Key findings from Direct Marketing Going Green panel

875191As I wrote before, I was on a panel titled “DM Going Green – Separating Fact and Fiction” on January 13.  The session, which was organized by the New England Direct Marketing Association, was interesting and the conversation was lively.

Floyd Kemske, who serves as Editor of NEDMA News and Creative Director at Amergent, wrote up a nice summary from the event.  As it is not online yet, I’m pleased to include select portions of the piece below:

****From NEDMA News****
The session, moderated by Mariah Hunt, Senior Production Manager at Digitas, featured four practitioners from the front lines of the campaign for industry sustainability.

Each panelist provided a unique perspective on sustainability, its achievability, and its benefits. Ben Grossman, Director, Green Marketing & Sustainability Practice, Grossman Marketing Group , for example, has been instrumental in developing a model program for his company, which offsets 100% of its energy use through an organization called Renewable Choice Energy. This allows Grossman Marketing’s customers to credibly claim they make their printed collateral with certified wind power. In addition, Grossman has replaced petroleum-based window material in its window envelopes with corn-based material, which is both compostable and recyclable. Although the corn-based windows cost more, Grossman said, the company absorbs the premium so its customers pay the same as if they’d bought the petroleum-based ones.

According to Grossman, the company’s sustainability practices confer benefits in terms of increased sales, reduced costs, and more productive recruitment. But he advised the audience that sustainability isn’t something you can just say you do. “Customers are smart,” he said, “and they are conversant with the issues. They can discern a real commitment.” Transparency is important, he said. “Give people a way to dig down and investigate.” If you work at it and you are sincere, he said, you can use sustainability as a competitive advantage.

Mary McCormick, Senior Account Manager, Neenah Paper Inc., said her company was committed to manufacturing products with high post-consumer waste content, FSC-certification, and reduced carbon footprint. Before delving into some of the technical aspects of sustainable paper manufacture, she may have confirmed Grossman’s assertion about competitive advantage when she noted that the invitation for President Obama’s inauguration was printed on Neenah paper, chosen because of the company’s sustainability practices.

FSC certification, which is the premier paper certification standard, guarantees a chain of custody for pulp products from the harvest site to the finished product. It doesn’t simply guarantee sustainability. It also addresses social issues (e.g., rights of indigenous peoples) and forest recovery as well. Neenah’s website offers a calculator you can use to find the environmental savings you will achieve by using FSC papers. Neenah has also developed no-new-tree papers, including one manufactured from sugar cane bagasse.

The panel presentations were followed by a lively discussion in which some members of the audience sought proof that sustainability practices could increase sales. None of the panelists could cite such proof, but Ben Grossman stepped up and said that if anyone in the room wanted to conduct a test to determine whether a legitimate green logo would boost response to a mailing, his company was willing to subsidize it. There’s a man who backs up his belief in sustainability!

EPA Revises Green Power Partnership Program Requirement

gpp_logo180I was glad to see that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised its Green Power Partnership program requirements last weekThe Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program that encourages the use of renewable energy in the United States.

My firm was chosen to be a Green Power Partner in 2008 because we offset 100% of our energy with Green-e certified wind power – we have continued the initiative and have gotten a number of our suppliers to join our consortium (we work with Renewable Choice Energy).
Below are the notable changes:

  1. Minimum purchase percentages have risen for an organization to be able to be included in the program
  2. Program requires purchase of new renewable energy, rather than from existing sources.  As the announcement stated, “The Partnership’s primary objective is to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of the U.S. power sector by increasing renewable energy supply.”
  3. Window for making an initial green power purchase has tightened – new partners will only have 6 months (rather than the previously-allowed 12) to make an initial purchase.  I like this change because companies won’t be able to market their involvement in the program without making the necessary investment in renewable energy…if it were up to me, I would shorten the window even further.

These are encouraging changes, as participating companies will now have to make more substantial investments in new energy sources in a shorter timeframe, helping to weed out the types of companies that join to make the minimum investment possible for the purposes of greenwashing.

News roundup – it’s about the wind

As I have written in the past, renewable energy is critical to our nation’s future – not only from a carbon emissions perspective but also for national security reasons.

My firm’s adoption of and support for renewable energy (we offset 100% of our energy with Green-e certified wind power through Renewable Choice, the firm that both Whole Foods and Burt’s Bees work with to offset their energy usage) has enabled us to offer products and services to our clients that have helped them support the environment, without adding any extra cost to their respective bottom lines.  Because my firm made the commitment more than two years ago to absorb the additional cost of these wind power credits, we have been able to grow our business in turbulent times and attract new and progressive clients.

I am pleased to share two exciting news pieces:

  1. A PDF of an article published last month by the American Marketing Association’s Marketing News magazine (a live link is not yet available).  The staff collected a range of good and bad marketing campaigns from 2008 and asked various marketing professionals to chime in.  They asked me to comment on the marketing of T. Boone Pickens’ wind power initiative (which is now on hold due to economic concerns) – the news brief is on page 1 of the attachment.
  2. An article in The Somerville News (a newspaper in my company’s home market) about recent successes my family firm has had as a result of our green initiatives (one correction I need to make is that the reporter spoke with my brother, David, but refers to him as Steve, who is my father and president of the company).

In this increasingly difficult business climate, I can certainly attest to the importance of corporate sustainability and social responsibility programs as a means of differentiation from one’s competition (not to mention the right thing to do!).  Although organizations are looking harder for lower prices than they have ever done before, they are also very much interested in working with a partner who they respect and can learn from.  If your company does not have sustainability initiatives in place now, I implore you to start thinking about them.  Not only can they help you generate interest from prospective clients, but they can also help you save money (on energy, water, etc) – which is now more important than ever.

Boston Business Journal article on my firm – It pays to be green

flagThe Boston Business Journal has been publishing quick focus pieces on specific Boston-area businesses and the efforts they are taking to remain resilient during the recession.  My firm was pleased to be spotlighted.  Below is the article that appears in the Friday, 1/9/09 edition of the newspaper (I am also including a link):

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Marketer: It pays to be green

Grossman Marketing Group plans to focus its sales pitch on companies looking to be — and save — green.

That is because most businesses do not believe that using environmentally friendly marketing products can actually be cheaper than traditional marketing materials, said Steve Grossman, president of Grossman Marketing.

“Most people still have a hard time getting around the fact that green products can be cost-comparable,” Grossman said. “We want to lead more aggressively the no-extra-cost factor.”

Overall, the 100-year old print and marketing-materials company hopes its green push will stave off the effects of the recession, as direct-mail spending has dropped off considerably during past downturns. Envelope and direct mail makes up about 40 percent of Grossman Marketing’s business and grew nearly 20 percent in 2007.

The company also plans to step up the consulting services offered by the business, providing sustainability and marketing advice to its clients at no charge.

“It strengthens the relationship with our customers. They see us as their partners to advance their sustainability initiatives, but also, especially in the short term, to reduce their cost basis,” Grossman said.

Growing the green marketing business is just one part of Grossman’s three-pronged strategy for this year. With its recent investment in Consolidated Marketing Solutions Inc. of Massachusetts, based in Wilmington, Grossman Marketing is stepping into the online branding and marketing business.

“They want to do business with like-minded companies,” Grossman said.

— Jackie Noblett

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Here’s a link to the article: http://boston.bizjournals.com/boston/stories/2009/01/12/story14.html

Upcoming Event: DM Going Green – Separating Fact and Fiction (1/13/09)

Hey all – A quick pre-holiday message of thanks for reading my blog.  Thanks for all of your comments and suggestions.  They mean a lot!

I wanted to pass along some information on an event in Massachusetts that I will be speaking at next month that is open to the public.  I hope you can make it!

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DM Going Green – Separating Fact and Fiction
Kermit the Frog used to lament, “It’s not that easy being green.” This is especially true for direct marketers. Our industry has been under pressure from the media and the court of public opinion – even as it develops and drives new sustainable practices. And, going green will continue to be a critical issue for vendors, clients and regulators in the coming year. At NEDMA, we’ve put together a panel of experts from a variety of direct marketing disciplines to talk about how direct is going green, what are the facts (and what is fiction) about the green movement, and exactly what it means to you and your business. These experts will talk about how they and their clients went green – and guide you through the pitfalls and business opportunities they encountered along the way.

When: 1/13/2009, 8:30 AM to 10:30 AM
Where: Microsoft Seminar Facility

Panelists:

Moderator:

  • Mariah Hunt, Senior Production Manager, Digitas

Please click here to read more about the event and to register.

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Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy and peaceful holiday season and New Year!  More insights, observations and news to come in 2009!

Forbes.com: “How To Go Green And Stay Cost-Competitive”

green_061

Courtesy of Forbes.com

Forbes ran a story Friday on how green practices can help businesses compete and succeed.  The reporter heard about our success with our wind power initiative, through which we’re able to help our clients produce their marketing communications materials with Green-e certified wind power at no extra cost, and included us in the article.  Below are 2 links.  The first one is to the article.  The second one is to the slideshow associated with the story (we’re slide 7).

  1. Link to article
  2. Link to slideshow (we’re on page 7)

Despite the recent drop in oil prices, people are still very much interested in renewable energy and the concept of weaning our country off foreign oil.  I have written before about what we believe are the five best ways to go green on a print project. Using renewable energy, especially wind power, is definitely at the top of the list, as it allows an organization to send a values-laden message to its constituents without adding any extra cost to their bottom line, which is especially important in these turbulent economic times.

Some weekend entertainment…

On a largely unrelated but entertaining topic, I was excited earlier this week to be invited onto New England Cable News’ Friday evening quiz show.  I appeared along with Amy Derjue, who writes for Boston Magazine and manages their blog, Boston Daily, as well as Lou Whitney, who is the CEO and founder of 2 Boston-based companies,  Twig Flowers & DoggieDay.  News anchor, Chet Curtis, hosted the program.

I had the chance to talk about green marketing (at the end of the show, so that discussion is not contained in the links below).  It was a really fun experience, even though I came in second place!

Please check out the links below to the show.  I hope you enjoy:

Part 1: News IQ Quiz Show

Part 2: News IQ Quiz Show

Video of my Harvard Green Marketing lecture available online


I wrote on this blog earlier this year that I was to give a lecture on green marketing to members of Harvard Extension School’s Environmental Management Program on Friday, February 29, 2008.

I am pleased to provide a link to a video of the discussion:

http://www.extension.harvard.edu/alumni/events/multimedia/video/green.jsp

Many thanks for your interest!

My firm recognized for expertise in sustainability audits on marketing programs

Recently, Dan Smolen, who heads up a talent-management firm in the Washington, DC area, wrote about my firm on his blog. The blog, called Sturdy Roots, is focused on “Recruiting, Hiring & Retaining Talented Green-Marketers.”

In an April 18th post, titled “How Green Is My Marketing Company?” Smolen recommends a third-party sustainability audit to truly determine how green your marketing communications really are. Specifically he recommended my firm.

He wrote: “We recommend contacting Ben Grossman at Grossman Marketing Group. GMG is a fourth-generation marketing services provider with origins in the commercial envelope business. Based in the Boston suburbs, GMG employs wind-power to run the presses that produce envelopes made of recycled paper. And for its other energy needs, it purchases wind-power credits at no extra charge to its customers.”

My firm featured on the Great Green List

I was reading the Internet tonight and came across an interesting website, called “the great green list.” The Great Green List describes itself as “the fastest growing human edited library of environmentally focused information on the Internet.”

My company, Grossman Marketing Group, was included in the Green Marketing section. Here’s a quick link to the page:

http://www.greatgreenlist.com/Green-Marketing-111.html

The site features a number of “green” resources. Check it out!