Hollywood isn’t the first thing you’d think of when it comes to being green. From elaborate productions that zap thousands of watts of energy to excessive on-set food trays that leave behind mountains of waste, one would guess the mecca of entertainment creates more of a drain on our natural resources than preserves them. I was on a shoot once that made Marie Antionette’s dessert table seem like a small town bake sale and lights that made me feel like I was about to be interrogated or probed by aliens. True story.
In fact, if anything, Hollywood is the pinnacle of excess, right down to the millions upon millions of pages of screenplays that get tossed in the trash on a daily basis. But Daniel Riser, founder of Greenwriter.org wants to change all that. And tackling Tinseltown is just the beginning.
A “plant-a-tree” campaign doesn’t necessarily leap to mind as the pinnacle in innovative cause marketing. In fact, when I first heard about Government Solutions Group, a company that facilitates cause-related marketing between brands and state parks, it conjured images of elementary school students filing into fields with their seedlings tucked inside paper cups for a group planting. I had no idea of the magnitude of GSG’s work and how strategically sound their programs are in authentically uniting brands with a cause that literally touches every community, every generation and just about every environmental issue you can think of from water to wildlife. Shari Boyer, CEO, took some time to expand my view on state park programs, and share her unique insights on how to effectively align your brand with a cause that’s as close as your own backyard.
Obviously, one of the benefits of being socially and environmentally responsible today is the investment it makes in sustaining people and planet in the long term. No one represents this concept better than Seventh Generation, a company built upon the principle of preservation by considering the impact our everyday decisions will have on the next seven generations. In this spirit, Seventh Generation is the gateway for responsibility by equipping consumers with the details they need to make informed choices and eco-friendly products that help save natural resources, reduce pollution and keep toxic chemicals out of the environment.
While they develop and market a profitable branded line of non-toxic household products, their core focus is on education and shifting consumer mindset to one of giving back and living responsibly toward creating a healthier world. It is this conscious mindset that sets the tone for the company and drives all facets of their business practices and culture. And through an unwavering commitment to positive change, they have assembled a team fueled by passion, ideals and hope and pacakaged it as their gift for the children of tomorrow.
Over the weekend, I caught a commercial for Walden University, one of the many online education institutions that’s popped over the past decade. But unlike the other universities that boast the benefits attending classes online and accelerated degree programs, Walden focuses on cultivating the social change leaders of tomorrow.
Their new positioning, “A higher degree. A higher purpose.” is designed to attract those who want to make a difference in the world, and the 60-second spot focuses on the traits of those whom embody this mindset and the changes students can make using their Walden degree.
Allison Parris is not the typical company I profile in my Philanthropy in Five series. I actually read about them in a fashion magazine, and fell in love with one of their cocktail dresses. So, I fully admit that my initial interest was fueled purely by vanity. But as I dug deeper, I found that their appeal is much more than skin deep.
Their company was built on a commitment to social and environmental responsibility, and it drives every facet of their business from design through production. I think this is important ground to cover as many define for-profit philanthropy as simply donating proceeds to a charitable cause. But philanthropy encompasses so much more than just writing a check. It is a mindset and culture that permeates the company, and is one that Allison Parris exemplifies beautifully. Unlike many companies whose internal practices are in direct opposition to their philanthropic endeavors, Allison Parris serves up sustainable style that proves corporate responsibility is a must-have piece in a company’s wardrobe.
Last week I featured Greenwala founder, Rajeev Kapur in my Philanthropy in Five series, and I was impressed with his goals for the site as well as his ideas for helping to push eco consciousness into the mainstream in fun, creative ways. Well, he just rolled out one such endeavor with “Greenwala Contests,” a series of contests designed to actively engage consumers on important causes and environmental issues.
“We implemented this contest platform not just to give away prizes, but to get people to engage and think about Green in a way that is fun and not doom and gloom,” explained Rajeev. “The real important piece to the overall experience, however, is the unique supporting of causes. One of the premises that Greenwala was founded on is that of social responsibility. That if we, as a society, help those helping others, not only will we be greener, but we will also live richer and more fulfilling lives.”
This month, Hamburger Helper launched their ‘Land A Helping Hand’ campaign in partnership with Feeding America, featuring Beyonce as their official celebrity spokesperson. Causes often use celebs and high profile figures as a way to reach the mainstream market and quickly generate mass exposure, so I wasn’t all that surprised to see the golden-flocked femme fatale of hip hop flash across my screen. But the commercial looks more like an ad for America’s Next Top Model or one of those artsy shoots for The Gap than a charitable cause, and if you view it quickly, you likely won’t even know that it has anything to do with Hamburger Helper, let alone Feeding America or the growing hunger crisis in this country.
Last week, Cone Inc., the leader in cause branding, research and innovation, in partnership with Intangible Business, unveiled their latest study,”‘The Nonprofit Power Brand 100,” marking a departure from more traditional financially-valuated rankings. This first-of-its-kind research explores the unique relationship between nonprofit brand image and financial performance, and revealed that some organizations may be leaving millions of dollars in potential unearned revenue on the table. This proprietary new brand valuation is aimed at providing nonprofits with the information – and inspiration – they need to make their brands work harder.
“Through this valuation, we want to help nonprofits better understand how to protect and evolve their brands to generate as much revenue as possible,” says Alison DaSilva, Executive Vice President of Knowledge Leadership and Insights at Cone. “Valuing their brands gives them a license to demonstrate to companies and other partners that there is an established and justified cost to aligning with their organization.”
This week, the blogosphere was a buzz with the launch of Alice.com, a direct-to-consumer start-up committed to helping you never run out of toilet paper again. And a whole bunch of other consumer packaged good items that are always a hassle to run out to the store for. From Tech Crunch to Mashable to Venture Beat, and just about every other blog in my Google Reader, the new Alice.com brand was splattered all over the news.
But I had the advantage of knowing (read: being a complete and total fan of) Rebecca Thorman, a brilliant writer, observer and Gen Y entrepreneur who just happens to be the in-house marketing superhero at Alice.com. And yes, a Gen Xer can be a fan of a Gen Yer.
About a month ago, she got my attention (yet again). But this time, not for her no-holds-barred insights on social media or masterfully poignant posts; it was for a cause marketing campaign she was running as part of the pre-launch efforts for Alice.com. So, rather than tout all of the benefits of the service that the tech set have already
Update: Starbucks offers a 10-cent discount in all of their stores in the U.S. and Canada to customers who bring in their own reusable mugs for their beverages. Customers staying in a store can also request that their beverages be served in a ceramic Starbucks mug. More information about their “Mug Pledge” is available on their Shared Planet website.
Starbucks. A name synonymous with coffee and other frothy caffeinated delights. Or, if you read my Cause Marketing series, it’s a name I often liken to greenwashing, and have on more than one occasion questioned their authenticity when it comes to environmental consciousness — especially as it relates to the glaring fact that their cups are not recyclable in a majority of states in which they have stores. But I’m not alone. A quick google search with the terms “Starbucks cups not recyclable” will return a host of results and commentary around this issue as consumers struggle to understand why a company who claims a deep commitment to the environment would neglect such a critical element. And we’re left speculating if their CSR practices are only marketing deep.
Philanthropy and green tend to go hand in hand because they’re both rooted in consciousness — for the planet and for the people who inhabit it. And as I attempt to highlight in this series, it’s not only perfectly acceptable for profit to be part of that equation, but it actually helps sustain those conscious activities in the long-term by making a difference that extends far beyond just dollar donations. To help crystallize my ongoing quest to define for-profit philanthropy and carve out a scalable blueprint for repeating it across verticals, I connected with Rajeev Kapur, founder of Greenwala.com, a social network dedicated to promoting a green lifestyle and the collective good.
A highly targeted community of environmentally-minded members, Rajeev is able to tap into motivated users to extend the reach for the non-profits he supports, facilitating an ongoing network of awareness and change for important social issues and causes. Plus, it serves as a comprehensive resource on all things green from eco-products to renewable energy to volunteering and activism. Each user represents an opportunity to make a difference, and Rajeev has many initiatives in place to make that an everyday occurrence.
Other than a rock concert, there are few events that drain resources or produce more excess waste than conferences. From packing materials to elaborate displays to overflowing amounts of swag-stuffed goodie bags among throngs of people, trash accumulates in epic proportions. This is one of the reasons Gary Survis started Go Green Displays, focused on eco-friendly exhibits from booths to lighting to banners and everything in between.
It’s no secret that Microsoft is often on my list as examples of big corporations still wrapped in an old way of thinking under the guise of faux consciousness. And I haven’t been overly impressed with Microsoft’s innovation platform or social responsibility efforts… until now. With the launch of their new decision engine (and the hefty 7-figure advertising budget that goes with it), bada BING, they finally seem to be getting it. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
At first I was skeptical of an ad spend in the multi-millions to promote Bing, but now that they’re using a sizable portion of it to give back, Mr. Gates is starting to sway me. Plus, their integration with video and entertainment experiences also hints at things to come. Could the pocket-protector wearing PC geek protecting his piggy bank finally be re-emerging as the charismatic captain of the football team with the coolness factor and a philanthropic spirit?
As someone who’s committed to giving back, and who also writes a blog series spotlighting change agents, I often seek out kindred spirits whose work is truly making a difference in the world. And I’ve been fortunate to connect with cause innovators like Lee Fox, Andy Sternberg, Joe Waters, Michael Hoffman, Scott Henderson, Chris Noble, Joey Leslie and Brian Powell. I was going to end that sentence with “to name a few,” but wow, that’s a lot! And I could rattle off at least a dozen others, but that would prolong getting to the philanthropic superwoman I am proud to feature today.
Sloane Berrent is by far one of the most amazing individuals you’ll ever encounter (and she may actually be the first genetically-engineered social change cyborg). Literally everything she does is focused on good — not only seeing it in the world and sharing her infectious inspiration with everyone around her, but truly embodying the change we all wish to see. The ultimate “doer,” she has worked tirelessly to help nonprofits achieve their mission through her philanthropic consulting, and spent the spring working in New Orleans as part of the ongoing Katrina efforts. If you were following her on Twitter at the time, her voice carried far above the social noise as she shared vivid and touching moments of her experience in the trenches, rebuilding and connecting with those devastated by the hurricane. So it wasn’t surprising when she was selected as part of the Kiva Fellows program, which will bring her to the Phillipines to fill the next chapter in an autobiography worth of good. If there’s a cause in need or a change-related activity, chances are you’ll run into Sloane. Or if she’s not there, just reach out to her, and you can bet she’ll be on the next boat, plane, train or intergalactic spacecraft to lend a helping hand.
Last week, in partnership with changents.com, Timberland released “Earthkeepers Hero ‘Mission Possible,'” furthering the company’s vision to develop Facebook applications that blur the line between virtual and real-world eco-action in order to catalyze an environmental movement of “do-ers” under the banner of Timberland Earthkeepers. Many brands, non-profits and social activism campaigns have begun to harness the power of the web in creating experiences designed to drive real life behavior, consciousness and goodwill. And the “game” element helps create memorable engagements that promote adoption of causes and lifestyle integration.
Akoha is another good example of this, giving players points for a variety of social change-related activities that they complete in the real world.
But the question becomes are games like these fads, fueled by initial hype, or do they have the potential to create sustainable change and elevate consumer consciousness of important social and environmental issues?