemicals to free gas in rock.

Cabot has no data that indicates natural gas operations are the cause of the concerns identified by the EPA, George Stark, a company spokesman, said. He said the agency is conducting an “unwarranted investigation.”

“Cabot looks forward to helping educate the U.S. EPA on the ground water and geological features of Susquehanna County,” where Dimock is located, Stark said in an e-mail.

The agency offered water to the families earlier this month and then reversed the decision the next day. The EPA now has agreed to start water delivery tomorrow, Michael Kulik, an agency spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Court Case Pending

Dimock residents say their water went bad more than three years ago. In an agreement with state environmental regulators, Cabot pledged to install methane-removal equipment on wells and set aside $4.1 million to pay residents who say they were harmed. The company didn’t admit fault.

Some residents settled. Others went to court and their lawsuit is pending. EPA officials visited residents at the end of last year, and told some not to drink their well water.

In Pennsylvania, the economic losses from possible environmental damage could be high. Drilling in the state’s portion of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation could generate $20 billion for the state’s economy by 2020, up from $13 billion last year, according to an industry-funded study published by researchers from Pennsylvania State University.

Separately, the U.S. House Oversight Committee led by California Republican Darrell Issa today asked the Energy Department for transcripts of interviews regarding fracking.

In an e-mailed statement, Issa said the committee also asked Jackson to explain documents obtained by the panel that “appear to indicate” that the EPA “is planning for a future where new supplies of natural gas are limited because of the agency’s concern about the environmental impacts” of the process.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Drajem in Washington at +1-

mdrajem@bloomberg.net





24/7 Wall St.: The Ten Most Hated Companies In America.

18 01 2012

Are you surprised?

24/7 Wall Street’s analysis was based on a rigorous study of two dimensions.  One is public research about consumer satisfaction, customer care, pricing of products and services, and brand impressions. Wall St. research takes into account another set of factors, which include present earnings, profit forecasts, product development and quality, and brand valuations.

Here is how they did their research.

“We examined each company based on several criteria. We considered total return to shareholders in comparison to the broader market and other companies in the same sector during the last year. We reviewed financial analyst opinions on those companies that are public. We analyzed data from a broad array of sources, including Consumer Reports, JD Power, the MSN/Zogby Poll, ForeSee and the University of Michigan American Customer Satisfaction Index. We also considered negative press based on 24/7 Wall St.’s analysis of media coverage and the Flame Index, which uses a proprietary algorithm to review more than 12,000 websites and ranks companies based on the frequency of negative words. Finally, we considered the views of taxpayers, Congress and the White House — where applicable.”

Read the article here.





BrandAsset® Valuator: Fewer trust brands but trust is key to building brand equity.

16 01 2012

Kudos once again to our friend John Gerzema and his team at BrandAsset® Valuator for another compelling report on the key trends related to trust, brands, and the rise of the what they deem “The Citizen Marketplace”.

The headlines from their analysis and research demonstrate two inter-related factors as it relates to trust and brands:

That trust is the true, new brand differentiator.

  • 25% of people surveyed trusted brands in 2009, down from 49% at the beginning of the decade.
  • 45% cite trust as key to future potential or brand strength, up from 29% in 2001.

Other key findings in the research is the rise in social media as social contract with trust of social media outlets outpacing that of traditional media (and Twitter leading the trust game among social media outlets).

John and his BAV team conclude the following branding imperatives in the era of the Citizen Marketplace.

  • Trust is the new differentiator
  • There are numerous pathways to trust for companies and brands to pursue based on category requirements and their purpose and values
  • As communications evolve into conversations, social media is moving past social currency to social contract
  • Companies must not think social media, but ‘social as business model’.

Download a BAV presentation on the research here.

Thanks again BAV team for sharing this insightful work.





The Enlightened Trend: Shared Value vs. Shareholder Value.

1 12 2011

93% of CEOs believe sustainability issues will be key to business success in the future.  The concept of creating shared value vs. shareholder value is beginning to penetrate the consciousness of many corporate boardrooms. This new report from FSG – the nonprofit consulting firm – gives best in class examples of social engagement strategies where corporate and social issues are aligned.

According to FSG, “the most advanced companies have begun to look at social engagement through a different lens entirely.  Rather than seeing business and society in opposition, they recognize the enormous potential of business to contribute to social progress.  At the same time, they understand that firms depend on healthy and well-functioning societies to thrive.  Such companies seek to create “shared value” – incorporating social issues into their core business strategies to benefit both society and their own long-term competitiveness.”

Says Harvard Business School professor Michael E. Porter, “What’s happening now is really a redefinition of the boundaries of capitalism.  Creating shared value is the next stage of evolution in the sophistication of the capitalist model.”

The report was sponsored by HP and features examples from global business leaders committed to creating shared value, including Alcoa, GE, Cisco, and Nestle among others.

You can download a pdf of the report here.

(Figure from FSG)





Havas Media: Only 20% of global brands contribute to a sense of wellbeing and quality of life.

8 11 2011

In releasing their latest results, Havas Media underscores how few brands are contributing meaningful experiences to people – with most people saying they would not care if 70% of brands ceased to exist.

In a press release, Sara de Dios, Global Head of Meaningful Brands at Havas Media said.  “We believe that it is likely that the next generation of brands will flourish in emerging economies – they can, from the onset, create the context that promotes the growth of meaningful brands. Companies and brands operating in emerging economies can become active in transforming their roles; they are creating new lifestyles for millions of people and their communities while contributing to the overall progress of their societies. This will continue in the future with a growing middle class emerging within these markets.”

This innovative global undertaking is able, for the first time, to connect brands with our quality of life and wellbeing. It does this by measuring the perceived impact of brands on our personal wellbeing – their influence on factors such as our health, fitness, happiness, values, social relationships, financial security, lifestyles and habits – and our collective wellbeing, that is, how brands help to improve communities, societies and the environment.

The analysis includes a measurement called The Meaningful Brand Index (MBi) that uses consumer perception to compare and track the impact brands have on our lives. Based on the views of 50,000 people in 14 countries, the results show a direct relationship between a brand’s MBi score and the level of consumer attachment. That is, the greater the contribution the brand has to our wellbeing – measured by the value it creates for individuals, communities and the environment – the larger role it will have in people’s lives and the more meaningful it becomes.

Meaningful Brand Index results:

Ikea, Google, Nestlé, Danone, Leroy Merlin, Samsung, Microsoft, Sony, Unilever and Bimbo are the top 10 global brands. These brands systematically improve our personal and collective wellbeing and are rewarded by stronger brand equity and attachment. Furthermore, the results show that we really care that these brands exist as we see that they are making a significant contribution to our lives and communities. Havas Media argues that many of the top 20 brands are helping us create a new lifestyle that’s more consistent with today’s challenges and consumer trends.

Top 20 global brands according to Havas Media’s Meaningful Brand Index:

  1. Ikea
  2. Google
  3. Nestlé
  4. Danone
  5. Leroy Merlin
  6. Samsung
  7. Microsoft
  8. Sony
  9. Unilever
  10. Bimbo
  11. LG
  12. Philips
  13. Apple
  14. P&G
  15. Mars
  16. Volkswagen
  17. L’Oreal
  18. Wal-Mart
  19. Carrefour
  20. Coca-Cola

Detailed analysis on what makes each brand meaningful

Meaningful Brands also explains what makes things meaningful to us as consumers when it comes to specific brands and sectors. For instance, 65% registered a very strong attachment to Coca-Cola worldwide. However, only 35% think the brand improves our quality of life. In fact, some consumers worldwide think it is contributing negatively to our lives, mostly due to health concerns. However, Coca-Cola has, as with many other brands in the beverage sector, been a pioneer in connecting its brand to other personal issues such as happiness and positivity which has enabled it to successfully build a positive link to our emotional wellbeing.

Sector trends

When looking into brands’ impact on our sense of collective wellbeing (communities/ societies/environment), there is a general improvement. This is the case with the automotive and public transport sectors, driven by greater environmental and product innovation (such as the hybrid and electric cars and energy efficiency). Compared to last year, brands such as Volkswagen, BMW, Toyota and Peugeot have, according to consumers, improved the most in this area.

Personal and individual wellbeing

When it comes to our expectations of improving our personal wellbeing and quality of life, the results are not so good. A staggering 80% of brands across 14 countries are underperforming. This reveals a huge opportunity for brands. To some extent this is being realised by brands in sectors such as FMCG, retail, IT and consumer electronics. According to consumers, most brands in the financial, utilities and telecommunications sectors, underperform in helping us improve our daily lives and individual wellbeing.

Despite these trends, the analysis shows that some brands have been able to break free from these industry limitations. There are brands with exceptionally high MBi scores in low scoring industries that are learning to reconnect with consumers. This is the case for Fidelity Investments in the USA, the energy brand Petrobras in Brazil, EDF in France and the telco brands 02 in the UK and Free in France. All of these register significantly higher than average MBi scores for both their sectors and countries.

Worldwide and regional comparisons:

The analysis suggests that the next generation of brands will come from emerging economies. People in fast growing economies, such as Asian and Latin American markets, record a stronger and healthier relationship with brands. The proportion of brands making a notable positive contribution to our lives increases to around 30% in Latin America, compared to 8% in European markets, where people tend to be more sceptical and less engaged with brands. In the US it’s 5%.

By contrast, the situation in developed economies is the opposite. Brands in these regions are no longer seen to improve people’s quality of life. There is an aging and increasingly poorer middle class who are demanding that brands help them to lead and create new lifestyles that fit in to their new expectations and values. In order to survive, these brands must re evaluate their definitions of success and take up the challenge to make meaningful contributions to these people’s lives.”

Hernan Sanchez Neira, CEO Havas Media Intelligence, adds:
“It’s clear from our analysis that we need to take a new look at the relationship between brands and consumers. Nowadays we want so much more from brands than just promises or stories. Brands that manage to create better relationships dominate the marketplace.”

Meaningful Brands helps us to develop this type of relationship by understanding exactly what people expect from brands. It also helps us track how successful companies are responding to these needs by understanding how these companies are contributing to our wellbeing, both as citizens and individuals, and how they communicate these values to us. It also shows us that there’s a big business opportunity for brands who are able to satisfy consumers by creating wellbeing in the context of their new values, expectations and local market realities.”

Consumer sentiment continues to shift:

  • For the 4th year running consumer expectations of companies’ responsible behaviour continues to rise
  • Nearly 85% of consumers worldwide expect companies to become actively involved in solving these issues (an increase of 15% from 2010)
  • Those prepared to reward responsible companies by choosing to buy their products is up 11% from last year to more than half of all consumers (51%)
  • Those who would pay a 10% premium for a product produced in a responsible way is up once again – from 44% last year to 53% in 2011
  • The percentage of us who would punish irresponsible companies has also increased to 44% (from 36% in 2010)
  • Only 28% of consumers worldwide think that companies today are working hard enough to solve our social and environmental challenges.
  • Only 20% trust companies when they communicate about their social/environmental commitments and initiatives

About the research:

The research was carried out from March to June 2011 across 14 markets – France, Spain, UK, Germany, Italy, USA, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, China, Japan and India. The research took into account the views of 50,000 consumers via online panels.

About Havas Media

Havas Media is the global media network of Havas.

Havas Media represents one of the world’s fastest growing media networks and its agencies have grown from 10 markets in 1999 to 119 markets in 2011.

Havas Media services its clients through a portfolio of specialist global networks and agencies. The group is organised to maximise local market dynamics whilst leveraging the extensive global insight and strategic support within Havas Media. The range of companies within Havas Media include: MPG (Havas Media’s global media network), Arena Media (Havas Media’s network for tailor-made communication services), Havas Digital (Havas Media’s global interactive network) and Havas Sports & Entertainment (Havas Media’s global sports and entertainment communication network).

Further information can be found at www.havasmedia.com or follow us on twitter @HavasMedia





Global Opportunity: Tell It How It Is – according to Cone Echo Research

18 10 2011

In its newly released global research report, Cone Echo Research highlight the opportunity for business to build a stronger relationship with consumers by meeting their expectations that business will address social and environmental issues through their operations, their products and services and their unique expertise.  

The trend is global as evidenced by the results in ten countries and the 10,000 people who were surveyed.  And not surprisingly, communication is critical in bridging the gap between perception and reality.

  • 93% of consumers say they want to know what companies are doing.
  • 91% of people say they want to be heard as well.

This means that reciprocal communication is more than an expectation, its essential in building a strong connection with consumers.  And critical to overcoming the confusion, skepticism and even cynicism among consumers.  

  • 89% of consumers globally believe companies share only the positive information about their efforts, while withholding the negative.
  • 71% are confused by the messages companies use to talk about their efforts and impacts.
  • 61% of consumers believe a company is telling the truth about its social and environmental efforts and impacts, but this varies widely by nationality.

Trust is more complex.

The more trusting a country’s consumers are in business, the more confused they are by a company’s messages. These consumers are putting great faith in the words of business, even though they don’t necessarily understand the messages themselves. In return, they don’t ask for perfection, simply the truth. Nearly nine-in-10 (88%) say it’s ok if a company is not perfect, as long as it is honest about its efforts. This permission presents an opportunity for companies to speak candidly about tough CR issues to build trust.

Follow this link to access the Global CR Study





American People to Corporate America: We’d Vote You Out.

30 12 2010

In a new survey issued by StrategyOne, 82% of American’s gave a “C grade or lower” on how corporate America did in 2010, with 40% of Americans assigning Corporate America a “D” or an “F”.

The wake up call is that Americans are extremely frustrated and dissatisfied with the behavior of companies in America.  Quite literally, if the leadership of American companies were politicians, there would be a landslide election of the American people voting them out of their corner offices.

“Let’s be clear, Americans are not dreaming up some far out vision of utopia,” said said Bradley Honan, senior vice president of StrategyOne. “Instead they are being realistic that Corporate America should – and indeed must – engage in important issues of the day where they can make a demonstrably positive difference.  That means the economy and jobs for starters, but also ensuring their products are safe and not harmful to use, and that they simply conduct their day to day business activities in an honest, ethical, and transparent manner.”

Other interesting facts undercovered in the StrategyOne survey included:

  • 88% of consumers said it was extremely or very important that companies help get the economy back on track in 2011.
  • 88% said it was extremely or very important to conduct business in an ethical manner in 2011, and 87% said it was a top priority to do business in an honest and moral way.
  • 85% of consumers thought it was extremely or very important for companies in 2011 to deliver high quality products and services;
  • 84% of Americans thought companies needed to demonstrate good governance in 2011.
  • 82% said it was a top priority for companies to make fewer mistakes and errors in 2011.

Let’s hope company leaders make some serious New Year’s resolutions to improve their performance and more effectively communicate with the public to show how they are being more responsbile, sustainable and ethical.  That is the only way to reduce the “trust gap”.  And it is important for corporate leaders to recognize—once and for all—that their futures are dependent on their customers….who happen to be the American people, at the end of the day.

StrategyOne Survey Methodology:

StrategyOne conducted 1,081 online interviews among a representative sampling of Americans between December 6 and 8, 2010.





Sustainability Making Business Smarter, More Competitive and More Profitable.

16 12 2010

A new report commissioned by KPMG and The Economist Intelligence Group shows that global corporate business executives are seeing positive—and potentially surprising – business benefits from their sustainability initiatives.  More than half of those surveyed represented C-Suite executives.  This week’s report is a preview of a major research paper coming from KPMG early next year.

  • 62% of company’s now claim to have a strategy for sustainability, up from just over half in early 2008.
  • 44% of business executives believe that sustainability is and will continue to be a source of innovation.
  • 39% of executives see sustainability as a source of revenue growth.
  • 41% see sustainability as a driver for brand enhancement.

Some of the other benefits cited by executives from sustainability initiatives include happier employees, better relationships with clients and suppliers, cost reduction, access to new markets, new product and service offerings and improved investor awareness.

But once again there is a gap between reality and perception, with many companies still not effectively communicating sustainability progress to investors and other stakeholders.

And the vast majority of survey respondants claim they viewed sustainability reporting as “just PR.”

It is time for business to back up their actions with transparent and authentic communication to translate their efforts into positive external perceptions and brand reputation enhancement.  The communication challenge is to be  real, believable, trusted and for the messages to be served up in digestible, understandable and emotionally inspiring ways.  And that friends, is the essence of great branding and the huge opportunity: creating responsible brands that prosper in the new age of sustainability.

Download the KMPG Research Report Preview Here






Ana’s Playground takes New Hampshire.

19 10 2009

Picture 1

Like the first important primary of a presidential election, New Hampshire represents a key milestone for another candidate.  Ana’s Playground— the short film about children as victims of armed conflict—won Best Short Drama in this past weekend’s festival in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.   More than 80 independent films were screened over the weekend.

With award winning honors in three of its first few screenings, Ana’s Playground continues its world tour.  Check out the Ana’s Playground filmmaker blog for other news and updates.

One of the largest film fests in New England, the four-day event draws celebrities, academy-award winners, film industry veterans and local film lovers. Most importantly, NHFF offers workshops and discussions for young and new filmmakers to interact with industry pros and learn the art and business of film.

Learn more about the New Hampshire Film Festival





Abandon Ship! Follow-up on U.S. Chamber…

1 10 2009

Pendleton_Sinking_Ship

The momentum of disengagement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce based on their draconian position denying climate change continues. The chamber in recent weeks has challenged a federal Environmental Protection Act finding that greenhouse gases can be regulated by the Clean Air Act.

Nike announced Wednesday that it has resigned from the Board of Directors of the Chamber.  In a statement, Nike said “we fundamentally disagree with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the issue of climate change and their recent action challenging the EPA is inconsistent with our view that climate change is an issue in need of urgent action.”

Nike joins PG&E Corporation, PNM Resources and Exelon Corporation— all of whom have left the Chamber in the past week based on the Chamber’s position denying climate change.  Speculation continues that Chamber President Thomas Donohue will be forced to resign based on the defection of member companies and allegations of conflict of interest based on his board position at Union Pacific Railway, a company fighting climate change legislation in part based on the large amount of revenues they receive from the shipment of coal.





Study underscores “socially responsible credit gap”.

17 08 2009

DSC_0588“People are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies, but almost no companies have any profile as socially responsible.”

PSBA Research

In a study conducted this March, Penn Schoen Berland Associates found that despite significant investments by many major corporations in corporate social responsibility initiatives, Americans have virtually no awareness of who does what, and who does things well.

Some interesting insights from the study first point to the facts that the majority of Americans (despite the recession) want to be associated with socially responsible companies.

  • 75% will pay more for a product from a socially responsible company.
  • 56% say working for a socially responsible company makes a difference.
  • 40% will take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company.

The study also found that being “honest and trustworthy” was the most important company attribute—ranking higher than “quality” and “value”—regarding who Americans will do business with.

But the most unfortunate (and least surprising) set of findings in this research is how ill equipped Americans are to say what companies are socially responsible.  

  • 70% of those surveyed were unaware of any socially responsible activities of their own employers.
  • There was no correlation between those companies that Americans ranked as being leaders in social responsibility and the actual performance of those companies based on evaluations in the CRO 100. (conducted annually by the Corporate Responsibility Officer Association)

Clearly, this should be a wake up call to the leadership of all companies and those responsible for managing their reputation and brands.  In sum, it suggests there is a huge opportunity to use CSR efforts as a differentiator with an American audience that cares about those issues more than ever before and is placing trust at greater currency than quality and value.  

The call to action is to convert socially responsible practices into branded assets.  But this will require internal corporate silos to be broken down so people responsible for operations, HR and internal communication, PR, marketing branding, advertising, and all other forms of communication are working together around a focused and integrated CSR message.

Read the Corporate Citizenship Study





What if my customers say they don’t care?

21 07 2009

  Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”  

                             – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

“What if my customers say they don’t care?”  

This may be the number one question many companies are wrestling with regarding social responsibility and sustainability strategies.  And is central to the debate of whether it is possible to achive brand differentiation by infusing sustainable practices into messages directed to customers.

It is easy to appreciate how many companies over the past couple of decades have made significant investments to “stay close” to their customers. Brand attribute ratings.  Research departments rebranded as “consumer insights” groups. Tracking studies. Endless focus groups and telephone and on-line surveys.  Trend analysis and more.  Information is good and many sound business strategy decisions have been based on input on the wants and needs of the customer.  But too much information can also lead to an unhealthy paralysis.

So when the research points to data saying that customers don’t care about sustainability—corporate leaders have decisions to make.  This is especially true when we are still buffeted by an uncertain economic climate when many people are struggling financially and not in the position to make the sophie’s choice between being able to afford something they need vs. an alternative that may offer a higher degree of sustainability.  We acknowledge the cold reality that the economy may be holding back customers’ demanding sustainable behaviors, but beware the “sling shot effect” of how quickly this could change when the economic pressures ease.

This is the inflection point that is the very essence of what it means to be socially responsible.  Our way of thinking is that if you can achieve more responsible and sustainable practices (and we acknowledge the practices are not sustainable unless they are profit neutral), you have a moral obligation to do it whether or not your customer says they care.  And we further believe it is a social responsiblity to communicate what you are doing in an effort to educate and inspire your customers to not only appreciate what you are doing, but show them how they should alter their own behaviors for everyone’s benefit.

The next level of consumer insights then is to get deeper into the potential of the responsible and healthy relationship between a company and its customers. True innovation, creativity and positive social change rarely relies on permission.  It insists on the courage to do what is right and transformative and then to communicate the benefits of the innovation to the audience.

I draw the analogy to our society’s history of struggling with the knowledge that smoking tobacco has devasting health consequences.  After the Surgeon General first informed the public of the health hazards of smoking in 1964, it took decades to achieve the broad based awareness, acceptance and change of behaviors (in part because of the addictive nature of the habit).  But “responsible steps” were taken: public service campaigns, packaging warning labels, bans of advertising, bans of sale to minors, bans in public venues, legal action and consequently—millions of smokers quit and millions of non-smokers never started.  Today, some people still make the choice to smoke and to ignore the health consequences, but they are certainly aware of them.  And there is a social stigma that deeply influences healthy behavior for individuals as well as society at large.  None of this would have happened without leaders who were willing to stand up and embrace change as the right thing to do.

Fast forward to today. Even if your customers say they don’t care about sustainability, it is your responsibility to drive to achieve necessary sustainable behaviors into your organization because of your knowledge that it is the right thing to do whether or not your customer will applaud you for it.  The health and social consequences of NOT doing this is no less dramatic than pretending smoking is good for you.  And because it is the right thing to do, it is also imporant to inform your customer of what you are doing and why.  Public education is also a social responsibility.

Imagine if all the tools of today’s instantaneous communication – the internet, digital media, global connectivity, social networks – were available in 1964 when the public first learned about the dangers of smoking tobacco. How much more quickly would have behavior change been accelerated? How many millions of lives might have been improved?  How much suffering might have been avoided?  

We call on all companies to use all the tools and innovation at their disposal to drive sustainable change and communicate the efforts to their customers. Persuade your customers to care, persuade them to take care of themselves and their community.  This is how we will achieve necessary change when the clock is ticking.

There are many examples:  we are inspired by companies like Wal-mart, Tesco and Kingfisher who are driving meaningful sustainable behaviors into their organizations and then boldly yet honestly communicating what they are doing to their customers and how they should get involved.  Don’t wait for permission.





Trust Gap: A New Landmark Study

25 06 2009

“Actions speak louder than words.  If the public believes that an organization’s first priority is profit maximization, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to build public trust.” – Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics, Arthur Page Society

A landmark special report was issued today that underscores the deep loss of trust between the public and business.

Read the report 

The topline strategic recommendations provide guidelines to business leaders on the requirements to gain renewed trust with the public.  At is essence, we believe all of these strategies can be summed up as “the golden rule:  treat others as you would like to be treated”.  A timeless axiom that seems to have been forgotten by the leadership of many companies recently.  Hopefully this report will help companies get back to the fundamentals of having a trusting relationship with the public.





Trust Matters – The Edelman Trust Barometer’s Scary 2009 Report

23 06 2009

 

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you”
 Friedrich Nietzsche quotes

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I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you”  – Friedrich Nietzsche

Kudos to the Edelman Trust Barometer and their 2009 report citing the state of trust worldwide.  It dramatically underscores there is nothing short of a pandemic of lack of trust between people and companies, the media, CEOs, and experts.

Building sustainable brands will require regaining public trust and Edelman’s study reported only 38% of people 35-54 years old in the United States trusted U.S. businesses.  The report also showed that in the past year 77% of 25-to-64 year olds around the world refused to buy a product or service from a distrusted company.  

There is now a huge trust gap to overcome but those companies who aggressively recognize and embrace this new reality will be the ones that emerge from the recession with momentum and a long term competitive advantage.  

But now is the critical time to create and align sustainable and socially responsbile business practices with branding and communication programs to help your company stand apart and be among the winners in this new world where actions resonate and words alone will be ignored.





Don’t call them consumers.

22 06 2009

Originally I wrote this post at duffypov.com when I was still with Duffy & Partners more than a year ago.  But it feels more right than ever before as all of us and society at large have been forced by the recession to consider exactly what it means to consume.  And where it fits in each person’s values set.

 

 

“Consumers are statistics.  Customers are people.”  – Stanley Marcus, Neiman & Marcus

Wikipedia defines a consumer as “a person who uses any product or service. Typically when business people and economists talk of consumers they are talking about person as consumer, an aggregated commodity item with little individuality other than that expressed in the buy/not-buy decision.”

Ok, it’s a new day. The term “consumer” must be purged from any organizational lexicon.  Shame on marketers who insist on putting such an arbitrary generalized term on the people they are trying to attract. As if “consumers” live in some petri dish to be probed, prodded and tested.

The term consumer presumes people are put on this earth solely to buy stuff.  How disrespectful to only think of “consumers” in a way that would suggest what they will do for me economically, not what we can do for them.

We are people.  With laughs and tears, dreams and hopes, and a desire to express our individuality in the context of having positive relationships with others and the world around us.

Consumers?  How about people?  The best brands recognize the difference.  In a world increasingly focused on sustainability, brands that respect people as people first will be the ones that are rewarded with—yes purchases—but importantly loyal customers.