“Texas to Tel Aviv”: Excellent op-ed piece by Tom Friedman in the NYTimes

I had the chance to read Tom Friedman’s most recent op-ed piece, “Texas To Tel Aviv” in the New York Times today, and felt compelled to share it with the folks who read Sustainable Ink.

The article focuses on two people: T. Boone Pickens and Shai Agassi.  Pickens, who made his fortune in the oil business, is leading a charge to get the United States to devote a significant amount of resources to the development of wind energy.  In fact, he has spent $2 billion of his own money buying land in the Texas Panhandle as well as 700 wind turbines from GE (their largest turbine order ever), in order to create the largest wind farm in the world.  To read more about his efforts, please visit the Pickens Plan website.

Agassi, an Israeli technology guru, launched Project Better Place last year, with the goal of creating a nationwide grid of electric cars in Israel.  The project has a very ambitious mission, but has been gaining traction with car makers and governments.

The reason I wanted to call your attention to the column, and more importantly to these two entrepreneurs with bold visions, is because electric cars and renewable energy are game-changing initiatives that have the potential to have a dramatic impact on the fight against global warming as well as our nation’s addiction to oil, most of which comes from foreign sources.  Pickens and Agassi are showing that doing well while doing good are not mutually exclusive ideas.

Over the last 16 months, my firm has been at the forefront of bringing renewable energy to the marketing industry.  We not only have powered our own plants with wind energy, but created a cooperative group that comprised a half-dozen other firms in our space to do the same.  As a result, we have saved tens of thousands of gallons of oil as well as eliminated more than 1 million pounds of carbon emissions from the atmosphere.  For these efforts, we have been recognized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Pickens and Agassi are impressive because they are not waiting for the US Congress to act to make renewable energy initiatives easier.  Neither should we.  Each of us in our own way, either personally or organizationally, can do our share to reduce our dependence on oil by moving to renewable energy.  My firm, Grossman Marketing Group, decided that the best way to do this is to use wind power to produce all of our marketing materials.  Our efforts have been endorsed by some of our country’s most reputable environmental organizations, including the League of Conservation Voters and the National Park Foundation.  In addition, many of the nearly 100 clients that have produced their materials with us bearing our proprietary wind power logo have received positive feedback in the marketplace for doing so.

It is incumbent upon us in the marketing industry to do our part to fight global warming and the country’s addiction to oil, and we believe wind power is the best way to make that a reality.

For a link to the full Friedman column, please click here.

Best practices in green printing: quantifying the benefits of going green

I have written on a number of occasions about the importance of green business practices – both because they are good for the world around us as well as because they can be profit drivers for an organization.

Once an organization has decided to adopt green practices, it is very important that they quantify the benefits to the environment.  In fact, according to Cone, a leading cause branding and marketing agency, the details matter a great deal.  Cone, in collaboration with The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, conducted its 2008 Green Gap Survey, focusing on on consumers’ understanding of and attitudes toward corporate environmental marketing claims.  According to the survey, 70 percent of Americans indicated that quantifying the actual environmental impact influenced their decisions to purchase a product or service that has an environmental benefit.

Therefore, when my firm works with a client to produce a piece of marketing collateral that has environmentally-friendly elements, we strongly encourage them to devote some real estate to the numbers (i.e. when using 100% post-consumer recycled fiber, you can quantify, for example, energy, paper and water saved versus a non-recycled alternative).

A recent example of a best practice in green printing was the annual report for the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, which my firm produced.  Inside the back cover, the foundation devoted a half page to the environmental benefits of using a specific Mohawk paper that is made with 100% post-consumer recycled fiber.

Please click here to view the inside back cover of the report.

I have written in the past about resources available to quantify such environmental savings.  One great paper calculator is managed by Environmental Defense, a leading environmental organization.  I prefer it over other alternatives because it is a third-party tool and is not affiliated with the paper industry.  Research has shown that when certifications are independent and transparent, they resonate more with the end user.   Please click here to visit that post.

Doubleclick Performics (division of Google) report provides insights into green marketing online

According to DoubleClick Performics’ recent Green Marketing Study, 60% of respondents who make online purchases say it is important that a company is environmentally conscious (although this report was released in April, I thought it was still very relevant and interesting).

According to Doubleclick’s site, “In the survey of 1,087 adults, consumers indicated the most attractive type of environmentally-conscious marketing is that which focuses on such ‘specific user benefits’ as saving money on bills or longer product lifespan. Consumers, when choosing between two similar products, prefer environmentally friendly products; 83 percent indicated they are extremely or very likely to choose the environmentally friendly option. “

Stuart Larkins, senior vice president of search at DoubleClick Performics, commented, “Not only are consumers interested in green products and companies, our survey shows that nearly half of them will pay at least five percent more for them.” He continued, “With so many consumers online researching and purchasing products, retailers should include relevant environmentally-conscious information throughout their paid and natural search campaigns, affiliate promotions, display ads, and e-mail.”

Here’s a link to the full report: Doubleclick Performics Green Marketing Survey

This report is relevant especially because it highlights the importance of articulating a value proposition to the customer of “green” products. Data already shows that people and companies want to go green, but by explaining why they can help them (save money, be more energy efficient, promote renewable energy, attract employees) and the environment, sales will rise.

In addition, it is also important to note that this report finds that consumers are willing to pay more for “green” products, so long as the price differential is reasonable.

New cause-driven social network, Karma411, could be excellent marketing tool for corporations, development channel for nonprofit organizations

A friend of mine, John Murcott (I went to business school with his wife, Gretchen), recently launched Karma411, with his former partner at FatWire Software, Mark Fasciano.

Karma411 describes itself as a “cause-driven social collaboration site.” The two principal purposes of the site are to serve as a social network for socially-minded people and to allow its members to “start a campaign to raise money and awareness” for their “favorite cause or nonprofit.”

Although Karma411 is in its infancy, I believe marketing professionals at nonprofit organizations and companies should be aware of this site for several reasons:

  1. For nonprofits, the network could be a new channel through which they can raise money. One of the main services of Karma411 is campaign management, and nonprofits can even set up microsites within the network to accept donations
  2. For nonprofits, Karma411 may be a great source of volunteers for their organizations. The site asks its members to highlight some causes/organizations that are important to them. If I were a development director, I would look for members who have stated that they care about my cause, and then would have someone from my organization contact that member. Quite often, people may care about the work that a group does, but have never been asked to get involved, and do not know how to do so. The right email to these people may make a huge difference.
  3. For corporations, Karma411 could be a great marketing tool. Much has been written about how socially-conscious consumers often earn more than the median salary in this country and are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that are seen as good corporate citizens. Members of Karma411 will be a valuable source of potential customers for these types of companies, and once there is a critical mass of members, advertising and promoting through this site could be a cost-effective way to reach this group
  4. For both nonprofits and corporations, Karma411 can be an excellent research tool. The site easily allows a member to create a poll, a function that should help organizations gather important data about potential customers/donors/volunteers, etc.

Some pundits might claim that niche social networking sites cannot compete with behemoths like Facebook and myspace. However, smaller, more targeted sites have started to demonstrate excellent success as well, especially as focused advertising destinations. Here’s an excellent article from the Washington Post about this trend. As a focused site, once Karma411 signs up enough users, it should then be able to attract advertisers, who will want to gain access to this small, but likely higher-than-average spending group.

Regardless of the benefit to advertisers, I’m excited to see Karma411 launch, and as a site focused on helping its members improve the world, I wish it and its founders every success. I recently became a member and encourage others to do the same!