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.

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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.

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.


Direct Mail Insight: Green Envelopes and the Big Picture

bigstockphoto_Mail_Box_With_Letters_2482928Last month, Target Marketing Magazine published an article on trends surrounding environmentally-friendly envelopes – I was on vacation at the time so I didn’t get a chance to pass it along then.  Here’s a link to the article.

As I’ve written on a number of occasions, “green” envelopes are an important part of an organization’s marketing and communications efforts (we have already sold more than a quarter billion envelopes made with 100% certified wind power over the past couple years).  In fact, they are often the first component of a direct mail piece that a recipient sees, and it is important to take that opportunity to send a values-laden message through the materials/inks/energy that are used to produce the piece.

Obviously, using green practices for direct mail should be just one of the many sustainable business practices that organizations employ – otherwise they could be accused of greenwashing.  However, given recent developments in technology, mailers can make their pieces more environmentally-friendly without adding much, if any, cost, which removes the most critical barrier to adoption.  Research has demonstrated that consumers want to buy products from companies that do business in an environmentally-responsible manner.  Marketing collateral is one way for organizations to demonstrate this commitment.

Here’s a link to the full article.

Recent award for green marketing leadership

nedmaLogoI was honored and humbled to receive the 2009 New England Direct Marketing Association Prodigy Award, for my work in the green marketing and sustainability space.  I received the award at the NEDMA 2009 Annual Conference held earlier this month at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts.

According to NEDMA, the Prodigy Award is given each year to one marketing professional in New England under the age of 30 who has added the most to the art and science of direct marketing in the prior year.  NEDMA started the award eight years ago to recognize some of the most talented young marketers in the region.  During that time, members of organizations like Hill Holliday, Mullen, Oceanos and Vistaprint have been recognized for their expertise in areas including graphic design, direct mail and interactive media.

Many thanks to NEDMA for including me in this process and for all the work the organization does  to help develop the next generation of marketing professionals in New England.

Please click here to read the full press release.

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.

Report on Boston Business Journal Green Business Summit

George Donnelly, Editor-in-Chief, Boston Business Journal, presented Ben Grossman, Director of Grossman Marketing Group's Green Marketing & Sustainability Practice, with an award recognizing his firm's innovation in the printing and marketing industry. (Image courtesy Boston Business Journal)

George Donnelly, Editor-in-Chief, Boston Business Journal (R), presented Ben Grossman, Director of Grossman Marketing Group's Green Marketing & Sustainability Practice (L), with an award recognizing his firm's innovation in the printing and marketing industry on Friday, May 15, 2009. (Image courtesy Boston Business Journal)

As I wrote last month, my firm was honored to receive a green business award at the Boston Business Journal Green Business Summit.  We were especially excited to be the only firm in the marketing services space to be recognized.  Many thanks to our client, Zipcar, for nominating us.

The summit was held last Friday, 5/15/09, and we were presented with our award (even the plaque was made with recycled materials!).  Please click here for a list of the other winners.

Here’s a summary of the main points of the article that appeared in Friday’s issue about why my firm, Grossman Marketing Group, was recognized:

  1. We were the first marketing & printing company in our region to offset 100% of its energy with certified wind power – and offer that eco-benefit to our clients at no extra cost
  2. As a result of our wind power initiative, we have produced more than a quarter billion eco-friendly direct mail packages since 2006 for clients including the National Park Foundation
  3. We recently negotiated preferred pricing arrangements with paper producers that enable us to offer printed materials made from a minimum of 25% post-consumer waste at no extra cost over the virgin fiber alternative
  4. We have plans to build a sustainability consultancy

Here’s a link to a PDF of the article. Many thanks for your interest!

Preview: BrightTALK Green Marketing Summit

brighttalk_logo_blackgreen_medI was flattered to be invited to present to the BrightTALK Green Marketing Summit tomorrow (Friday, 4/24).  BrightTALK is aiming to become the “YouTube for Business,” meaning they arrange targeted meetings/summits online and then store the webcasts so people can watch them in the future (upon registration).

According to the BrightTALK site, “This summit will help companies leverage the growing interest of consumers in purchasing products and services from companies with strong ‘green’ messages through understanding the need to develop a green marketing strategy. Summit attendees will gain insight from companies who have implemented successful green marketing initiatives and improve their understanding of why going green will help build a strong brand connection with their target audience.”

The summit will include representatives from companies like Intel and HP, as well as green marketing experts like Joel Makower, who runs GreenBiz, among other ventures.

My session, scheduled for 4 pm EST, is titled: Green Marketing: Bridging Theory & Practice – A Guide to Making Your Direct Marketing Efforts More Sustainable. To attend the summit, please click here.

Here’s a brief abstract on my talk from the BrightTALK site: “Please join Ben Grossman, Director of Grossman Marketing Group’s Green Marketing & Sustainability Practice, to learn about the latest trends in green marketing.  Specifically, Ben will discuss how the green movement is having an impact on communications, and will highlight ways to make your organization’s direct marketing efforts more sustainable and relevant to your constituents.  He will highlight creative ways that he and his colleagues have helped organizations like ZipCar, J.P. Morgan and the National Park Foundation, leverage green marketing techniques without adding any extra cost to the bottom line.”

There will be a live Q&A session, so I will be back with a full report over the next several days.