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Beyond Sustainable: A Call for Transparency

Words by 3p Contributor
Leadership & Transparency

By David L. Phillips

When the numbers seem stacked against you, stay positive.

Statistics can be ugly – only 50 percent of firms survive their first five years and up to 95 percent of new products fail in their first year.

Green numbers tell a different story about consumer and investor choices:

  • 65 percent of shoppers feel a sense of responsibility to purchase products that are good for the environment.

  • Greener industries grow faster than the overall economy.

  • The green building segment grows even during periods when the overall U.S. construction industry shrinks.

  • Sustainable and socially responsible companies are more profitable.

Several reports, including "The Big Green Opportunity," show a steady rise in sustainable products compared to traditional. Along with the demand for more green goods and services comes a shift in consumer awareness that will extend to every industry.

Business strategist Jeffrey Hollender calls this Radical Transparency and explains how it can be used as a powerful tool to transform ordinary businesses into responsible and profitable entities. Transparency can take several forms.

Publicly sharing activities preempts critics; more eyes on company activities yields more supporters. Radical transparency leads to partnerships that may be a step toward overcoming deficiencies. Green companies do not “go it alone." Companies that execute real transparency have advocates like the Clean Technology Trade Alliance. CTTA forges partnerships among select member companies who share values and share customers seeking sustainable solutions.

Radical transparency can increase employee morale and productivity. At ReWall, we encourage employee participation in all areas of the business. The benefits are evident. Our latest product, EssentialBoard+, was developed by our Facility Manager who transformed a problem into an advantage. He saw an opportunity in a truckload of recycled input material that contained a different plastic content than our usual mix. Today we have a new product with an even higher moisture resistance.

Healthy building materials are a hot topic. It is frustrating when the government enacts regulations to limit exposure to certain chemicals but there is resistance in the marketplace -- even with safe, affordable alternatives. Even the best small companies don't have the marketing budgets to go up against industry giants who have been selling the same products to the same installers for years. Today, thanks to Internet searches and consumer disposition, the new kid with a great product can get the message in the hands of a discriminating consumer.

According to the Center for Association Leadership, demanding consumers have now gotten downright nosy.... Soothing language in marketing materials no longer cuts it. Details, people. We want details about our stuff and your stuff. This consumer expectation is way beyond buying "green" or Fair-Trade certified. We demand meaningful interaction with our professional advisors, our children's schools, our food suppliers and our building materials vendors.

Stop telling your customers and prospects how great you are.

Show them what you are made of.

This is radical transparency.

Image credit: Flickr/likeablerodent

David L. Phillips is the CEO of The ReWall Company, the first and only US company to recycle milk and juice cartons into a durable, mold resistant, and healthy substitute for drywall, plywood, and other components of our built environment. He works his butt off at the factory bringing a sustainable solution to two industries. When he gets home he is happy being merely comfortably sustainable.

3p Contributor

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