By Elizabeth A. Weisser
Innovating for sustainability brings with it exciting opportunities for businesses to grow their top-line sales and even evolve and transform their business models. To stay competitive and meet the challenges of sustainable development, forward-thinking businesses will need to combine innovation with ecology, through the power of “eco-innovation.” That’s a key message in Jacquie Ottman’s just-released book, The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding.
Green is Now Mainstream
Since 1989, Ottman, a green marketing pioneer, has been an expert adviser to Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. government. An acknowledged guru of all things green, she has been tracking the transition of the green consumer from fringe to the societal mainstream. In her new book, which is sure to become the must-read resource guide on the topic, Ottman reveals what it takes to succeed in this new green marketplace, providing insight into the specific needs of today’s mainstream consumers, and how companies large and small have responded with fresh green marketing strategies.
Following are a number of green products detailed in the book that she recommends watching in the coming years. Each of these eco-innovations solves a pressing environmental issue while superbly meeting consumer needs. And each has the potential to ultimately transform their company and industry— profitably.
1) Nissan Leaf Electric Car
Driven in part by clean air/ greenhouse gas emissions laws in the states, and the predicted growth of electric charging stations such as GE’s new WattStation, expect Nissan’s LEAF all-electric car to become to this decade what Toyota Prius was to the last.
The LEAF (an acronym or Leading, Environmentally Friendly, Affordable, Family car) is unlike Toyota’s Prius or even Chevy’s new Volt which both combine electric batteries and gasoline engines. Rather, the LEAF is solely powered by an electric battery and is an affordable, zero-emission medium-sized family car. Ottman is especially bullish on the future of electric cars when she sees equally “eco-innovative” efforts by companies such as GE build their Watt Stations, and the BetterPlace recharging station pilot now underway in Israel.
2) Energy Management Devices
With energy prices on the rise, consumers will be watching their watts more than ever. Eco-innovative appliances and devices are now coming onto the market that will enable more significant energy conservation progress than that afforded by motion detectors and dimmers. DIY Kyoto’s Wattson is one of many such devices that help to monitor a household’s electricity use. When the dishwasher revs up, Wattson glows red. Turn off the AC, and Wattson turns green.
Many electric utilities, electrical product manufacturers, government bodies, software manufacturers including Microsoft and even Google are now working to transform the nation’s power grid into one digitally controlled Smart-Grid network that can convey electricity to consumers more efficiently, cutting pollution and electric bills in the process.
3) Smart Grid Appliances
Seizing opportunities to get in on the action and help consumers save money, Whirlpool and GE are introducing SmartGrid-enabled appliances that can be controlled from afar by the power company. They will soon have the power to lower thermostats, switch appliances into energy-saver mode, or shut them down entirely during times of peak demand. As pointed out in the book, Whirlpool predicts it will put one million smart clothes dryers on the market during 2011. Offering the potential for significant energy and cost savings, a smarter clothes dryer just may help Whirlpool climb out of recession-induced sales slump.
4) “G” Diapers
Cloth diapers may not have posed a threat to disposable diapers, but gDiapers just might. Conventional diapers are composed of an inner diaper made of wood pulp and an outer lining made of plastic — both of which are thrown away with each diaper change and ultimately find their way to landfills. gDiapers have an innovative two-part detachable construction that allows their inner lining to be flushed, ensuring human waste winds up in the sewage treatment system where it belongs, not in the landfill where it is a source of hazardous waste.
The colorful outerpants—a veritable infant fashion statement—can be reused over and over. Representing a feasible and convenient alternative to both cloth and disposable diapers, and a measurably reduced environmental impact, the gDiaper just may overtake significant market share from conventional diapers. With 20 billion disposable diapers dumped in U.S. landfills each year—and potential pressure by local regulators expected now that a viable alternative to cloth is available, it won’t be long until Pampers and Huggies respond with a flushable overhaul of their own.
5) Biobased Products
Ottman’s client, the USDA, just last month announced its new “USDA Certified Biobased Product” label, heralding a new era in consumer products and packages. “Biobased” is defined by the USDA as non-edible consumer and commercial products that are based on agricultural, marine or forestry-based raw materials. Indeed, given our nation’s agricultural abundance and with energy independence a growing imperative in the U.S. it just may signal the dawn of a new “biobased” economy. Consider compostable gardening bags made from cornstarch, lip balm made from soybeans, and even towels and bed sheets made with eucalyptus fiber. Expect Coke to capitalize upon its new recyclable “Plant Bottle” (made of 30% sugar cane), and Frito-Lay to launch a second-generation compostable (and less noisy) SunChips package made from corn.
Click here to learn more about The New Rules of Green Marketing
Elizabeth A. Weisser is a NYC-based sustainability marketer. A recent certificate holder from Columbia University’s Environmental Sustainability program, she is passionate about our earth and especially maintaining natural environments and local cultures.