Green Tips for Marketing Success: Part 1 of 4

My firm, Grossman Marketing Group, put together our 100 Tips for Marketing Success earlier this year to mark our 100th anniversary.  Over the last century, we have learned a lot about what helps make our customers look good, so we thought we’d share what we’ve learned.

21 of the 100 tips involve sustainability, and over the next few months, I’ll be sharing these with you, by category.  If you’d like to download the complete set of 100 tips, please click here.  They are free! The four categories covered in the “green” section are 1) General Sustainability, 2) Green Promotional Products, 3) Green Design, 4) Green Printing.  I’ll get started with the General Sustainability tips.

Research shows that Americans want to work for, buy from, and donate to organizations that make significant and sustained efforts to address environmental issues.

  1. Sustainability can help you cut costs as well as build sales. We have experienced both at GMG and are happy to help you do the same at your organization. To learn more, just contact Ben Grossman at 617.591.2919 or bgrossman [at] grossmanmarketing [dot] com.
  2. Be transparent about green marketing claims—make sure they are verifiable by an independent, third party.
  3. Include your colleagues in your sustainability efforts; often the best ideas come from the bottom up, rather than from the top down!
  4. Spread the word about the sustainability efforts your organization is taking. Your customers, investors and colleagues care.
  5. Simple changes in your office can have a huge impact: use energy efficient light bulbs and put recycling bins at every desk. We encourage our colleagues to bring in old batteries, light bulbs and other household materials to be recycled for free.
  6. 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).
  7. Make sure to back up your green marketing efforts with truly sustainable business practices throughout your organization.

I hope you find these helpful.  We’ll be back to you later this summer with more!  Many thanks for reading!

Whole Foods/Cork ReHarvest Partnership: A Best Practice in Product Lifecycle Management

Image courtesy of Whole Story - the official Whole Foods Market blog.

Earlier this spring, Whole Foods Market and Cork ReHarvest announced a partnership to allow Whole Foods customers to leave wine corks in drop boxes in all Whole Foods stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdomto be recycled.  This is an interesting program with a great focus on the lifecycle of products.

Although many people recycle cans, bottles and newspapers, too many other products slip through the cracks and end up in landfills.  I have written in the past that all products that cannot be recycled in towns and municipalities at curbside should come with instructions on how to responsibly be disposed of when finished.  Whether this includes empty toothpaste tubes or laptops, it is important for companies to not only focus on the green marketing message at time of sale, but also the environmental considerations at the end of the product’s lifecycle.

Whole Foods has been an industry pacesetter for some time, having announced a partnership with Preserve in early 2009 to allow customers to bring in hard-to-recycle #5 plastic to stores to be recycled.  This includes Brita filters, which too often find the trash after two months use.  Here is some additional coverage on the Whole Foods blog from April 2010.

My firm, Grossman Marketing Group, also tries to do its part by not only using environmentally-friendly products but also allowing our employees to bring in used lightbulbs (CFL), batteries and paint from home to be recycled.

Consumer goods and electronics companies have a long way to go to ensure that their customers know the facts about what to do with their products when they are finished using them.  However, these partnerships that companies like Whole Foods have created are an encouraging step – and probably a very good way to continue to build their brand and encourage store foot traffic at the same time!

Highlights of Ceres Roadmap to Sustainability

By Marisa Greenwald (Green Marketing & Sustainability Practice, Grossman Marketing Group)

Ceres’ report, titled “21st Century Corporation: The Ceres Roadmap to Sustainability” which it released earlier this spring, contains noteworthy proposals for corporate governance and green marketing.  As a network of investors, environmental organizations and public interest groups, Ceres incorporates the private sector perspective into the sustainability movement.  The report encourages organizations to create serious internal metrics for sustainability rather than limiting their focus to their sales and PR efforts.  Out of the 20 expectations presented for new business standards, I wanted to highlight three in particular, which, if implemented, would help align business objectives with sustainability goals in a meaningful way.

The first expectation of note is “requiring clear public policy position statements” from companies.  Ceres believes that companies should disclose their public policy positions, as well as membership in and contributions to trade associations. When appropriate, companies should also develop public policy positions that support best practices in sustainability.  An example of this was in Fall 2009, when several companies, including Apple, left the U.S.  Chamber of Commerce because of the organization’s criticism of pending climate change legislation.  This expectation would go a long way in removing the current disconnect between lobbying and marketing by requiring companies to integrate sustainability messages into consumer communication, and actually prove that they’re truly committed to environmentally-sound practices.

Another standard worth mentioning is for companies to require “suppliers to meet the same sustainable standards as the company.”  As part of a marketing communications company with some of the strongest environmental standards in the industry, I understand the environmental impact that sustainable practices, and, alternatively, their absence can have across the entire supply chain.  This recommendation would reward suppliers with positive environmental practices, incentivize companies to work with environmentally-minded suppliers, and hold companies accountable not just for their own practices but for their vendors’ practices.

A final impressive expectation laid out in the report is “designing and delivering products [and services] aligned with sustainability goals.”  This expectation goes to the heart of a company’s work and places a high consideration on sustainability in product formulation and promotion.  By factoring environmental considerations into the creation of products, companies will be playing a positive role in shaping consumer behavior by moving consumption patterns toward sustainable ends.  As someone passionate about green pursuits, I see this expectation as the one with the most potential beneficial impact in the sustainability cause.

Ceres mentions one interesting way to implement this final idea: it recommends that companies “re-conceive the idea of a ‘product’ such as transitioning from offering products to offering utilities or services. “  In fact, Ceres mentions one of Grossman Marketing Group’s most sustainable-minded clients, Zipcar, which has reshaped the way consumers use automobiles.  As mentioned, Zipcar offers customers the use of a car in hourly units, which removes the need to own a car for urban use and moves toward offering the car as a service.  Zipcar also offers lower pricing for hybrid vehicles, encouraging customers to use this cleaner mode of transport.

While this report contains some impressive ideas for corporate reform, it is unclear whether and to what extent such expectations will be implemented in the coming years.  Regardless, the report serves as a positive sign that some agreement has been reached between private sector influencers and public sector opinion leaders on the need to move forward in implementing sustainability standards.  It also lays out for companies a sustainability roadmap, should they choose to use it.

Click here to access the full Ceres report.

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.

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.