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Leaping the Sustainability Divide

I’ve been on vacation for a couple weeks spending time in New Zealand, which seems to be a small country with a big commitment to integrating sustainability into daily life…but my blog posting on that will have to wait for another day. Because in the last week, I’ve run smack into several manifestations of what appears to be a growing “sustainability divide” with corporations and their brands opting to choose one side or the other.

I’ve been on vacation for a couple weeks spending time in New Zealand, which seems to be a small country with a big commitment to integrating sustainability into daily life…but my blog posting on that will have to wait for another day. Because in the last week, I’ve run smack into several manifestations of what appears to be a growing “sustainability divide” with corporations and their brands opting to choose one side or the other.

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1: Apple quits the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Usually things like this never make headlines. But Apple was the 5th company (and the first major consumer product company) to distance themselves from the C of C, all over their climate change policy. Remember back (‘twas only a few years ago) when the debate causing the split was “Is climate change real?” Although there are still a few rogue voices asking that question, now the critical question seems to be “Is regulating carbon good for business?” Just like that previous question, there are strong advocates on both sides. But just like the previous question, I wonder if, in a few years time, there will still be doubt about this as well.

 

2: Newsweek announces its Green Rankings of the US Fortune 500. Many forward-looking (and acting) brands are busy gaining business advantage from greater sustainability: energy savings, packaging reductions, GHG reduction, creating greener products to meet growing demand. Brands like HP, J&J, GE, and Wal-Mart have found business results as well as perceptual advantage, in standing firmly on the side of “sustainability is good business.” On the other side of this divide, some brands continue to keep their heads down hoping this green fad will just go away.

 

3:  At the Landor-sponsored “Growing Brands, Global Insight ” forum in NY last week, I was fortunate to speak to representatives of some brands identified as “greenest” in our 2009 ImagePower Green Brands study. And as one would expect, those first movers when it came to acknowledging sustainability and finding the business advantage are now busy considering the next issue: how to continue driving brand differentiation and brand advantage after every brand is required to be sustainable.

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For those who have been involved in the topic of sustainability for several years, sometimes it feels like we’re not making much headway. But lately, I’m beginning to feel that those corporations and brands that are laggards are in danger of falling even further behind…because those brands that ‘get it’ are already jumping ahead to solve the next problem. So where do you stand on the sustainability divide? And how quickly can you catch up?

 

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About the author

Russ is an expert on brands and sustainability, and currently serves as Global Director, Strategy and Insights for Siegel+Gale. Since becoming a marketing professional, Russ’s focus has been helping companies across the globe deliver remarkably clear and unexpectedly fresh brand experiences. His expertise includes corporate and brand positioning, communications strategy, account management as well as new product ideation and formulation. Russ is a frequent commentator on brands, business, and sustainability, and has been a guest lecturer at the University of California’s Haas School of Business and San Francisco State University

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