Don’t Buy This Jacket: Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative

29 11 2011

In a daring and unprecedented move, the long respected Patagonia brand decries consumerism run amok and pledges to improve its own sustainability performance and asks for the same commitment from its customers.  

For a brand inspired by and dependent on the environment, Patagonia is asking customers to pledge to reduce the products they buy and only buy what they need.  It also is asking consumers to repair what’s broken, pass the product onto someone else, and keep it out of landfills or incinerators.

In exchange for the pledge, Patagonia’s pledge is to make products that last a long time, help repair gear that needs it, find home for products you no longer need and will take back Patagonia products that are worn out.

In advertising placed on Black Friday in The New York Times and on-line on Cyber Monday, Patagonia calls itself on the carpet for the environmental impact of the products they manufacture.

“The environmental cost of everything we make is astonishing,” the ad reads. “Consider the R2 Jacket shown, one of our best sellers. To make it required 135 liters of water, enough to meet the daily needs (three glasses a day) of 45 people. Its journey from its origin as 60% recycled polyester to our Reno warehouse generated nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, 24 times the weight of the finished product. This jacket left behind, on its way to Reno, two-thirds its weight in waste.

“And this is a 60% recycled polyester jacket, knit and sewn to a high standard; it is exceptionally durable, so you won’t have to replace it as often. And when it comes to the end of its useful life we’ll take it back to recycle into a product of equal value. But, as is true of all the things we can make and you can buy, this jacket comes with an environmental cost higher than its price.”

The ad concludes: “There is much to be done and plenty for us all to do. Don’t buy what you don’t need. Think twice before you buy anything. Go to patagonia.com/CommonThreads, take the Common Threads Initiative pledge and join us in the fifth R, to reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace.”

Cheers to Patagonia for honest and authentic communication and for its call for balance and collaboration in a world of too much self-interest and scary levels of divisiveness.

This is world class sustainable branding.

Read more about the campaign on Patagonia’s blog





newSKY: Shoes that re-imagine recycling from New Balance.

28 11 2011

New Balance has introduced newSKY sneakers—which are made from 95% recycled PET plastic bottles and developed a partnership with Coca-Cola’s bottled water brand Dasani.  Great example of companies who can collaborate to achieve mutually beneficial sustainability objectives.

newSKY shoes are available in both men and women’s styles in many different colors.  An interesting holiday gift for the eco-minded family member and friends.

Since its cyber Monday – shop on-line for newSKY here,





Fruitwash: Organic Soap Label for Fruit

26 11 2011

Here’s a bright idea from New York based electrical engineer and designer Scott Amron.  He has designed a fruit label that contains organic soap.  Just as the name suggests, the new label dissolves into organic fruit soap that helps remove water-resistant wax, pesticides and fungicides.

Amron Experimental is currently selling a 10 percent stake in the Fruitwash Label Intellectual Property (patents) and hopes to bring the labels to market within the next 6-9 months.

 “I’ve always been discontent with fruit labels and felt they could do more than just display product info and be difficult to peel off,” Amron told Gizmag. “We buy, wash and eat fruit. So, the wash step was the next thing the label should help with.”

Whilst the labels ingredients are currently being kept secret, they are designed to “outlast the fruit they label,” says Amron. The process of adding water and rubbing the label triggers the dissolving action, which transforms the label into a fruit wash. Alternatively, the stickers can be peeled off and thrown away.

“[The] best thing is the labels help make the fruit cleaner,” says Amron. “And, there’s no label to peel off and throw away unless you choose to peel the label off and throw it away.”

Original article at gizmag

photo credit: Amron Experimental

 

 





WindMade: First Consumer Label Attracts Leading Global Brands

26 11 2011

Major global companies including Motorola Mobility, Deutsche Bank, Bloomberg, Method and BD (Becton, Dickinson and Co.) have produced or have pledged to procure at least 25 percent of their operations’ power consumption from wind energy. They announced their commitment to become certified under the new WindMade consumer label at a Global Launch event in New York.

The companies pioneering the use of the world’s first wind power consumer label were unveiled today at an event hosted by WindMade and the UN Global Compact in New York.

The label allows participating companies to communicate the share of wind power and other renewable sources as part of the overall power demand of their operations. The objective behind WindMade is to drive demand in wind power, thereby boosting investment and growing the renewable energy market.

Here is a video that tells the story of the WindMade label.

“These companies are at the forefront of the global sustainability movement,” said Henrik Kuffner, WindMade’s CEO. “We are delighted to have them on board the unique WindMadeTM initiative, and are confident that many others will follow suit in the coming weeks and months.”

“Consumers are ready to act. 67 percent of 31,000 consumers globally have told us they would favor WindMade products, even at a premium,” said Morten Albæk, SVP Global Marketing and Customer Insight at Vestas Wind Systems, the company spearheading the WindMade initiative. “WindMade empowers people to choose brands that choose wind.”

“We believe clean growth is good economics,” said Sabine Miltner, Group Sustainability Officer for Deutsche Bank. “We are committed to leveraging our core business expertise towards a cleaner and more energy efficient global economy. We believe in leading by example and have increased our use of clean electricity from seven percent to 65 percent over the last four years. WindMade is an important step toward more market transparency and we are pleased to join this new partnership.”

“It is Motorola Mobility’s intent through our participation in the WindMade initiative to encourage greater use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar around the globe,” said Bill Olson, director office of sustainability and stewardship, Motorola Mobility.

“The supply side of the clean energy sector can clearly deliver, but now it is time to galvanize demand. Government has done their part, and it is now up to the corporate community to demonstrate leadership by committing to clean energy development. WindMade provides us with a roadmap for achieving this,” said Curtis Ravenel, head of sustainability, Bloomberg.”Corporations investing in wind energy technology need a global set of standards if they are to provide the transparency that’s critical to their stakeholders as well as gain the competitive advantage that such investments can mean for their businesses,” said Kathy Nieland, U.S. sustainable business solutions leader, PwC.

”Using wind power helps BD become a more sustainable organization, and the WindMade label sends a message to our customers and the industry that supporting clean sources of electricity is a sound business decision and an important choice in reducing a corporation’s environmental footprint,” said Glenn Barbi, vice president, Global Sustainability, BD.

For more information on the founders and pioneers, see http://www.windmade.org.

According to the WindMade requirements, companies using the label must source a minimum of 25 percent of the electricity consumed from wind power. The wind energy share can be procured through a company-owned wind power generation facility, a long-term power purchase agreement for wind power, or the purchase of high quality Renewable Energy Certificates approved by WindMadeTM. The exact percentage of the wind energy share will be stated on the label. Companies can choose to certify global, regional or facility level operations, a distinction that will be clearly communicated on the label itself.

WindMade, which was introduced to the world at this past year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, is backed by the UN Global Compact, Vestas Wind Systems, World Wildlife Fund, Global Wind Energy Council, Bloomberg (as the official data provider), and the LEGO Group. PwC is the official verification partner.

A separate label for products is in development and will be released during 2012.





GREENPEACE: HP Leads Greener Electronics Race. Research in Motion in the cellar.

17 11 2011

In releasing its latest guide to Greener Electronics, Greenpeace has ranked 15 leading technology companies and how they are performing on key measures around sustainability.  The guide is intended to help consumers make better informed decisions when purchasing technology products and help businesses evaluate the performance of their technology vendors in helping them achieve their own sustainability objectives.

Download the Greenpeace Guide here

The comprehensive analysis will help consumers understand the impact of specific products, as well as the sustainability performance of the overall corporation. New criteria added to this edition of the Guide are based on the creation of truly sustainable electronics industry, Greenpeace said, and include a holistic examination of key supply chain issues.

“Right now, HP takes the top spot because it is scoring strongly by measuring and reducing carbon emissions from its supply chain, reducing its own emissions and advocating for strong climate legislation. However all companies we included in the Guide have an opportunity to show more leadership in reducing their climate impact”, Tom Dowdall of Greenpeace said in a statement.

Blackberry manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) is ranked for the first time and scored well on conflict minerals and sustainable paper policy. But the company ranked bottom of the table because it needs to improve reporting and disclosure of its environmental performance, Greenpeace said.  It is interesting to note that failure to communicate progress – the opposite of the idea of sustainable branding – was a key factor in RIM receiving such a low ranking.





Congrats Honest Tea. Will report sustainability progress on Tumblr.

10 11 2011

Honest Tea’s decision to expand to this new communication channel reflects a trend among sustainable brands to find the most effective way to leverage corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting to increase dialogue and engagement with consumers.

The organic bottled tea company released the second edition of its annual Mission Report in combination with a new Tumblr site that will update regularly with posts about the company’s progress on social and environmental initiatives.

Honest Tea released a digital version of the report, which is becoming standard practice, and some companies – led by outdoor companyPatagonia’s example – are building entire microsites dedicated to tracking the sustainability of products and services. Others are choosing to incorporate CSR reporting into the traditional annual report, as Clorox did this year, indicating that sustainability performance is reaching the same level of importance as other corporate disclosures.

Honest Tea’s report, called Keeping It Honest, details the company’s initiatives related to products, packaging, people and partners. It highlights achievements, such as the conversion of all teas to Fair Trade Certified, the company’s first annual service day, and the launch of a new product, Honest CocoaNova.

The report also addresses sustainability challenges, such as packaging, providing consumers with an introspective look at how the company strives to scale a mission-driven business.

Acquired by Coca-Cola earlier this year, Honest Tea also will utilize its Facebook page to host a Keeping It Honest tab, during Honest’s “Mission Month”, where Honest fans can choose a personal mission each week, creating their own agenda for change, the company says.

Go to the Keeping it HONEST site here.

Since Honest Tea was founded in Bethesda, Maryland in 1998, the company has sustained an impressive double-digit annual growth rate. The company was listed as one of PlanetGreen.com’s Top 7 Green Corporations of 2010. It also received Greenopia.com’s coveted 4-Leaf Rating as “the greenest beverage company” for the third year in a row and was recently ranked by The Huffington Post as one of the leading “8 Revolutionary Socially Responsible Companies.”



Original article published at Sustainable Brands Weekly





Kudos to Red Wing Shoes For Crazy Horse.

10 11 2011

In the latest video in their “Work is Our Work” series, Red Wing Shoes presents this inspirational profile of 5 men against a mountain:  Crazy Horse Monument

In 1939, Chief Henry Standing Bear commissioned Korczak Ziolkowski to build a monument to the late Oglala Lakota hero, Crazy Horse. This arduous process and construction soon consumed Ziolkowski’s entire life. Watch as his son and four other dedicated workers look to preserve both his father’s legacy as well as that of Crazy Horse in this amazing and artfully done video.

Congratulations to Minneapolis, MN agency Brew for this amazing effort.  It is a great example of authentic branding and inspiring storytelling.

Visit the Brew team on-line here.





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





Men Unmoved By Green Marketing: Radius Research

14 10 2011

New research from global research firm Radius Global Market Research indicates that increased spending on product development and marketing aimed at environmentally conscious consumers may not be getting through to men.

Managing Director of Radius Chip Lister observed “More and more dollars are being dedicated to green marketing initiatives built to associate brands with environmental responsibility but our survey results show that in spite of this increase in spending, the majority of men are not significantly influenced by environmental responsibility when they make a purchase.”

Radius asked U.S. consumers to rate brand attributes across a broad range of products and services in terms of the amount of influence they had on their decision to purchase.

According to the survey, women place importance on a wider range of brand values than do men. Both men and women ranked the same three issues as having the most influence over purchases: (1) Value; (2) Quality; and (3) Trust. After that, however, men appear to be influenced little by any other brand values.

“We found that the value men and women place on environmental responsibility is part of a much broader pattern,” says Lister. “Men are influenced by a much smaller set of brand attributes when they make purchase decisions. Marketers that stray too far from these core attributes run the risk of not being heard. By contrast women seem readily affected in their brand decisions by issues that could almost be considered ‘bigger’, certainly well outside the more direct or tangible deliverables offered by the brand/product.”

Radius’s study was conducted in the third quarter of 2011 and surveyed U.S. households. The firm’s proprietary Know More(TM) panel represents over 3.4 million households, with over 6 million consumers in the U.S. and over 1.5 million consumers in Canada, the U.K. and Europe, Australia and Scandinavia.





Sweet Sixteen: World Economic Forum finds New Sustainability Champions

19 09 2011

Congratulations to the World Economic Forum and Boston Consulting Group for their work in identifying 16 companies in emerging markets that are setting new standards for sustainability.

In the new report by WEF and BCG, they highlight that Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and South Korea will account for more than 50% of the world’s economic growth by the year 2025.

From the Executive Summary of the report:

“The World Economic Forum and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) set out to seek unconventional, practical solutions to the current challenges of growth, aiming to identify and support key business practices, and to relay them to the global community. This project deliberately did not look to governments, environmental organizations or multinational corporations from advanced economies – all sources of well- practiced but as yet insufficient answers. Instead, it went to agents who deal with a wide range of constraints in their daily business: rapidly growing companies originating and operating in the emerging markets, where economic prosperity and populations are growing fastest, and where environmental constraints and stresses are often highest.

As a result of a rigorous research process, the project identified and assessed 16 emerging market-based companies that share a unique mindset and set of best practices: these are the New Sustainability Champions.

Based in countries such as Brazil, Costa Rica, Egypt and Kenya, these companies provide inspiring examples for any corporation around the world interested in tackling the challenges of performance, innovation, growth and sustainability. Specifically, the New Sustainability Champions:

1. Proactively turn constraints into opportunities through innovation

2. Embed sustainability in their company culture

3. Actively shape their business environments

Moreover, they demonstrate superior financial performance when benchmarked against their peers.

The mindset, practices and business models of these New Sustainability Champions offer critical insights for emerging market-based businesses, established multinationals and governments. They could provide multiplier effects and create the basis for replication and extension among companies operating in emerging markets. They also serve as a starting point for redefining the future of growth: one that is robust and efficiently binds together all elements of sustainability – economic, environmental and social”

Here are the 16 companies that the report highlights.

Download a copy of the report here





Back to the Start: Inspiration from Chipotle

31 08 2011

Willie Nelson sings Coldplay’s riveting “The Scientist” as Chipotle and film-maker Johnny Kelly dramatically depicit how our food and farming system has spun out of control.  

 

Great effort of sustainable branding from this rare thought leader in the quick service restaurant industry.





Timberland & VF Corporation: New heights or swift decline?

15 06 2011

This week, VF Corporation (the mega holding company for apparel and active lifestyle brands such as Northface, Wrangler, Lee, EastPak) purchased the venerable Timberland brand of sporting footwear for $2 billion.

Of course, Timberland put this positive spin on the news.  Timberland Chief Jeff Swartz said in a statement:   “Timberland is proud of its rich heritage, its track record of success and its reputation as a responsible and environmentally-conscious global citizen, all of which will be preserved and enhanced by becoming part of the VF family of brands.  VF is known for its ability to acquire and grow authentic outdoor brands, while protecting a brand’s unique culture and DNA.”

The jury will be out but many eyes will be watching as the sustainable darling Timberland (ranked number 2 out of 150 companies for sustainability performance by the nonprofit group Climate Counts) will be inspiring to VF. or in the pursuit of stated 10% annual revenue growth – Timberland starts a rocky slide down from sustainability heights of greatness.

According to CSRHUB.com, VF Corporations current performance on sustainability and overall corporate social responsibility measures is hardly a pace-setter.

VF’s overall CSR ranking is 44 – below the averages for other apparel companies, the average U.S. company and all companies ranked.  Its performance on the environment was 20% below the average for U.S. companies.

Contrary to VF’s rather uninspiring CSR performance, CSRHUB.com gives Timberland an overall ranking of 63 – and a sterling 65 on environment performance measures (vs. 48 for the average U.S. Company).

Timberland’s track record of integrating socially responsible practices and community outreach into their brand marketing efforts make them a poster child for positive sustainable branding.  We worry VF’s leadership won’t cherish the vision and values that has made Timberland special and uniquely sustainable.  Stay tuned.

CSRHUB.com is a great resource for evaluating CSR performance of companies – go here.





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.





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




Props To Starbucks: Free Coffee In Your Travel Mug On Earth Day.

18 04 2011

To celebrate Earth Day, Starbucks is offering free coffee to everyone who chooses to get their coffee in a travel mug vs. the paper cup.  A great example of smart sustainable branding.





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






New Research: 71% of American Workers Value Employers’ Sustainability Commitments

7 04 2011

We’ve long known the employee satisfaction is a key driver of customer satisfaction.  Now a company’s efforts to improve sustainability is proving to be another driver of employee engagement, pride, productivity and retention.


A public opinion survey conducted by Harris Interactive National Quorum on behalf of Interface, Inc. reveals that 63% of full-time workers believe a company’s impact on the environment is vital when evaluating a new workplace, and 61% say the same about the company’s profit margin. Meanwhile, an even greater majority—71%—value a commitment to sustainability, defined in this study as “environmental protection,” as an important or very important criteria.

“There is broad recognition that companies that focus on sustainability, or protecting and preserving the environment, are appealing to American workers,” said Dan Hendrix, president and CEO of Interface. “Profits are obviously the lifeblood of any company, but what we see here is that employees want their organizations to have more purpose. These results speak to a lasting trend about the kind of long-term-focused organizations that employees want to belong to.”

This telephone study was conducted between February 23 and 27, 2011 among 504 U.S. adults employed full-time to learn and share opinion for ideals about workplace preferences. The study also revealed gender disparities in how employees evaluate potential employers. For instance, 78% of female employees felt a company’s impact on the environment was particularly important, while 52% of male workers believed the same. These findings could point to an opportunity for organizations focused on reducing their impacts on the environment to attract and retain women in leadership positions.

Other results showed the extent to which employees feel engaged with their current companies. National findings carried an overall optimistic tone despite the still-challenging economic climate, with:

  • 81% of full-time workers saying they are familiar with their company’s mission statement.
  • 84% of full-time workers agreeing that the company they work for shares their views on what is important in life.
  • 64% of full-time employees claiming involvement in company initiatives outside the scope of their everyday responsibilities.






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.





What Would You Add or Delete? The social forum for the future of marketing, advertising and global good.

20 01 2011

Kudos to ADDorDELETE, the brainchild of the tribe at Haberman.  It’s a fresh yet startling conversation centered around the power of marketing and advertising to ADD to society and address social problems and challenges.

By challenging the global marketing industry to re-direct 5% of the $500 billion global ad spend to causes, social problems and people that need help, we can unleash $25 billion for global good.

Learn more at the Add or Delete website

Join the conversation on facebook

Let’s call out all those ads that we’d prefer to delete.  Those messages that attempt to entertain at the expense of others.  The ads that just create noise and empty moments.  ADDorDELETE challenges everyone to take stock – what legacy do you want to leave?  Are you ADDING?  Here’s to less self-promotion and more social improvement.





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.





Congrats to Nissan and TBWA/Chiat Day: Nissan Leaf

10 09 2010

Nice new spot launching the Leaf – the all-electric car from Nissan.





If You’ve Got It = Spend It!

6 09 2010

In an edited excerpt of his new book Aftershock: Reshaping the World Economy After The Crises, Phillpee Legrain writes about the need to embrace new approaches capitalism and consumerism.  His point is that without consumption, there is no production, no income and no jobs.  And in plenty of markets around the world, there are millions and millions of people with unmet needs.  Responsible brands understand that they need to be serving those markets not only with sustainable products but with efforts that aid the public good.  The balance is essential for the retention and recruitment of new audiences of prosperous consumers.

“The aftermath of the crisis opens up huge opportunities to reshape the world economy for the better.  A fairer, richer, greener and more stable global economy is possible.  But to achieve it, we need to rediscover the virtues of open markets, open societies and open minds that go hand in hand with progress:  great opportunities for everyone to chase their dreams and fulfill their potentials.”

Read the article in Ode Magazine.





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.