Sustainability Initiatives–Big vs. Small Companies

Tonight I attended a panel on sustainability. The main speaker owns Peak Organic Brewery, in Portland, Maine. A marketing consultant and a local-economies activist filled out the panel.

In the Q&A, I asked the marketing consultant–who works with everyone from startups to Quaker Oats–how it felt to walk the tense dance between helping microentrepreneurs change the culture, and moving big companies toward social/environmental responsibility even if at the expense of those startups.

She talked around the question, discussing the passion that not only the brewer, Jon Cadoux, expressed–but also one of her small clients who does a barbecue sauce, and how he hadn’t been interested in organics until she was able to hook into his passion.

But then Cadoux responded that if only people like him were brewing organic, it wouldn’t make enough of a ripple. For real change to happen, it has to involve the biggest companies. Now that Anheuser-Busch, which buys 50 percent of the US barley harvest, has introduced two organic beers, it will make it easier for Jon–who only does organic and never did anything else–to find sources for organic barley, maybe even local ones.

I think he’s got a good point. What do you think?

Shel Horowitz, author, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First
Founder, Business Ethics Pledge
Blogging on the intersections of ethics, marketing, politics, media, and sustainability