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How do you tell the difference between truly eco-conscious brands and those that just fake it? It’s a hard thing to do without extensive research. According to a newly released study from branding and marketing firm BBMG, nearly one in four U.S. consumers say they have no way of knowing if a product is green or actually does what it claims–in other words, there’s a serious green trust gap between companies and consumers.
It’s not that people aren’t interested in environmentally sound products. BBMG’s study, entitled Conscious Consumer Report: Redefining Value in a New Economy, shows that 77% of Americans think they “can make a positive difference by purchasing products from socially or environmentally responsible companies.” But most people don’t trust product packaging and company advertising to guide them in the right direction. Instead, consumers look to certification seals and labels as well as ingredient lists to determine whether products are actually green.
TriplePundit: Reporting on the Triple Bottom Line & Sustainable Business News
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- Webinar: Best Practices in Obesity Prevention
- Advisory: U.S. Chamber Foundation and United Nations to Celebrate International Women’s Day in New York City
- The Path Forward for Solving Complex Social Problems: Multi-Sector Collaborations
- Next Week: Twitter Chat on Women in Corporate Leadership
Last week, Brazilian President Luiz In√°cio Lula da Silva, or Lula as he is affectionately referred to, announced a plan to build 1,000,000 homes in some of Rio de Janeiro’s most impoverished neighborhoods. Favelas, as they are called in Portuguese, are large slums that dominate the cityscapes of Rio de Janeiro, S√£o Paulo, and other major Brazilian cities. Rio’s favelas are located in some of the most picturesque parts of the city, creating a tragic juxtaposition between the rampant crime, drug trafficking, and violence that plague the slums.
Lula’s new plan is an attempt to return a bit of order to areas that have been living in chaos for generations. Most inhabitants of favelas live in makeshifts homes that would be condemned in any other part of the world, ripping off electricity and other utilities from neighbors or neighboring municipalities. The streets of the slums resultantly end up looking like tangled spider webs of multi-colored extension cords, ropes, and cables from above.
What is different about this particular project, however, is not the scope – though 1,000,000 homes may seem like a lot, it barely starts to address the needs of a country that is quickly catapulting to the top of the world’s stat sheets for both poverty and population – but the material with which the homes will be erected.
Working with British green technology incubator, Ultra Green Group, the homes will be constructed from an eco-friendly concrete that is comprised of used bullet casings. Click to continue reading »
The benefits to cleantech companies if a renewable energy standard (RES) is passed doesn’t have to be a nuanced discussion.
The answer is simple: the benefits will be myriad. And they’re long overdue.
In fact, the idea has been mulled so long that it’s gone through two acronyms, migrating to RES from renewable portfolio standard.
Different name, same great results.
The most important thing to remember here is that an RES guarantees demand.
Take a hypothetical required soda standard (RSS), in which the government requires a certain percentage of soda sales come only from Coke, at a much higher market share than they have now.
Coke’s business would skyrocket, right? They would be guaranteed increased market share.
Welcome to the new, competitive world of renewable energy.Click to continue reading »
With Businesses on the Brink of Bankruptcy, How Will Automakers Respond to California’s Emission Standards?
In January, President Obama signed an executive order asking the courts to review a Bush era ruling that stopped California from limiting carbon emissions from passenger vehicles. When the dust settles after multiple legal hoops, California and 17 other states (called the CARB states) who have signed on to California’s plan will inevitably, it seems, dictate the federal emissions standards for one very simple reason: it will cost more to produce two lines of vehicles than to just upgrade the entire line to California’s higher standards.
Historically, Detroit’s reaction has been consistent to California’s climate protection efforts throughout the years. Without ever having won a court case directly related to the controversy, Detroit has nonetheless succeeded in delaying the inevitable for many years, presumably because their business would have plummeted as a result of the stricter emissions standards. With their businesses on the brink of bankruptcy, one is forced to wonder how effective their delay tactics were, and whether, if they had instead come to the bargaining table and worked out a compromise, they would be in better shape today.
Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) led a series of hearings in 2008 that demonstrably showed the Bush White House directly involved in overruling EPA officials, virtually all of whom favored the California standards. Aside from a couple of Michigan Democrats (Governor Granholm and Rep Dingell) and a few rogue Republicans (Governors Schwarzenegger and Utah Governor Huntsman), the issue has largely been decisively along party lines. The 18 states involved in the case include 16 blue states along with Utah (Huntsman’s influence) and Arizona (a swing state even in McCain elections).
And now, with the industry flailing and begging a largely Democratic congress and President for a helping hand, the story’s plot has certainly thickened.
The online media company SustainLane has recently launched a Green Collar Jobs Board, offering a tool to help you navigate your way down the path of a green career. The site shows us the kind of opportunities that are emerging in today’s job climate and, usefully, how we can be best prepared to position ourselves for such opportunities.
SustainLane streamlines the green job hunt process through it’s comprehensive nationwide listings, offers great job searching and application tips, but it is also frank in sharing the difficulties that are encountered in finding and securing a green job.
Green jobs expert and managing partner at Bright Green Talent, Nick Ellis explains that we are ¬®early-on in the transition to a green economy,¬® which makes job-hunting, skill profiling, and interviewing to mention a few, difficult processes to do well in a very competitive market. In the context of national (and global) economic restructuring, he shares with us the hard reality of the situation: ¬®There are few green jobs available right now, and whats more, there are too few qualified candidates for these jobs.¬® But there are opportunities and with this new job board we can learn how to go after them effectively in the rapidly expanding green economy.
With so many companies jumping on the “do good” bandwagon, even more names have emerged for the concept itself — cause marketing, cause-related marketing, cause branding, green marketing, conscious marketing, marketing with meaning, social good marketing, social change marketing and a slew of others. Even the umbrella term of corporate social responsibility is often used interchangeably with cause marketing efforts. But in my ongoing quest for a clear and simple definition, I stumbled across the Responsible Marketing blog, and it all crystallized for me. The common thread isn’t social change or charitable giving. That’s merely the by-product of those types of initiatives.
What binds the myriad of terms is employing your marketing efforts in a way that’s responsible. And while that can mean aligning tactics with a cause, it is not limited to that description. It could also mean responsible use of dollars, reducing unnecessary print marketing materials, or pulling an offensive ad, even if the increased exposure could actually benefit the company. Distilling it further would probably be to simply call it “Ethical Marketing,” but the fact of the matter is that there still needs to be a strategic focus, and Patrick Byers, the mastermind behind the Responsible Marketing blog is committed to helping companies hone that strategy as an outward expression of their core values. Click to continue reading »
Major carmakers are in a head-to-head race right now to offer cleaner options for consumers and fleet managers. Ford is the latest to make an announcement that it will deliver affordable electric vehicle technology at high volumes in the next few years.
At Ford’s Drive Green Media Forum in New York City on Wednesday, Nancy Gioia (Director of Sustainable Mobility) repeatedly stated, “Electrification is not an option, it is the way forward.”
In my recent cause marketing interview with Social Actions, I highlighted the importance of making doing good as easy as possible for consumers. In an age where time is at a premium, most people can’t expend resources researching charities or dedicate a significant amount of hours volunteering or getting actively involved with causes. But that doesn’t mitigate that the desire for change still exists, so companies who offer turnkey solutions for making a difference that don’t disrupt busy schedules or require extra effort will be able to reach and motivate today’s conscious consumer.
This was the impetus behind BetterHumanRace.com, a search aggregator that leverages routine online behaviors toward doing good. By performing your search at BetterHumanRace.com, instead of Google, or using their interface to purchase Amazon products, 100% of the profit generated goes toward a variety of causes, which are voted on by users. So, users can make contributions to worthy charitable organizations simply by doing things they would normally do online. And as more people use the BetterHumanRace.com interface to complete common online tasks, that change really adds up — figuratively and literally.
Founded by husband and wife team, Ross and Lori Shanken, BetterHumanRace.com was built with the intent to give consumers a way to personally affect change without any added effort, and by building this model, Ross quickly realized that he could generate exponentially more money for causes, and hence, create greater change, through a business than he could ever donate on his own. Tapping into the collective search and buying power of consumers, BetterHumanRace.com becomes a hub for change, making charitable giving an everyday experience. Click to continue reading »
As more companies are making a case for profits with more sustainable product offerings, who is rising to the forefront? And should we be applauding those going beyond compliance, while at the same time be concerned with their motives?
Have you heard?
In a heavily circulated press release last fall, research done by TDG showed that consumers considered Apple to be the most environmentally friendly consumer technology brand, while a study released last year by the Geneva based firm Covalence, which covers the ethical reputation of companies, lists HP and Dell number one and three respectively in the “best ethical quote score” category, whereas Apple doesn’t even fall in the top ten.
Around the same time Apple announced the release of their “greenest” laptops ever, and unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen how their latest ad campaign has centered around these assertions ever since.Click to continue reading »
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In an effort to reduce water pollution, the state of Washington initiated a ban on dishwasher detergents containing phosphates. Spokane County was the first to implement the ban last year.
Now while Washington isn’t the only state to implement such a ban (Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York have either banned or are in the process of banning dishwasher detergents containing phosphates), Spokane, for some suspect reason, has drawn the attention of critics who are claiming that residents are actually driving out of the state to get dishwasher detergents that do contain phosphates.
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Big business, I’m talking about industry behemoths, the likes of Walmart, Chevron and Clorox, have made recent moves in the direction of sustainability. Many instantly write off any action by these companies as greenwashing. It’s easy to do with Walmart’s ban on unionized labor, Chevron’s dubious Nigerian dealings and Clorox’s toxic ingredients.
However, Walmart is now the largest supplier of Organic Milk, Chevron is spending millions asking consumers to drive less and Clorox recently launched a green cleaning product. Is it possible there has been a fundamental shift in the priorities of big business? Or has Hell just had it’s first frost?
The Coca-Cola Company seems to believe sustainability is a matter of sound business strategy in the next millennium. Which is why in August of 2008, The Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC) brought the worlds leading environmental experts together with the worlds 150 largest retailers – the purpose, “Responding to the Growing Concern for the Environment.”
Mantria Corporation is a “diversified by necessity” $79 million company which focuses on green community development, socially responsible investing, distressed real estate fund management, mortgage banking, renewable energy and biorefinery management, music and entertainment, and philanthropy. Headquartered in Philadelphia with 63 employees, Mantria describes itself as the world’s first “life brand.” I spoke with CEO Troy Wragg, who founded the company in 2005, to get the scoop on all that’s going on with Mantria. I learned that amidst a whole host of interrelated programs, the concept of carbon negative development sits at Mantria’s core.
It sounds like you do a lot of different things. Tell me, what is Mantria Corporation?
Mantria was founded in 2005, when my partner and I put together $5,000 in student loan money and bought property in Tennessee and started developing. When the economy turned and real estate options became more limited, we were forced to diversity by necessity, and created a number of entities to branch us into other industries: mortgages, investor relations, investments, ultimately renewable energy.
Within biorefinery, we have started a joint venture with Carbon Diversion Inc (CDI) biorefinery to turn waste into bioproducts like biochar (biomass charcoal material used for soil amendment in industrials) and biofuels.
We are developing Mantria Place in Tennessee, the largest master planned community which consists of up to 6200 acres, on top of the Cumberland Plateau. We are developing 4500 home sites, which will be ready in 2011. This will be a sustainability themed community, which will also include an eco-village which will house carbon fields.
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The concepts behind stakeholder management seem to be so obvious, yet have been largely ignored for a long time by corporations that are now beginning to see the error of their ways. Taking into account all those that can impact your business as well as those your business impacts would seem to be common sense, if not for a 40-plus-year push from Milton Friedman followers which decided that economic success can only come from focusing on increasing shareholder value above all else.
The theory was that, if reaching out to communities, dealing with the media, developing stronger employee relations, and engaging competitors, special interest groups and NGOs would help increase shareholder value, then and only then would it be pursued by the company. Otherwise, if a direct line to profit could not be shown, these relationships were insignificant to the overall directive of increasing profits.