Proctor & Gamble’s Green Scorecard to Include Media and Marketing Firms

In a wake-up call for marketing services firms, Proctor & Gamble Co. unveiled its Supplier Environmental Sustainability Scorecard earlier this month, and, as Ad Age wrote, “neither advertising agencies nor media companies appear to be off the hook.”

The environmental measures include:

  • Energy usage
  • Waste disposal, reduction and recycling
  • Environmental regulatory compliance factors

Also of note is that P&G is providing extra points on the scale (from 1-5, with 5 being the best) to firms that provide sustainability ideas.

The scorecard will initially be rolled out to 400 suppliers throughout P&G’s entire supply chain.

The key takeaway from this news report is the increasing movement of large companies to reward suppliers for green business practices at the expense of competitors who have not demonstrated environmental leadership.  The message is clear: cut your carbon footprint, or you will see your revenues cut.  This is a sure sign that sustainability goes hand-in-hand with profitability.

Here’s a link to the article in Ad Age.

The critical importance of transparency as part of sustainable communications – Ad Age

Transparency-720358As most of those who read Sustainable Ink regularly know, I’ve been an advocate for transparency in everything individuals and companies do.  I’m pleased to share an article that Diana Verde Nieto (CEO of Clownfish, a sustainability and communications consultancy based in the U.K.) wrote for Advertising Age, titled: The Four C’s of Survival: How Sustainable Communications Can Help You Get Through the Recession.

I’m glad to see that Diana shares and is promoting some of the values and principles that I have always believed are essential ingredients of a credible, robust sustainability program, and I hope you enjoy the article.

Here’s a downloadable version of the article.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy Memorial Day Holiday.

Ad Age: Green-Marketing Revolution Defies Economic Downturn

Source: Datamonitor's Product Launch Analytics

Source: Datamonitor's Product Launch Analytics

This week’s Advertising Age features a very interesting and timely (Earth Day is this week) article, titled “Green-Marketing Revolution Defies Economic Downturn.” The writer, Jack Neff, starts off the article with the following statement: “Green marketing is turning out to be surprisingly recession-proof.”

Neff points to product launch and sales data that indicate that even during the recession, consumer-packaged goods manufacturers are seeing significant revenue growth for their green offerings.  In fact, according to Seventh Generation CEO Jeffrey Hollender, his company’s sales were up 50% last year and 20% in March 2009 versus March 2008.

The article continues that as opposed to previous recessions, during which sales of green products “had the air taken out of them,” sales of green products have remained stable (and are still growing) in the current downturn.

Neff includes some interesting tips for green marketers at the end of the article, and I would certainly recommend giving it a quick read.

Here’s a link to the full article.

Advertising Age: How to Avoid Eco-Fatigue

I came across an interesting article yesterday in Advertising Age titled “How to Avoid Eco Fatigue.”

The article, written by Jennifer Maxwell-Muir of Maxwell PR, a firm with a wide range of experience in the natural/organic industry, states that consumers are getting tired of the massive news coverage and marketing campaigns surrounding the “green” movement.  Maxwell-Muir provides some helpful tips on how companies can cut through the noise and reach consumers with a green message:

7 Tips to Avoid Eco-Fatigue

  1. Be remarkable. You can make the “greenest” product on the planet, but unless it solves a significant consumer problem, works or tastes better than anything in the market and offers a good value in ratio to price, consumers won’t buy it.
  2. Be green because it’s something you value, not as a marketing gimmick. Can coal really market the industry as being green and clean? What is Kermit the Frog doing with the Ford Escape? People smell falsehoods, and you go from bad to worse.
  3. Don’t be bashful. A lot of truly “green” companies are afraid to speak up because it feels too self-righteous. Consumers actually appreciate your efforts, no matter the size, as long as they’re earnest and a step in the right direction. The amplification of your message can increase with your commitments.
  4. Make it fun and engaging. Green doesn’t have to be staid. The average consumer doesn’t even know that the “hip” home cleaning products (is that an oxymoron?) made by Method are even green. And that’s entirely the point. This fast-growing brand wants consumers to love its product first — because they’re well-designed, smell beautiful and work well. They’re also planet friendly. Method’s attitude is: Why wouldn’t they be?
  5. Partner with an established nonprofit. When Kettle Foods wanted to add a cause element to its new Backyard Barbecue flavor, it immediately thought of wildlife habitat protection because it’s something it does in its own backyard. To inspire consumers to apply the same principles at home, Kettle partnered with a respected nonprofit, the National Wildlife Foundation. Then it encouraged people to get involved by creating their own backyard wildlife habitats. Who wouldn’t want a bag of free chips as thanks for attracting local birds?
  6. Invite consumers to join you. A flushable diaper doesn’t sound like a product that would inspire a cult following, but gDiapers realized early on that its core consumers were a vocal bunch. So gDiaper empowered them. By creating gMums and gDads, the company arms independent, trusted “spokespeople” with free product and the tools they need to spread the word. Doesn’t get much better than that.
  7. Move beyond green. Green is a fad. Sustainability is continual improvement. If you’re only looking at energy consumption, you’re just scratching the tip of the iceberg. Businesses that endorse a “triple-bottom-line” approach — Organic Valley Farms, New Belgium and Clif Bar, to name a few — also address their affect on society in their communities. Environment is the third leg of the stool, but without the other two, you wouldn’t have a place to sit.

Please click here to access the entire article.

Interesting article on importance of good relationships between marketing and sustainability officers

Gary NeillAdvertising Age recently wrote a special report on the importance of strong relationships between marketing and sustainability officers. Although the sustainability officers play a leadership role in helping an organization be a good steward of the environment, the CMO is responsible for crafting the company’s communication strategy with its customers. Therefore, for a company to have a well-articulated green strategy, that is also backed up by substantive organizational action, these two departments/officers must work well together.

Here’s a link to the entire article. I found it to be an interesting read: Article

Illustration by Gary Neill, courtesy of Advertising Age.

Highlights from Advertising Age’s Green Conference

Advertising Age held its Green Conference last week.  In an article posted on its website (reproduced below because it is no longer available in complete form online), its reporters highlight a key message from speakers: perfection in green brands is virtually impossible.  Rather, what’s more important is when organizations make real and genuine efforts to operate more sustainably.  As I have written often before, not only is it the right thing to do, but it can drive profit growth by helping an organization strengthen its relationships with clients and prospects.

Please see below for the full article.

Come as You Are to Help Environment

Posted June 10, 2008
By Natalie Zmuda and Rupal Parekh, Advertising Age

NEW YORK ( — Perfection is not attainable, let alone necessary, when it comes to being green.

That was the message delivered by a collection of green experts and marketers at Advertising Age’s Green Conference today. In the current environment, accusations of “greenwashing” have become the norm, but that’s no excuse to sit on the sidelines, said Peter Seligmann, CEO-chairman of Conservation International, during his keynote address.

“None of us are pure. None of your brands are pure,” he said. “We need an aspiration to be pure. We’re not going to achieve that if we wait until we’re pure to say something. We’re going to be silent. And we can’t afford to be silent.”

McDonald’s admits it cares
Mr. Seligmann pointed to McDonald’s, one of the group’s first major corporate partners some 18 years ago, as a prime example, noting that the fast-food chain didn’t talk about its environmental efforts out of fear that it would be attacked, instead of celebrated, for what it was doing.

Today, the company is becoming more vocal about its green efforts, said Mary Dillon, exec VP-global chief marketing officer at McDonald’s, even if it’s not necessarily a brand consumers associate with sustainability initiatives. “I know that the environment might not be the thing that springs to mind when you think of our brand,” she said. “[But] part of our overall DNA has been to be socially responsible. Before, we were more behind the scenes, and now its more direct-to-consumer. We feel it’s time to be a little more public about it.”

The company’s latest efforts are exceedingly public, as it leverages its iconic Happy Meals by integrating environmental and sustainable messages alongside popular properties such as “Bee Movie” and “Kung Fu Panda.” The company is even introducing an endangered-animal-themed Happy Meal in some of its international locations.

Wal-Mart on board, too
Wal-Mart, another company that might not be immediately thought of as green, is also taking a more vocal stand on the environment, with the help of the Martin Agency, which also works with Al Gore. “Lee Scott is very open about the fact that they got into this as a PR effort, and it’s a religion now,” said Mike Hughes, president and creative director of the Martin Agency.

He noted that the key to Wal-Mart’s campaign is that it is built on one of the chain’s core equities: saving consumers money. “We don’t tout sustainability for Wal-Mart,” he pointed out. “We communicate what would happen if [Wal-Mart customers] all bought organic milk or [energy-efficient] light bulbs.”

Similar to that approach, which focuses on the little things that consumers can do, Ideal Bite, a website and daily newsletter co-founded by Jennifer Boulden, senior VP, embraces and celebrates what it calls “green light.” “They’re driving SUVs to Whole Foods. That’s the best way to sum up our audience,” Ms. Boulden said.

But, she cautioned that despite many consumers’ willingness to embrace an imperfect green life, they are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to navigating brand claims. She cited a study that found 68% of consumers believe companies are greenwashing or overstating their green claims. “More and more, consumers are getting wise and reading labels, looking for certification seals and researching,” she said, advising brands to “speak proudly about your accomplishments while acknowledging that there is still work to be done.”

Harm reduction
A panel titled “What can agencies and media companies contribute to the green movement?” also touched on the idea of embracing imperfection. Don Carli, senior research fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Communication, encouraged brands to take into consideration the carbon footprint of their ad campaigns.

The theme of transparency carried on into the afternoon, with one panelist being perhaps a tad too transparent: Patrick Farrell, VP-corporate responsibility and communications at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, told the audience that while backing out of his driveway in his hybrid car this morning, he ran over a rabbit.

Mr. Farrell participated in a session called “Marketers who are walking the walk,” which heard from Enterprise — a relative newcomer to the green scene — as well as representatives from Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Green Mountain Coffee, both considered early movers in the sustainability space.

While you don’t have to be perfect, being innovative doesn’t hurt; take for instance a program that Fairmont recently launched wherein guests are not only offered organic and locally sourced cuisine, but can actually go out into area markets to shop for food with hotel chefs. Eco-friendly initiatives like these are spurring a great deal of consumer response for the brand, said Lori Holland, executive director-public relations for the hospitality chain.

Outdoor clothing and gear retailer Patagonia made a tough — and at the time unheard-of — decision years ago to embrace transparency. It ceased manufacturing the metal spikes that once provided the bulk of the company’s income upon learning they were actually damaging rock surfaces, said Patagonia,com Creative Director Bill Boland.

Steps to redemption
The company’s philosophy of putting all the cards out on the table in the face of green scrutiny continues today. Among other things, Patagonia has developed the “Footprint Chronicles,” an interactive mini-site that allows consumers to track the impact — from waste generated to energy consumption — of specific Patagonia products from design through delivery. Buyers are able to weigh both the good and bad aspects of the product’s environmental footprint prior to making a purchase, and can also post feedback online.

And the bottom line, speakers throughout the day pointed out, is that going green is good for business. A number of big marketers like JetBlue, Volkswagen, PepsiCo and Fiji Water are helping offset their negative impact on the environment by purchasing environmental credits (renewable energy and carbon credits), a presentation by Neil Braun, chairman-CEO of green solutions firm GreenLife, showed. GreenLife helped AdAge offset the conference.