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.

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Tips for selecting the right eco-friendly papers

green_papers****Guest post from David Grossman (SVP, Grossman Marketing Group)****

When getting ready to print a piece of marketing collateral, there are many ways in which you can make it more environmentally friendly.  None is more important than your paper selection.

There are a number of criteria by which you can evaluate your paper options:

  1. What percentage of post-consumer recycled content is contained in the paper?
  2. Is the paper made with 100% certified wind power?
  3. Is the paper FSC-certified (The FSC logo stands for Forest Stewardship Council, a group that works to ensure that the materials used are sourced responsibly.  Each step in the chain (i.e. from forest to printer) must be traceable.  The intent of the FSC system is to eliminate habitat destruction, water pollution, displacement of indigenous peoples and violence against people and wildlife that often accompanies logging)
  4. Is the paper process and elemental chlorine free?

While all of these factors combine to determine the eco-friendliness of a paper, the single most important factor is the percentage of post-consumer content.  This indicates how much of the paper pulp comes from material that has been used by consumers, then reclaimed and reused, thereby eliminating the need for that portion of the paper to be made from virgin fiber.

Obviously the goal is 100% post-consumer waste (PCW).  This means that no trees were used to make this paper.  There are varying percentages of PCW contained in readily available commercial printing papers made by the major paper mills.  Some of my favorites, which incorporate all of the aforementioned criteria are (in order of preference):

UNCOATED PAPER (all of these papers are 100% PCW):

Monadnock Astrolite PC 100

  • This is arguably the most premium of all readily-available eco-friendly papers.  The downside is that it is generally the most expensive
  • It has gorgeous finish/printability
  • Despite being 100% PCW, it is a bright white stock

Mohawk Options PC 100

  • Very smooth finish
  • Bright white shade
  • Excellent Printability
  • The one complaint I have heard is the occasional appearance of black specks throughout the sheet.  This is a byproduct of the 100% PCW

Neenah Environment PC 100

  • It can be slightly less readily available than Astrolite or Options
  • Nice finish
  • Nice shade of white

Rolland Enviro 100

  • This paper is very affordable and performs admirably for a value sheet of paper
  • Less smooth and less bright than the previously mentioned sheets
  • Prevalent black specks
  • Good for clients who want a paper with a more obvious recycled look/feel

COATED PAPER

Sappi LOE (Lustro Offset Environmental)

  • Contains 30% PCW, which is the highest percentage available in readily-available commercial printing paper
  • Beautiful finish
  • Excellent printability

Chorus Art

  • This imported sheet of paper has 50% recycled content with 25% PCW
  • It is extremely cost-effective and performs at a level far beyond its price point
  • Good finish
  • Good printability

For comparison’s sake, a typical sheet of paper contains approximately 10% recycled content, which may or not be PCW.  Please note that I didn’t mention any papers made by New Leaf Paper, despite their high degree of PCW.  This is due to their unreliable availability, especially on the East Coast.

In this day and age, where environmental awareness has been significantly elevated, it is key to make decisions with sustainability in mind.  There is no choice that has more of an environmental impact on your printing than paper selection.

An inside look at the greening of Harvard Business School

HBS Green TeamI’m pleased to include a guest post from Katharine Randel, who is a staff member of the Marketing Unit at Harvard Business School, as well as a member of the school’s Green Team.  I met Kathy earlier this year when I gave a presentation on green marketing and green business issues to the HBS Green Team (HBS is a client of our firm), and I was struck by her passion for and knowledge about sustainability issues.

I invited her to write an article on the work that the HBS Green Team is doing to help reduce the carbon footprint of the school, and I’m excited to feature her report below.

****

By Katharine Randel

When I began working at Harvard Business School several years ago, there was no paper recycling program.  Dismayed at how much paper I was putting in the trash every day, I enthusiastically joined a group of MBA students spearheading an effort to bring paper recycling to campus as soon as I learned of their work.  A few months later, recycling bins began appearing around campus, and today all offices have them.  In the years following, several sustainability practices were added to the HBS campus (for example, solar panels were added to the roof of the gym); but as an administrative employee supporting faculty, I was not involved…until recently.

A few years ago, Meghan Duggan was hired as assistant director of mechanical, electrical, plumbing and sustainability projects.  One of Meghan’s initiatives was to start an HBS Green Team of employees across all departments whose mission it is to establish a sense of environmental awareness throughout the HBS community.  The goal of the Green Team is to effect a change in behavior among faculty and staff that leads to a reduction in water and energy consumption and waste generation.  In January, I became the Green Team representative for a building of 250 faculty and staff.

This winter the Green Team held an energy competition in which ten office buildings on campus competed to reduce their energy consumption from the same time period the year prior.  This year the overall campus reduction was 24,880 kWh for one month.  The estimated monthly campus savings was $3,732 with an approximate reduction of 10.45 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.   Ten-and-a-half metric tons is the equivalent of CO2 emissions from 1,186 gallons of gasoline consumed.   If HBS faculty and staff maintained their energy-saving behavior for the rest of the year, we could save $44,784 and reduce CO2 emissions by 125.40 metric tons.

But the numerical results are only part of the story.  Another goal of the competition was to raise awareness and educate faculty and staff about sustainable behaviors.  In my building the competition has been surprisingly successful.  Since the competition, more than 20 faculty and staff have offered suggestions for ways HBS could reduce its energy consumption.  I circulate suggested behavioral changes back to the building inhabitants and contact various departments to follow up on suggestions.  When people see me in the hall they now tell me the latest steps they’ve taken, confess their inaction, or tease me (one of my coworkers turned out the lights in the copy room — knowing I was in the room — to “conserve energy”).  I am thrilled; every conversation and email tells me faculty and staff are more aware and the efforts of the Green Team are making a difference.

To learn more about Harvard Business School and Harvard University’s efforts towards environmental sustainability please see the following websites:  HBS Business & Environment and Harvard Operations Services Sustainability.

—-
Katharine Randel is the Unit Coordinator for the Marketing Unit at Harvard Business School. In that role she collaborates with faculty to create strategies and programs that foster the unit’s cohesion and purpose.  She has been passionate about improving the health of our natural environment since reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in seventh grade. In addition to her HBS Green Team activities she has studied environmental management at Harvard Extension School and has been composting and growing organic fruit and vegetables for 19 years.

Report on New England clean energy firms

necec-logoI had the opportunity to hear Nick d’Arbeloff, president of the New England Clean Energy Council, give a talk on Thursday, April 23, titled: “The Case for Energy Transformation: Climate Change, Energy Security, and Global Fossil Fuel Supply.”

d’Arbeloff extensively discussed the causes of global warming and the need for more sustainable energy supplies.  Near the end of his presentation, he highlighted some of New England’s leading clean energy firms, in a wide range of categories.  I thought this list was highly-targeted, and wanted to share it below, along with links to the various firms’ websites:

  1. A123 Systems – batteries
  2. Aircuity – energy efficiency
  3. Aspen Aerogels – advanced insulation
  4. EnerNOC – demand response for utilities
  5. Evergreen Solar – vertically integrated solar PV
  6. FloDesign Wind Turbine – turbine technology
  7. General Compression – energy storage (nacelle technology)
  8. GreenFuel – algae-based biofuel
  9. Konarka – thin film solar
  10. Mascoma – cellulostic ethanol
  11. ORPC – marine turbine techology
  12. Protonex – Fuel cells
  13. Qteros – cellulostic ethanol
  14. Ze-gen – waste-to-energy

d’Arbeloff concluded by explaining that despite the dire environmental trends (coupled with unstable energy prices and finite fossil fuel supplies), there will be a bright “green” future.  He said this will be made possible, first, by the right policy, which will unleash innovation and free markets to solve our energy problems.

The event was hosted by Goodwin Procter LLP, and organized by my high school, BB&N.  A special thanks to my friend, Jonathan Shapira, author of the Cleantech Investing in Israel blog, for making it happen.

Trendwatching.com’s 12 eco-trends to watch

Hey all – I wanted to share this interesting briefing on Trendwatching.com about eco trends that present exciting opportunities for marketers and entrepreneurs.

Trendwatching refers to these opportunities as an eco-bounty, and they provide the following definition: “ECO-BOUNTY refers to the numerous opportunities, both short and long term, for brands that participate in the epic quest for a sustainable society. Some of these opportunities exist despite the current recession, others are fueled by it, not in the least because of new rules and regulations. Downturn-obsessed brands who lose their eco-focus will find themselves left out in the cold when the global economy starts recovering.”

Have a great weekend!

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!

Financial Times: Why sustainability is still going strong

financialtimes_logoA friend of mine sent along the following link to a piece written by Duke professors Daniel Vermeer and Robert Clemen, about the importance of a refined sustainability strategy during this economic crisis.  Vermeer is the executive director of the Corporate Sustainability Initiative at the Duke Fuqua School of Business, and Clemen is professor and faculty director of the Corporate Sustainability Initiative.

The piece, published last Thursday in the Financial Times, is titled “Managing in a downturn: Why sustainability is still going strong” and is a must-read.  Vermeer and Clemen’s main point is that given the current difficult business climate, organizations will understandably make changes to their sustainability and corporate governance efforts.  However, they warn against doing the bare minimum, as those organizations that fail to show a “commitment will find themselves at risk when the economic conditions improve.”

They make some interesting points, introduce some interesting people like Marcus Roberts, especially in the conclusion, and I wanted to make sure all of you saw it.  Here’s the link to the full story.