Report from Target Marketing “Green Marketing Without Greenwashing” Webinar

I had the opportunity to serve as a panelist last week in Target Marketing Magazine’s webinar, “Green Marketing Without Greenwashing – How to legally and ethically back up your environmental claims.” I spoke alongside an excellent group of panelists who covered a wide range of key issues around green marketing [they included Scot Case, Vice President, TerraChoice; Randi W. Singer, Litigation Partner, Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Rick Merdan, Marketing Strategy Manager – Environmental, NewPage Corporation].

Here’s a link to access the webinar and watch it.

Below please find some notes I took on Case and Singer’s remarks.  Merdan served as a resource to answer questions near the end.


Scott Case, Vice President, TerraChoice

  • Discussed growth of green products and claims in the marketplace
  • Covered environmental claims and how the FTC is investigating and enforcing their regulations to counter questionable environmental claims
  • Defined greenwashing as misleading consumers about the environmental details of a product or service
  • Terrachoice has developed 7 Sins of Greenwashing
  • Discussed various leading green labels (EcoLogo, Energy Star, Green Seal)
  • Suggested do’s and don’ts of green marketing. His key suggestion was one I strongly agree with and advocate – “If you’re making a public claim, provide public proof”


Randi Singer, Litigation Partner with Weil, Gotshal & Menges

  • First rule of advertising is that it needs to be true
  • Discussed FTC’s “Green Guides”
  • All claims must be specific, transparent, supported by science
  • Need to avoid general environmental benefit claims
  • Specific claims must be true and not deceptive (e.g. “Biodegradable” must completely break down and return to nature in reasonably short period of time; “Recyclable” must be able to be collected and reused)
  • FTC has been reworking their Green Guides for several years, held 3 workshops in 2008 (1st focused on carbon offsets and RECs, 2nd focused on green packaging claims, 3rd on buildings and textiles)
  • Expects new Green Guides to be released in 2010

Q&A – Excellent session – starting at around the 45-minute mark, covering some of the following topics:

  • Supplier verification
  • Paper choices

I hope you enjoy the webinar!

Green mail in a down economy

Target Marketing recently published an article titled “The Return of the Green Mail Debate,” which I wanted to share.  The article’s premise is that during this economic downturn, sustainability is less important to marketers, and that once the economy rebounds there will be more interest from companies in being green in their marketing efforts.

I believe this message is a short-sighted one. As I have written over the past couple years since the economy started to dip, companies that slash their commitment to sustainability to cut costs will suffer long-term consequences with customers who are increasingly demanding that organizations they buy from do business in socially-responsible ways.

The writer, Ethan Boldt, does try to segment marketers into various buckets, based on their (or their customers’)  interest in sustainability and how this impacts their marketing decisions:

  1. Marketers and organizations that do not care about green, regardless of the economy
  2. Organizations that always care about green, regardless of the economy
  3. Marketers that care about green, depending on their target markets

I do agree that sustainability is more important to certain companies than to others, depending on the markets that they serve.  However, the writer and some of his subjects imply that a barrier to “green mail” usage is due to its higher cost structure and that only once economy rebounds will it make a comeback.  This article fails to mention that people can be greener about their mail without it costing their organizations any more money. The fact that people can use wind power, soy-based inks (if printed offset) and certain types of recycled paper without any additional cost, is crucial to understand, as there is a rampant misperception in the marketplace that going green costs more. If people work with the right production partner, they can go green in a way that does not have a negative impact on the bottom line.

Marketers need to be sensible about watching expenses, especially when the economy is still weak.  However, if there were better education in the marketplace (from the U.S. Postal Service, the Direct Marketing Association, etc.) about ways to go green at no extra cost, I am confident that not only would marketers make more sustainable choices, but customers would come to expect that mail be done in a green way.  These would be positive developments, and would help ensure that direct marketing leaves less of a footprint on our fragile planet moving forward.

Green business: chief sustainability officers, product innovation and employee education

An interesting article was posted on CNBC.com last week by Aman Singh, who is an editor with Vault and works with Fortune 500 companies on reporting their diversity recruitment strategies and initiatives.  The piece started:

Let’s face it. Even though nothing came out of Copenhagen, awareness of easily avoidable phrases like “climate change,” “green careers,” even “green jobs” became hugely Googled, SEO-ed, categorized and tweeted. So, with this newfound green knowledge, how will we as employees, consumers and maybe more importantly, as decision-makers, inculcate sustainability in the workplace and bring it to the attention of the executive suite?

Singh proceeds to discuss how many large companies have added sustainability chiefs without “demanding that they embed sustainability in the company’s long term strategy and all operations. Until regulation and stakeholders support us, achieving corporate social responsibility remains an elusive goal, titles notwithstanding.”

Singh has a good point, but seems a bit shortsighted when he makes this blanket assertion.  More and more companies are coming to understand that sustainability is good for their reputation and employee morale, but also for their bottom line. Research has shown that people want to buy from companies that are seen as socially responsible.  I agree that regulation is important, but customers often drive innovation, and therefore new product development that considers the environment, like laundry detergent that uses 80% less water, will only continue to speed up.

In my experience working with clients to address sustainability in their business operations and sales and marketing efforts, I have seen companies discuss the environment without the ability and knowledge to execute – exactly the problem Singh highlights.  However, I have also seen companies who not only have sustainability offices discussing strategy but also working on the execution internally to make it a reality.  In these organizations, senior management includes their colleagues in the sustainability efforts and brainstorming, as they recognize that the best ideas often come from the bottom up, rather than from the top down.  In addition, employee education is key – sustainability must be part of the company culture.  If so, it is much easier to implement (and less likely to be cut).

Here’s a link to the full article on CNBC.

Looking in the mirror on America Recycles Day

Image courtesy of the National Recycling Coalition

America Recycles Day (ARD) was held this past weekend (Sunday, November 15).  Put on by the National Recycling Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group focused on waste reduction, reuse and recycling, ARD is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and to buy recycled products.

These types of events are helpful reminders, but they come and go.  What’s more important is that we demonstrate an ongoing commitment to the environment in our personal and professional lives.

Over the past several years, our firm has worked hard to do business in a responsible manner.  I spoke with our Facilities Director, Barry Lyons, to get the latest update on what we do internally to leave less of a footprint.  I’m proud to include a list of the following: what we recycle, what we allow and encourage our employees to bring in from home to be recycled, as well as products we use that are made from recycled or environmentally-friendly materials.

What we recycle

  • Paper
  • Corrugated cartons
  • Batteries
  • CFLs
  • Fluorescent tube bulbs
  • Bottles & cans
  • Wood pallets
  • Metal (old shelving, files, cabinets)
  • IT: Monitors, computers
  • Printing materials: Plates, film, inks, fixer, developer
  • Paint

What employees can bring in

  • Batteries
  • CFLs
  • Fluorescent tube bulbs
  • Paint

What we use made from recycled materials:

  • Paper goods: Printing paper, copy paper, corrugated cartons, calculator and adding machine tape, our corporate stationery system, paper towels, toilet paper
  • Other: Office supplies where we have an option (i.e. paper clips), soap for our pressman (made from recycled walnut shells)

Other products we use that are environmentally friendly
Soy inks, solvents for printing, facility and office cleaning products, lawn care products, snow and ice products for our parking lot, de-icer for our stairs and entrance, new computers, new monitors, wind power for our electrical needs, exterior lighting on timers, electrical audit  of our facilities, etc.

By no means is our job complete.  There are a number of other ways that organizations can operate in a more sustainable manner (water management, hybrid vehicle fleets, green building, etc), but this is a good place to start.  If you are interested in learning the specifics of what we have done here at GMG, please let me know and Barry and I can help.

If you are in a position to influence your organization’s facilities and sustainability decisions, I encourage you to do so.  Making green choices can have a tremendous impact on the environment, on your relationships with your colleagues, as well as on your corporate image.

Follow up to key idea from the Environmental Defense Unconference: Corporate Collaboration on Sustainability

collaborationOn this blog, my summer colleague, Lenora Deslandes, discussed her observations on the Environmental Defense Unconference in Boston.  One of the main ideas she highlighted was the need for companies to share best practices in sustainability in order to advance our common good.

Therefore, I was excited to read in the New York Times this month about some recent collaborative efforts among large companies to share environmentally friendly innovations.  The article, titled “Everybody In the Pool Of Green Innovation,” spotlighted two major initiatives:

  1. Eco-Patent Commons: According to the article’s author, Mary Tripsas, the Eco-Patent Commons was founded in 2008 and is a place where “Companies pledge environmental patents to the commons, and anyone can use them – free.”
  2. GreenXchange: A joint initiative between the Creative Commons, Best Buy and Nike to be launched next year that will allow companies to contribute patents and be able to charge licensing fees for interested parties.

It remains to be seen how successful either of these initiatives will be (there are only 100 patents currently shared on the Eco-Patent Commons, and the GreenXchange has yet to go live), but these developments are encouraging.  As I have seen in my business and those of our clients, learning about the tactics and strategies other organizations are employing to operate in a sustainable way has the potential to add tremendous value and contribute to the level of dialogue and ideas exchanged both in individual firms as well as in our society as a whole.

Excellent list of books on Greentech, Energy, and Sustainability – from the Harvard Business School Greentech and Sustainability Club

GreenBookA friend of mine from Harvard Business School passed along the following list of books to aid one’s understanding of greentech, energy, and sustainability.  This list was shared with members of the Harvard Business School Greentech and Sustainability Club earlier this week, and I’m pleased to share it with readers of Sustainable Ink:

General

Energy

Food

Preview of Graphic Design USA’s Green Issue

green-hd-090930Graphic Design USA, a leading industry magazine, published a Green Issue last fall which included some very useful resources for marketing professionals.  They are releasing this year’s issue on October 15th.  They distributed a preview e-newsletter yesterday and I was excited that my firm, Grossman Marketing Group, was included along with some other excellent design shops!

Some of the topics discussed by the featured design and marketing firms are:

  1. How is the recession impacting clients’ green efforts
  2. How and why did these firms become interested in sustainability
  3. Does Green help in sales and marketing

My response to question 3 was included in the e-newsletter.  Here it is: “Definitely. It has been a huge differentiator for our business, especially since we were first-to-market in our region with a number of green innovations. Sustainability has become a key issue to organizations of all sizes, and they want to work with a design and production partner that is well versed in these practices.”

Please stay tuned for the full issue later this month.


Highlighting some best practice leaders in sustainable political communication

The recent passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, better known as Waxman-Markey (named for its sponsors Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA)), marks the beginning of a long-term effort to rein in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

At the same time, to ensure a bright clean energy future for this country and to accelerate America’s transition to a clean energy economy, we want to acknowledge and applaud the actions of the following list of Senators, Members of Congress, a Governor, and political committees in different parts of the country, both national and local, who, working with Grossman Marketing Group, have adopted solid sustainable practices in terms of producing their direct mail and printed materials using 100% certified wind power, vegetable-based inks and recycled paper, and by adopting practices that are very much in keeping with the values and priorities of this landmark piece of legislation:

Only by reducing carbon emissions and greenhouse gases are we ever going to address the threat of global warming and improve the quality of life on our planet.  These politicians are not only talking about it, but they are also “walking the walk” and living this vision by the actions which they have taken in their political mail, fundraising mail, etc.

Unique Environmental Approach to Al Gore Mailing

Front and back of Al Gore mailing.

Front and back of Al Gore mailing.

My firm recently produced envelopes for a mailing on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for Nexus Direct, a full-service direct marketing agency located in Virginia Beach, VA.

This fundraising appeal, comprised of 1.9 million pieces, was signed by former Vice President Al Gore. In keeping with his unwavering commitment to fighting global warming, the envelopes that were used were produced using environmentally-sound practices, most notably recycled paper, containing 30% post-consumer waste, and 100% certified wind power.

Eco-statistics for Al Gore Mailing

The back of the envelope featured statistics on the following savings: trees, pounds of solid waste, pounds of greenhouse gases, gallons of wastewater and BTUs of energy.


Please click here to view the mailing
,
which features all relevant eco-logos and a union label, as well as a full environmental report of the savings realized by using the above-mentioned practices. The statistics are from the Environmental Defense Paper Calculator, which I have written about on numerous occasions as being an excellent resource, especially due to its independent and transparent nature.