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Communicating Sustainability with Transparency

3p Contributor | Tuesday November 30th, 2010 | 0 Comments

By Nathan Schock

In order to have a credible, sustainable brand, companies must have operational integrity and their communications have to strike the right balance between visibility and transparency. That was the message from Jennifer Rice of Fruitful Strategy on day one of the five-day Sustainable Life Media Seminar here at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minn.

Rice led workshop attendees through a process of building a sustainable brand strategy. After looking at numerous case studies of well-known companies, attendees went through an audit to determine where their companies fell in the five stages of a sustainable brand: from laggard to transformational.

Very few companies have made it into the transformational stage, but Rice said that InterfaceFlor is edging into it through their initiatives to lease modular carpet tiles and carpet reclamation. But Rice offered three examples of companies that have done a good job striking the proper balance between visibility and transparency: S.C. Johnson, Patagonia and Walmart:

Through their web site, What’s Inside S.C. Johnson, the global manufacturer of household cleaning supplies gives a detailed look at what ingredients are in their products.

Patagonia has the Footprint Chronicles, where they visually show in great detail the supply chain and lifecycle of the products they sell. The Footprint Chronicles are very upfront about the good and the bad, which earns Patagonia high marks on transparency.

The biggest big box leads with the Walmart Sustainability Index, a highly collaborative process involving NGOs, experts and even their competitors.

This was the first of five days of the Sustainable Brands Seminar in St. Paul, Minn. Tomorrow, I’ll be reporting on John Marshall Roberts, CEO of Worldview Learning, on Designing Communications that Resonate. Days 3-5 are on sustainable product design, making supply chains more sustainable and management systems and metrics. SLM has already held the seminar in San Fransisco and if you are interested in attending, upcoming seminars are booked in New Jersey and Austin.

Nathan Schock is the director of public relations for POET, the largest producer of biofuels in the world. He is also a digital advocate of sustainability and corporate social responsibility on his personal blog. Follow him on Twitter @nathanschock.


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