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The Day After Yesterday, Now What

The environment is hot right now (no pun intended).

The environment is hot right now (no pun intended).

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In the days and weeks leading up to Earth Day, businesses of all shapes and sizes jumped on the environmental bandwagon. Home Depot announced a line of environmentally friendly products and handed out a million energy efficient lightbulbs to customers for free over the weekend. Television networks and movie studios are rolling out green-themed storylines in their new shows this fall. The media got into the game as well with dozens of magazines publishing green issues and institutions like The Washington Post and National Geographic launching unique “green” content sites (the Washington Post’s new site, for example, is http://sprig.com).

And that is just the tip of the iceberg (again, no pun intended)

Consumers are demanding these changes and are willing to take action at the check out counter if it is necessary. According to research released last week by Cone Inc (full disclosure: I am the Director of New Media for Cone) “Americans are calling on companies to be proactive in their day-to-day operations when it comes to the environment” and solid majorities support meaningful company actions including:

– Reducing pollution through office and manufacturing operations- 71%
– Designing products/packaging with more environmentally-friendly contents and minimal packaging- 69%
– Distributing and transporting products more efficiently- 69%
– Communicating environmental efforts to consumers and employees so each group can support those efforts- 62%
– Donating money to environmental causes- 59%
– Lobbying for environmentally-friendly policies- 57%

It is still unclear whether companies who are launching these initiatives are doing so becasue they are truly concerned about the impact they are having on the environment or because there is a huge market opportunity in this space. I am less concerned about the motivation driving corporate action in the green space than I am about the actions themselves. It would be nice if the global business community really was in it for the right reasons – and many are – but it is enough for me that they are starting to take action.

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But how organizations approach ‘going green’ is an important. The companies that helped start this movement in the business community have been largely driven by a core vision and philosophy that is about their place in the world community, not the financial return they will receive. They happen to have been successful, and made a lot of money in many cases, but changing the way business operates and how consumers act has always been their core focus and it will remain their primary motivation. As new entrants flood into this space (again, no pun intended), they are bringing their old-school business models and marketing plans — talking about all the good work they are doing, but still clinging to many of their old practices and old ways of thinking. I have no doubt that the commitments they are making now are genuine, but whether they will actually be able to change, or end up paying lip service in the interest of selling product down the line, is a big question still.

There are a lot of things about the way businesses operate today that need to change. The push towards a more environmentally friendly business community has finally gone mainstream, with businesses and consumers, so the stage is set for a radical transformation. Let’s just try to make sure all the announcements and pledges of action are real and commit, as a community to doing it right.

Direct of New Media, Cone Inc. • Boston, MA • breich@coneinc.com www.coneinc.com

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