ImagePower Survey: 60+% of consumers globally want to buy from environmentally responsible companies.

10 06 2011

Monterey, CA – June 8, 2011– Consumer appetite for green products has increased significantly in the past year, according to findings from the annualImagePower® Global Green Brands Survey, one of the largest global consumer surveys of green brands and corporate environmental responsibility. This year’s survey, which polled more than 9,000 people in eight countries, reveals that consumers worldwide intend to purchase more environmental products in the auto, energy and technology sectors compared to last year. Now more savvy about how green choices in personal care, food and household products directly affect them and their families, global consumers are expanding their green purchase interest to higher-ticket items such as cars and technology.

Industries protecting the environment

Consumers are divided on which industry currently does the best job of protecting the environment. 18 percent of American and 20 percent of Australian consumers say the energy industry does the best job of protecting the environment. By comparison, most of respondents in Germany (19 percent), India (22 percent), China (33 percent) and Brazil (22 percent) cite the technology sector. In the UK, more than 21 percent of consumers say the grocery store industry is the top protector of the environment.

Where consumers are spending

While personal care, grocery and household products are the industries with the greatest representation among the top ten brands list, consumers in the US indicate that they intend to spend more money on green technology, energy and automotive products or services in the next year. When it comes to current usage of green products or services, the 2011 study reveals that the household products and grocery categories have the highest consumer adoption rates in all countries except China, where packaged goods/beverages and personal care are the most used categories, and in Brazil, where household products and personal care dominate. In all countries, consumers indicate that in the coming year they are less likely to buy green packaged goods and beverages, grocery and household products.

“We’re seeing a shift in the ‘In Me, On Me, Around Me’ mentality when it comes to purchasing green products,” said Russ Meyer, Chief Strategy Officer of Landor Associates. “Consumers have a good understanding of how green choices in personal care, food and household products directly affect their families, and they are now seeing benefits like costs savings that attract them to higher cost items like cars and technology.”

Greater perceived value in developing countries

Consistent with last year’s study, more than 60 percent of consumers globally want to buy from environmentally responsible companies. Respondents in all eight countries surveyed indicate that they are willing to spend more on green products. In developed countries such as the US and the UK, roughly 20 percent of those surveyed would spend more than 10 percent extra on a green product.

In developing countries, however, consumers say that green products have a higher inherent value. Ninety-five percent of Chinese consumers say they are willing to spend more on a product because it’s green—with 55 percent of them willing to spend between 11-30 percent more. Similarly 29 percent of Indian consumers and 48 percent of Brazilians say they are willing to spend between 11 – 30 percent more on green products.

“Consumers in developing countries express greater concern over the state of the environment in their countries, which may contribute to their greater willingness to pay more for green products,” said Paul Andrepont, Senior Vice President of Penn Schoen Berland. “Consumers in these markets also differ from their developed-nation counterparts in believing that selection, rather than cost, is the greatest barrier to buying green products. Brands that address these consumers’ very real concern – over air pollution in India or deforestation in Brazil – have the ability to position themselves as premium in the market, a possible competitive advantage.”

Packaging is critical

Packaging continues to be a matter of great concern for US consumers. Seventy-one percent believe companies use too much material in product packaging – though only 34 percent of US consumers say they consciously purchase products that use less packaging. Almost half of American consumers feel that packaging that can be recycled is more important than packaging made from recycled or biodegradable materials.

Packaging also plays a critical role in communicating product benefits to US consumers. More than 50 percent of American consumers say on-pack information helps them understand how green a product is. Additionally, 40 percent say that packaging is their primary source for information on environmental issues regarding products.

“Other than price, the two biggest influences on purchase decisions are on-package messaging and prior experience with the product, both of which satisfy the consumer need to understand a benefit beyond ‘saving the world,’” said Annie Longsworth, global sustainability practice leader for Cohn & Wolfe. “It’s critical for green brands to communicate the real and tangible benefits of their products in addition to being green, which still feels like luxury to many consumers.”

2011 US rankings
For the first time since the inception of the ImagePower® Green Brands Study in 2006, the four brands perceived to be the greenest are “born green” companies. The full list includes:

  1. Seventh Generation
  2. Whole Foods
  3. Tom’s of Maine
  4. Burt’s Bees
  5. Trader Joe’s
  6. The Walt Disney Company
  7. S.C. Johnson
  8. Dove
  9. Apple
  10. Starbucks, Microsoft (tied)

“When we analyzed the approach of the top ten brands companies, using our Esty Environmental Scorecard™, it was clear that the winners achieve a product-value-information trifecta,” said Amy Longsworth, partner at Esty Environmental Partners. “The top brands offer clear price value through co-benefits: a great innovative product that meets my functional needs plus green attributes that meet my values needs. These companies also tend to have robust life-cycle insight and complete sustainability strategies across their value chains, which enable them to draw from rich experience and data for their consumer communications.”

Methodology

The seventh annual Green Brands study polled more than 9,000 people in eight countries —including the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Brazil, India, Germany, France and Australia—and was conducted by WPP agencies (NASDAQ: WPPGY) Cohn & Wolfe, Landor Associates and Penn Schoen Berland Associates (PSB), as well as independent sustainability strategy consulting firm Esty Environmental Partners. The Green Brands Study identifies emerging trends related to consumer perception and purchasing behavior of “green” products. The study was conducted online among the general adult population between April 2, 2011 and May 3, 2011. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.0%. In China, India, and Brazil, respondents were from tier-one cities.

To view 2011 global findings, click here. For US findings, click here.





Kudos to Coke: Appoints Global Chief Sustainability Officer

30 05 2011

Congratulations to Coca-Cola with its appointment of former Chief Marketing Officer Beatriz Perez to Chief Sustainability Officer.

Under the vision of CEO Muhtar Kent, Perez will be responsibile for integrating sustainability initiatives into brand and marketing efforts and further demonstrate its monitoring and improving the commitment to the moderate impact of its products and operations on the environment.

We also find it notable that the new office of sustainability at Coca-Cola will include leaders responsible for corporate social responsibility, environment and water, external affairs and sustainability strategy and communication.

Read the news release below.

May 23, 2011 – The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) has appointed it first Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) and created a new global Office of Sustainability in an effort to better integrate ongoing initiatives.

Beatriz Perez, who is currently Chief Marketing Officer for Coca-Cola North America, will serve as CSO beginning July 1. She will work to integrate Coca-Cola’s sustainability initiatives in the areas of water, climate protection, packaging and recycling.

“We have made significant progress with our sustainability initiatives, but our current approach needs focus and better integration to further accelerate our system sustainability agenda and meet our 2020 Vision goals,” said Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company. “We are realigning this important work to create a unified team, strategy and business plan that connects our sustainability work and actions.”

Under Perez’s leadership, the Office of Sustainability will create and oversee Coca-Cola’s integrated global sustainability strategy; set goals and commitments; assess and drive scaled investments; and steward and track all global partnerships and key sustainability projects.

Reporting to Perez, the new team will include John Reid, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility; Charlotte Oades, Global Director, Women’s Economic Empowerment; Abby Rodgers, Vice President, Sustainability Strategy and Communication; Jeff Seabright, Vice President, Environment and Water; and Lisa Manley, Group Director, Corporate External Affairs.

Perez will report to Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Alex Cummings.

Kent said Perez is uniquely qualified for the role based on her passion for sustainability and deep experience at the Company, including the incorporation of sustainability initiatives into Coca-Cola’s North American marketing programs.





LA TIMES: Skepticism grows over products touted as eco-friendly.

27 05 2011
Great article below by Tiffany Hsu from the Los Angeles Times highlight consumer’s confusion over eco-branded products. According to a recent survey, 65% of consumers want a single seal identifying a green product, similar to the way beef is labeled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
But for now, there’s a swarm of companies that issue green certification, endorsements and labels for a fee.
A word of warning for all marketers that sustainable branding is not about false marketing claims and green gimmicks.  It is about an authentic commitment to providing responsible and sustainable brands for the future of the planet and the protection of mankind.
By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times

May 21, 2011

To Marina Meadows, green may be the new white.When she goes shopping these days, Meadows is often overwhelmed by a bevy of products touted as green, from Earth-friendly dish soaps and bamboo-derived towels to eco-detergents and plant-based soda bottles.But the Santa Monica resident, 26, said that while she is willing to pay extra to help the environment, she’s often not sure how much of the labeling she should believe.”Sometimes, I wonder if any of it’s really green or if it’s all a marketing scheme,” Meadows said.With booming interest in the environment, more companies are trying to cash in by promoting themselves and their products as green.

But environmentalists and some consumers are crying foul, saying that many companies are making the products out to be greener than they really are, a practice they call greenwashing.

The term caught on when hotels began asking guests to reuse towels, saying they were trying to conserve water, though skeptics said it was really to skimp on laundry costs.

These days, greenwashing is reaching “epidemic proportions,” according to advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather, which has been pushing for accurate environmental marketing.

“If we allow companies to get away with exaggeration, consumer skepticism will become cynicism and they’ll stop choosing green products at all,” said Scott McDougall, chief executive of eco-marketing company TerraChoice.

Last year, TerraChoice counted 5,000 items in retail stores that claimed to be green, a 73% increase from the year before. But on every toy and 95% of home and family products, at least one eco-friendly claim turned out to be misleading or false, the company found.

Some efforts just seem a bit odd: Plastic Barbie dolls can now sport handbags and accessories made from recycled materials.

“Most companies are engaged in incremental tinkering — symbolic actions without any real substance,” said Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International.

But no one can agree on what exactly makes a product green and therefore what exactly constitutes greenwashing.

As a result, federal regulators have had difficulty setting standards to regulate green labeling. The Federal Trade Commission has a voluntary guideline for eco-advertising, but it is 20 years old. It is being updated.

According to a recent survey, 65% of consumers want a single seal identifying a green product, similar to the way beef is labeled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But for now, there’s a swarm of companies that issue green certification, endorsements and labels for a fee.

One such program, the EcoAd from EcoMedia, a division of CBS Corp., has earned the ire of some environmental groups. They complained to the FTC that CBS was being potentially deceptive when it sells green leaf badges for advertisers to use in commercials.

“An Eco-label that promises advertisers a green image while telling them they don’t need to do anything to earn that image is the very definition of greenwashing,” said Michael Green, executive director of the Center for Environmental Health, in a statement.

A portion of all EcoAd proceeds go to environmental projects, said EcoMedia President Paul Polizzotto. And although there aren’t disclaimers on the ads themselves, viewers are directed to a website noting that the leaf symbol is not meant as an endorsement of the companies that use it.

“If an advertiser wants 30 seconds of your time, they might as well improve the quality of your life, and that’s the furthest thing from greenwashing,” Polizzotto said. “What I usually see in media is a lot of talk about greening and not a lot of action.”

Labels play a major role in helping consumers decide between products claiming to be green. Nearly 40% said they rely on labels, according to a report from the eco-marketing company Shelton Group.

“Many don’t trust manufacturer motives, but they end up making a decision at the shelf based on the packaging, usually just buying the brands they’ve always bought,” said Suzanne Shelton, chief executive of the group.

It can be a tricky call for consumers, who are regularly met by a vast array of vaguely defined green catchphrases such as “natural,” “clean” and “organic.”

Even manufacturers often don’t know the difference between designations such as “compostable” and “biodegradable,” researchers said. Biodegradable goods break down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass over time, while compostable items do the same while also releasing nutrients into the soil, which can be good for growing plants.

“Companies don’t really understand the science behind it and they don’t question it,” said Steven Mojo, executive director of Biodegradable Products Institute, a testing group. “They think that their packaging or product is somehow going to magically disappear in a landfill.”

Claire Scarisbrick, 26, recently spent half an hour sifting through eco-friendly body wash options atWhole Foods. The dental hygienist and chef, who lives near West Pico Boulevard and South La Brea Avenue, said she researches unfamiliar brands on her iPhone and avoids green products from large companies out of fear of being “duped.”

She likes locally produced products that aren’t heavily processed. She didn’t buy a cosmetic company’s “natural” line of face washes after she compared it to the company’s standard product and found little difference in the ingredients.

“I don’t want to be putting something with 30 chemicals in it onto my skin,” she said. “If I’ve got the money, I’d much rather spend more of it on something that I believe in, not something that’s just easily accessible.”

tiffany.hsu@latimes.com





Spring Planting: The Sprouting Of The Plant Bottle

27 05 2011

Marketers are recogizing the value of introducing alternatives to traditional plastic bottles.  We encourage continued innovation and adoption of these strong signs of a commitment to sustainability by consumer packaged goods marketers – and support from their customers.  It’s a great sign of spring and summer and the “growing season.”


The Heinz Ketchup Plant Bottle will begin arriving in stores in July.


Pepsi recently announced they have devleoped the worlds first PET plastic bottle

made entirely from plant-based renewable resources.

Pepsi’s bottle is made from bio-based materials including switch grass, pine bark and corn husks.  In the future, the company expects to broaden the renewable resources used to create the green botle to include orange peels, potato peels, oat hulls and other agricutltural byproducts from its food business.  Pepsi says the new bottle is expected to begin appearing on shelves in 2012.

The healthy sign of a race between arch rivals Pepsi and Coke is Pepsi innovation claims to be 100% renewable materials vs. the PlantBottle currently being deployed by Coca-Cola which is made of 30% renewable resources.


Coca-Cola was among the first to pioneer the plant bottle technology in 2009.





Fair Trade Certified Labeled Products Increases Sales.

28 04 2011
Researchers from Harvard, the London School of Economics and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Release Study on the Value of Ethical Labeling

Fair Trade USA, the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States, reports new findings which confirm that the prominent appearance of the Fair Trade Certified™ label increases sales  among coffee-buying consumers.

To investigate the topic of consumer demand for Fair Trade products, researchers Jens Hainmueller of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michael J. Hiscox of Harvard University, and Sandra Sequeira of the London School of Economics, conducted a six-month research study in partnership with a prominent national grocery retailer. As reported this weekend in the Wall Street Journal, the team examined purchasing behavior among actual consumers at 26 stores and key findings show that:

  • The Fair Trade Certified label alone has a large positive impact on sales.
  • Sales of the two most popular bulk coffees sold in each of the 26 test stores increased by up to 13 percent when labeled as Fair Trade Certified.
  • The study also revealed that a substantial segment of consumers are willing to pay up to eight percent more for a product bearing the Fair Trade Certified label.

The findings are consistent with a Globescan study conducted in 2010, which revealed that 75 percent of consumers said Fair Trade certification makes them feel “very positive or positive” about products; 30 percent said Fair Trade is “likely to increase their purchase interest;” and over half said “independent third-party certification is the best way to verify” a product’s social and environmental claims.

Overall the findings suggest that there is substantial consumer support for Fair Trade,” said Michael J. Hiscox of Harvard University. “The Fair Trade label by itself had a large positive effect on sales, indicating that a substantial number of coffee buyers place a positive value on Fair Trade certification. In addition, a sizeable segment of coffee buyers were willing to pay a premium for coffee if the premium was directly associated with support for Fair Trade. The tests suggest that there are plenty of consumers ready to vote with their shopping dollars to support Fair Trade when it is offered as an option by retailers.”

The study can be referenced online at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1801942.






Green is Universal Reports Green Consumersim and Brand Loyalty Are On the Rise.

27 04 2011

A new report from Green Is Universal reports that 78% of consumers believing more than ever that buying green is a way to shop with their values and ethics (up 9 points vs. two years ago).  The poll also reveals that an overwhelming majority of consumers feel they have a personal responsibility to take care of the earth (93%), and believe that if we don’t do so, there will be negative consequences for future generations (91%).  Nine out of 10 consumers say companies have a social responsibility to protect the environment.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of consumers say it’s worth paying more for a green product or service if it is a brand they trust (an increase of 8 points vs. 2 years ago).”These findings underscore that consumers are increasingly shopping with their values, particularly when it comes to the environment,” said Beth Colleton, Vice President, Green is Universal. “This is an enormous opportunity for marketers to communicate their brand’s commitment to green, as a way to build both loyalty and returns for their business.”

Not only do consumers hold themselves accountable when it comes to protecting the earth, but they believe companies should be held to the same standard. and three-quarters (77%) say they have a more favorable impression of companies that promote environmental causes. Putting their money where their mouth is, findings show substantially more consumers who say they have boycotted a company/product in the past year, because it had policies and practices that were not environmentally responsible (27%) (up 8 points from 2009).

Additional highlights from a related but separate Green is Universal poll on re-use, “From Trash To Treasure,” include the following:

  • 62% say they are making a conscious effort to purchase products made by environmentally responsible companies
  • 68% say they are paying more attention to whether products are made from recycled materials
  • 84% appreciate companies who make it easier for them to recycle
  • 78% appreciate companies who make using recycled materials a priority because it provides them with an easy way to help the environment
  • 57% say they are likely to encourage others to buy products that are made from recycled materials
Reposted from Sustainable Life Media.




Mainstream Green: Moving Sustainability from Niche to Normal

21 04 2011

Ogilvy Earth issues an important report on moving sustainability for niche to normal.

The report has some interesting insights into how marketers are creating more confusion and causing more harm than good in terms of getting people to adopt sustainable products into their everyday lifestyles.  To quote Oglivy Earth:

Topline: We’ve been getting the message all wrong

Our research shows that when it comes to motivating the American Mainstream, marketers, governments, and NGOs have been approaching messaging and marketing around sustainability all wrong. Indeed much of what we’ve been doing has actually been cementing the Green Gap by making green behavior too difficult and costly from a practical, financial, and social standpoint.

The study found that 82% of Americans have good green intentions but only 16% are dedicated to fulfilling these intentions, putting 66% firmly in what we’re calling the Middle Green.

Other highlights from the report.

  •  82% of our respondents said going green is “more feminine than masculine.” No wonder then that men clustered to the left, less- green side of our continuum while the greener, right side was dominated by women.
  • 80% of Americans would rather cure cancer than fix the environment.
  • 73% percent of Americans opted for the known, mainstream brand. A legacy of inferior performance prevents consumers from taking the leap to an unknown, eco brand.
Kudos to Ogilvy Earth for helping us better understand the barriers we need to overcome to move green to the mainstream.

Read the executive summary here.





Sensible advice from VW Canada.

19 04 2011




Brilliant Work: The Sustainability & Branding Survey

7 04 2011

“If you are striving to be more sustainable, your actions need to demonstrate that in everything you do,

which means new ways of thinking about branding.”

Kudos to the Sustainable Branding Collaborative for their new research report surveying innovators and early adopters in the sustainable business environment.  Some of the key interesting findings that stand out of the work include:

  • 63% say brand and 59% say sustainability is of primary importance to their organizations success.
  • 73% say sustainability investments yield positive returns.
  • 47% advise firms that are branding more sustainable products to “walk their talk”.

You can download a summary of their survey here.

The Sustainability & Branding Survey






Edelman Report: 90% of UK Consumers believe brands should support society as well as business.

27 03 2011

Recent research from Edelman Worldwide shows that two thirds of UK consumers think brands spend too much on advertising and should invest more in social causes and promoting them through their advertising.

Nine out of 10 consumers believe that brands need to place at least the same weight on society’s interests as those of business and do more than just give money to good causes.

The report claims that more than 50% of consumers say “purpose” is more important than design, innovation or brand loyalty as a purchase trigger, when quality and price are the same.

Nearly two-thirds of UK consumers say that they will buy and recommend products and services from companies that support a good cause.

Carol Cone, managing director of brand & corporate citizenship at Edelman, says: “Cause related-marketing, as we know it, is dead. It is no longer enough to slap a ribbon on a product. Consumers seek deeper involvement in social issues and expect brands and companies to provide various means of engagement. We call this the rise of the ’citizen consumer’.”

Key findings from the report

  • 60% believe brands should promote good causes through their advertising to help raise public awareness.
  • 58% believe brands spend too much advertising or marketing and they should put more money into some good cause or social purpose.
  • 54% believe brands should share a portion of their advertising space with organisations that support good causes.
  • 57% feel that it is no longer enough for companies to simply give money away to good causes; they need to integrate them into their day-to-day business.
  • 56% have more trust in a brand that is ethically and socially responsible.




Cone Research: The Green Gap Persists.

25 03 2011

In its third Green Gap Study, Cone research continues to document the confusion that reigns over environmental messages in the marketplace.

Consumers Seeking Clarity

A majority of consumers are distrustful of companies’ environmental claims (57%) and are overwhelmed by the amount of environmental messages in the marketplace (51%). Given this confusion, it’s understandable that consumers are somewhat wary of general claims alone:

  • 59% say it is only acceptable for marketers to use general environmental claims when they are backed up with additional detail and explanation.
  • 23% say vague environmental claims should never be used.
  • 79% want detailed information readily accessible on product packaging.
  • 75% wish companies would do a better job helping them understand the environmental terms they use.

Consumers are clearly seeking information, but fortunately, they do not expect companies to be saints. A full three-quarters (75%) say it is okay if a company is not environmentally perfect – as long as it is honest and transparent about its efforts.

At the same time, most Americans are willing to punish a company for using misleading claims. Of the 71 percent who will stop buying the product if they feel misled by an environmental claim, more than a third (37%) will go so far as to boycott the company’s products entirely, according to the 2011 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker.

“It’s telling that three years after Cone first conducted the Green Gap survey, not much has changed,” saysJonathan YohannanCone’s senior vice president of corporate responsibility. “Consumers continue to be confused about environmental claims, often without realizing it. This creates a huge risk for consumer backlash. To overcome this gap between environmental messaging and consumer perception, companies need to provide detailed information in-line with the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines in a place where consumers are making purchase decisions.”

Consumer Perception and Environmental Reality Not Always Aligned
As corporate marketers and regulators alike evaluate how to communicate environmental commitments and avoid greenwashing, the 2011 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker tested which of three common marketing approaches was most influential in consumer purchase decisions. Consumers were asked to “purchase” the most environmentally responsible of three generic cleaning products based on an isolated marketing approach – a certification, a vague environmental claim or an environmental image.

  • Certification: By far the most influential purchase driver – 51 percent selected the product bearing a mock certification. What’s more telling is that more than half of respondents (51%) believed the certification meant this product was reviewed and verified by a credible third party.
  • Claim: Thirty percent of respondents chose the product with a vague “made with natural ingredients” claim.
  • Imagery: Environmental imagery was the least influential purchase driver, yet one-in-five (19%) still chose this product without any other indication it was better for the environment. Some even believed the environmental imagery indicated this product is safe for the environment (14%).

Deception Breeds Consumer Backlash
Testing the certification, claim or image on-pack indicated each drove consumer perceptions that the products themselves did not necessarily live up to. This disconnect is a significant threat for companies because consumers who feel misled by an environmental claim may punish the brand. They will:

  • Stop Buying: 71 percent will stop buying the product; 37 of these will boycott the company’s products altogether.
  • Do Nothing: Only 11 percent will continue buying the product.

“As Americans continue to consider environmental claims when shopping, companies must be transparent to build trust – or face the consequences,” says Yohannan. “Puffery and generic claims alone aren’t going to cut it. Companies will be held accountable to ensure the claims are not only accurate, but also aligned with consumer perceptions.”





Corporate Sustainability: Organization Structures, Budgets and Mastering the Art of Influence.

21 03 2011

A new study conducted by Green Research demonstrates that executives charged with sustainability yield influence far greater than their own budgets.

“Sustainability leadership is about leverage,” said David Schatsky, principal at Green Research and author of the study. “Whether it’s deploying new technology to slash power usage at a data center, or reengineering a manufacturing process to use raw materials more efficiently, sustainability executives have to make it happen through leaders of departments throughout their companies. And that means influencing and ultimately adding dollars to other departments’ budgets to achieve sustainability goals.”

Wielding influence inside their companies is the first frontier for sustainability executives. Exerting influence outside companies is the next, Schatsky says. A number of companies are discovering that factors outside their direct control, from the practices of suppliers and logistics providers to the behaviors of their customers, can have substantial environmental impacts and need to be managed if the companies are to achieve their sustainability goals. The report finds that influencing suppliers and customers will become a trend of increasing importance for sustainability executives.





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






“Activate CSR through Brands”: Coca-Cola Enterprises

13 12 2010

Congratulations to the wise mind of Joe Franses of Coca-Cola Enterprises who calls on markets to harness the power of brands to engage consumers in the sustainable brands movement.

We’ve long called on a new take for CSR – corporate social responsibility.  The problem with CSR as it is currently defined and often practiced is that it lives at the “corporate” level.  The issue with this approach is that most consumers don’t want to have relationships with corporations.  What they do have is relationships with BRANDS.  Activating social responsibility at the brand level is key to get consumers to take notice of efforts and get engaged in the movement.  By selecting socially responsible efforts that are authentic to a brand’s values, consumers are much more likely to get engaged.

Note this report from Sustainable Life Media:

While speaking at the conference, Mr. Franses also stressed that innovation will be a major driver of business sustainability moving forward – and success will depend on how well brands can engage consumers in the process. The first step in this process, he said, will be for companies like Nestle, Coca-Cola Enterprises and Unilever to work at aligning their top-down management initiatives with brand agendas around sustainability more effectively.





Cause Marketing: Let the boys play too!

19 11 2010

The first male-specific survey in the six-year history of the PRWeek/Barkley Cause Survey has produced surprising results regarding Men’s relationship with Brands that have cause marketing programs – they are influenced by cause marketing at nearly the same rate as women.

The survey polled 4,252 marketing pros and 2,365 consumers and found that:

  • 88% of men say it’s important for a brand to support a cause
  • 61% have purchased a brand because it supported a cause
  • 67% would try a brand because it supported a cause,
  • 55% would pay more for a brand that supported a cause.

While the data indicates that Men direct their dollars to brands associated with causes in high numbers, 68% of corporate marketing executives surveyed said that they had no plans to specifically target men with their efforts.

Although according to the results, there are brands that could benefit from this kind of communication. When asked what companies are not doing as much as they should to associate with causes, the three top answers were BP, Apple and Goldman Sachs.

For the full survey, visit www.barkleyus.com.






Hartman Group: Only 12% of people can identify a “sustainable” company.

15 11 2010

Proving once again that existing approaches to reporting and marketing sustainability initiatives and corporate social responsibility are failing to connect, new research from The Hartman Group demonstrates too few people are aware of sustainable products and companies.

While the research indicates at 15% increase in awareness of the term “sustainability” up to 69%, just 21% of people responding to the survey could identify a sustainable product.

“We’re seeing a broad gap in the way consumers and companies think about and approach sustainability,” said Laurie Demeritt, Hartman Group President & COO. “That very few consumers today can name a sustainable company underscores the fact that so many Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability activities go relatively unnoticed by consumers.”

Demeritt continues in the Hartman release:  “Above all consumers are looking for companies that are good citizens. From this perspective, we say consumers equate sustainability with the golden rule, or a reciprocal notion of fair treatment of communities, people or animals, and look through this lens when evaluating companies or thinking about which brands to use.”

More than 1,600 U.S. adult consumers participated in the online survey.





Brands: Lost Meaning.

28 10 2010

Disturbing new research shows that the vast majority of consumers WOULD NOT CARE  if two thirds of brands disappeared in the future.

Congratulations to Havas Media for their new Brand Sustainable Futures global research report on consumers’ rising expectations of business and brands.  The report issued this week shows that:

  • Only 33% of brands are considered to be meaningful to consumers worldwide.
  • Only 29% of brands are perceived to be working hard to resolve sustainability issues.
  • 80% of consumers expect businesses to act responsibly.

The data is continued support to the need for businesses to accept the criteria and realities of how they are perceived and their expected role in society.

Havas Director of Global Business Innovation Sara de Dios Lopez commented on the research by saying:

“There’s a real opportunity for companies who shift from relying only on ‘what they do’, through their corporate facts and transparency initiatives, and start building relevant brand roles and engaging initiatives that capture ‘collective will’ and spur people into action.”

Read a summary of the Havas Media Report.





Cheers to Anvil Organics: We Need To Talk

7 10 2010

Here’s a great video that Anvil Organics – a maker of eco-friendly clothing – has produced in association with their sponsorship of Farm Aid 25.  Let the earth talk to you…..





The Clock Is Ticking: 3 Amazing Minutes

1 10 2010

Once again, bless the folks at The Girl Effect for all their efforts on behalf of girls living in poverty.  Their new video is breathtaking.

Pass it along.





Get engaged with Green My Parents

30 09 2010

Green My Parents is a new campaign designed to engage teens in the movement to make their homes, lives and families more sustainable.  The movement is also encouraging kids to ask brands to support the causes they care about.

One kid proclaims “this is the moonshot of our generation, but we need your help”.

Read more about the campaign and watch another video at Sustainable Life Media and how it is focused in engaging brands and kids in a common purpose to help the planet.

Sign up for the movement at greenmyparents.com





83% of people want to see more cause marketing. New report from Cone Research.

20 09 2010

Released last week, the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study reports significant new evidence supporting the rise in importance of cause related marketing.  Despite overall low consumer confidence and prolonged unemployment due to the recession, the one thing consumers are confident in is their belief in brands that support worthy causes.

Higlights of the report show that:

  • 88% of people say it is acceptable for comapnies to involve a cause or issue in their marketing.
  • 85% have a more positive image of a product or company that supports a cause they care about.
  • 80% are likely to switch brands, similar in price and quality, to one that supports a cause.

The report also highlighted the powerful role of linking moms and causes in brand purchasing behavior.

Of mom’s surveyed, 95% say cause marketing is acceptable and 92% say they want to buy a product supporting a cause.

You can get a free copy of the Cone Study here.





PR Week: PR firms fail to meet sustainability communication needs.

3 09 2010

In an article written by Chris Daniels, PR Week shares the results of a new survey by Verdantix which highlights the gap between claims and reality about public relations firms which offer sustainability communication consulting expertise.

Read the article in its entirety below.

Most PR firms fail to meet the needs of clients when it comes to sustainable communications.

That is according to a new report from Verdantix, a sustainable business analyst firm, which evaluated 18 firms that claim to offer expertise in sustainable communications.

The report found a majority of the agencies–11 of them–need to seriously improve their offerings. “It seems like some agencies claim a practice, but there’s really not much there,” says Jim Nail, principal analyst for Verdantix.

In fact, the report singled out just two firms (OgilvyEarth and Cone) as leaders in sustainable communications. Four firms were characterized as being on the verge of leadership:  Context America, Ketchum, Edelman and Cohn & Wolfe.

The evaluations are based on interviews with key agency executives, publicly available information, and off-the-record interviews with 15 clients at firms with global revenues of over $2 billion.

PR firms face numerous challenges in relation to sustainable communication—particularly around the fact sustainability is often a complex subject that requires the guidance of third-party expertise, says Nail.

“Almost every agency we talked to has some relationship with NGOs, but they aren’t systematic about bringing them in. They’ll say, ‘Oh, we’ve done some sustainability work with this client so we know what we need to know,’” he says. “I don’t think that’s  sufficient.”

That sentiment was echoed by clients interviewed for the report, who felt big PR firms lack the required knowledge. In fact, six of the 15 firms engaged specialist CSR or sustainability consultants to provide missing expertise.

One of the few firms applauded by the report for its approach on bringing in third-party experts is OgilvyEarth, which has global sustainability advisers who help the agency develop regionally-based experts.

“We rely on our advisers to keep us honest, ensure our work is up-to-date, and to create additional contacts for us, because sustainability is highly networked,” says Seth Farbman, senior partner, worldwide managing director for OgilvyEarth. “If you don’t surround yourself with people who are deeply involved in sustainability, you’ll always be playing catch-up.”

The report found that PR firms also face a lack of client awareness about their sustainable communication offerings. When clients were asked to name a firm known for their sustainability work, no firm was mentioned by more than three companies. In terms of agencies that were top of mind, OgilvyEarth, Edelman, and Cone topped the list.

“That was probably the biggest disappointment for me—that our capabilities weren’t more well-known,” says Dave Chapman, partner at Ketchum West who oversees the agency’s sustainability practice.

He says even before receiving the report, it was an issue Ketchum was addressing. “When this report was being done, we didn’t have a [Web] page that was dedicated to our sustainability point of view and capabilities, but we do now. We didn’t have an Intranet site where we put a lot more information about process for our own internal sources, but we do now,” says Chapman. “We soon hope to be nipping at the heels of Ogilvy and Cone.”

The report also gave the 18 firms poor marks in terms of demonstrating the kind of transparency around sustainability reporting they espouse to clients. “I was shocked to hear they’re not walking the talk,” says Nail.

Edelman was the first PR agency to issue its own CSR report, in 2005, but hasn’t had one since. Chris Deli, global head of CSR and sustainability practice for Edelman, says the agency has made a financial commitment to complete its second full report later  this fiscal year.

The investment into CSR reporting will help put its own policies under a microscope, as well as help inform Edelman’s client work, says Deli. “We’ll be looking not only at our social and environmental impact on a global level, but also what our individual offices are doing.”





Deloitte: The Gap Between Aspiration and Action

30 08 2010

A new survey of corporate business executives by Deloitte identifies the gap that still exists between sustainability vision and execution.   While most business leaders surveyed indicated knowledge of the benefits of developing a relationship between sustainability and the business, much more work needs to be done to make it a fundamental part of the operational, cultural and strategic performance of the company.

Thanks for Deloitte for making this research available to business leaders everywhere.

Read the Deloitte Executive Summary Here.





Brands and Branding For Good.

29 08 2010

“There must be a better way to make the things we want, a way that doesn’t spoil the sky, the rain or the land.”
– Sir Paul McCartney

Coming to South Africa in October is a conference entitled Brands and Branding for Good.

Congratulations to the organizers and the roster of speakers representing a wide range of global brands including IBM, McDonald’s, Nike, and Dell for coming together to understand and demonstrate how brands can work for the public good.

Learn more about the Brands and Branding For Good Conference here





Peter Clarke: 5 Branding Commandments for the Post-Crash Economy

29 08 2010

A very inspiring article by Peter Clark on 5 compelling branding commandents for marketers and agencies moving forward.  His straightforward summary of branding principals for a post-recession era reminds us that consumer’s expectations for brand behavior are forever changed.

Peter’s commandants are:

1.  Simplicity

2. Transparency

3. Responsibility

4.  Sustainability

5.  Affordability

Read the 5 Commandments Article Here.

Grass Image:  Dennis Wong





Cone Study: 75% of consumers grade companies as C, D, or F on engagement around sustainability.

25 05 2010

May 21, 2010 – A recent study conducted by Cone LLC finds that while the overwhelming majority of American consumers believe that their ideas can help business build more sustainable products, a much smaller number believe companies are doing enough to encourage communication about corporate sustainability.

The report, entitled 2010 Cone Shared Responsibility Study, finds that 84% of the 1,045 American consumers polled believed that their ideas could benefit businesses sustainability offerings, while only 53% felt encouraged to engage at any level. The four key areas consumers wanted more engagement in are: including how a company conducts its business (85%), its products and packaging (83%), its support of social and environmental issues (81%) and its marketing and advertising (74%).

In grading companies on their engagement levels, over 75% of those surveyed gave companies either a “C”, “D”, or “F” on customer engagement. Cone calls this a lost opportunity for most companies, as many more consumers would be more likely buy products and services and recommend companies with better engagement policies.

Consumers are also prepared to listen to companies willing to engage them, with a full 92% of respondents wanting more communication from brands. While this number sounds like an overwhelming endorsement for more brand communication, some other statistics bring to light the dichotomy of the situation:

  • Skepticism – 87 percent of consumers believe the communication is one-sided — companies share the positive information about their efforts, but withhold the negative.
  • Confusion – 67 percent of consumers are confused by the messages companies use to talk about their social and environmental commitments.

For a copy of the complete 2010 Cone Shared Responsibility Study fact sheet, please visit http://www.coneinc.com/research/.





Seventy percent of major companies plan to increase climate change spending.

25 05 2010

Here’s a report on the recent Ernst & Young survey about companies intentions to invest in climate change initiatives.  We love the idea that 89% report the efforts are driven by changing customer demands.

Seventy percent of major companies plan to boost spending on climate change efforts in the next two years, according to a new report from Ernst & Young.

Of the 300 corporate executives surveyed this spring, 89% said their green activities were driven by changing customer demands while 92% also pointed to energy costs as a driver. The fact that 43% of those surveyed said that equity analysts will soon consider climate change actions while valuing companies was also a factor.

Thirty percent said their company had a staffer in charge of climate change initiatives, a trend The Times explored in December.

The respondents hail from 16 countries, representing firms in 18 industry sectors that pull in at least a billion dollars a year in revenue. Nearly half said they intend to shell out between half a percent to more than 5% of that revenue – or about $5 million to $50 million each year – for climate change initiatives.

Two-thirds said they are talking with their suppliers about programs to limit carbon emissions; 36% said they are already in the process of cutting greenhouse gases from their supply chains.

Nearly 95% said national policies played a critical role in their company’s climate change strategy and 81% said the same of global laws. But in countries such as the U.S., Japan and Germany, regulatory and compliance issue was ranked as the largest challenge to accomplishing environmental goals.

The study was conducted by the research group Verdantix.

Tiffany Hsu, The Los Angeles Times





Seeking an audience for The Age of Stupid

7 10 2009

“The first successful dramatisation of climate change to hit the big screen.”

– The Guardian

Last month saw the world premiere of The Age of Stupid on the eve of the United Nations conference on climate change.  The Age of Stupid’ is the new cinema documentary from the Director of ‘McLibel’ and the Producer of the Oscar-winning ‘One Day in September’. Filmed in seven countries over four years, this enormously ambitious drama-documentary-animation hybrid stars Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite as an old man living in the devastated world of 2055, watching ‘archive’ footage from 2008 and asking: why didn’t we stop climate change while we had the chance?

Visit the world of The Age of Stupid

Watch a United Kingdom televised report on The Age of Stupid and other eco-documentaries soon to be released.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan at the world premiere event in New York on the eve of the United Nationals General Session on Climate Change.

Picture 2

The exterior of The Archive in which Pete Postlethwaite’s character, the archivist, lives.   This animation was produced by animator Greg McKnealley.

Picture 1





A responsibility revolution?

21 09 2009

Picture 1A new survey by Time magazine was highlighted in a recent article written by Richard Stengel: “For American Consumers, A Responsibility Revolution.”  Could this new halo many are happy to be wearing represent some of the most compelling signs of “the new normal”?

The research indicated:

  • 82% of people consciously supported local or neighborhood businesses
  • 40% of people said they purchased a product in 2009 because they liked the political or social values of the company that produced it.
  • 60% of Americans have bought organic products since January
  • 78% of those polled said they would be willing to pay $2,000 more for a car that gets 35 m.p.g. than for a similar one that gets only 25 m.p.g

As the article says, “That’s evidence of a changing mind-set, a new kind of social contract among consumers, business and government. We are seeing the rise of the citizen consumer — and the beginnings of a responsibility revolution.”

Once again, the Time survey adds to the rapidly growing amount of data that indicate we have reached the tipping point where values based marketing and sustainable branding are beginning to rise in importance with customers from all walks of life. Companies who recognize this and infuse sustainable branding into their total customer experience will inevitably be among the winners in the age of accountability.

Read the Time magazine article





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