Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Enlightenment as entertainment

The boundaries between the inside and outside of organisations are blurring. People are talking to each other. Employees chat. Customers chat. Suppliers chat. More to the point, consumers are increasingly interested in this new wave of 'business gossip'.

The proof in the pudding? Last night's TV! In a one hour documentary, Channel 4 ripped through every element of Coca-Cola's value chain, accusing the iconic brand of environmental damage, human rights violations and questionable business practices.

How many of us watched? 2.5 million!

Brand Transparency means facing truths about your organisation. Avoiding wishful thinking. Changing what is not good enough. And being straightforward in your dealings with your inner, and outer audiences.

Why is it this more important than ever? Because consumers seem to be becoming interested. Positioned in the right way, they even enjoy it. Especially if enlightenment, is wrapped in entertainment.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor

River Cottage is great.

Yes, it’s about food. But it’s also about downshifting, and I think green can learn a lot from content like this.

You could even argue that River Cottage is green. The thing is, it’s peripheral to everything else. That’s the thing about green. Green shouldn’t even be, green.

It’s all about a better, happier way of life.

Bring your own

A super shop called Unpackaged opened up nearby, last week. The idea is so simple: bring your own packaging.

“We believe that most packaging is unnecessary so we’re doing something about it.

The result is Unpackaged- the new way for you to shop safe in the knowledge that you’ve not created any waste that’s going to end up in a landfill.

We want you to bring your own containers for us to fill up with your favourite things and we’ll make it cheaper if you do. We know that it isn’t always easy to remember so we can also offer reusable containers that you can bring back next time.

Choose from our range of organic wholefoods (e.g. rice, cereals & grains) and eco-cleaners, where everything is as good for you as it is for the environment”

They even provide a service called Plastic Surgery - you can take your old plastic bags to them and they will recycle them!

This is a super idea in looking at the value chain, and asking "how do we give consumers responsibility and get them to contribute?"

Your typical value chain consists of:

- Inbound logistics
- Operations
- Outbound logistics
- Marketing and sales
- Service

How about empowering and involving consumers in other areas, too? For example:

- Marketing and sales: An Online website and word of mouth are the most carbon efficient form of comms. How do we empower consumers and make them the nucleus of our green advertising plans? Check this book out for starters.

Do you have any ideas for other areas of the value chain?

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Slowing down = greening up

There is a cool article in this week’s Ecologist magazine about ‘downshifting’.

Put simply, it’s about living more simply, slowing down; about making life less frantic and fraught. It values time over money and possessions – which means more time and reducing the amount of stuff you buy.

Why is slowing down, green? By slowing down a gear you’re racing around less, you live with less and are more resourceful. It’s about gradual, action by action, rather than any radical shift.

Check out Natalie’s blog, who calls herself a ‘bog-standard, Jo Bloggs downshifter’. Since living the downshifting dream, she says that “downshifting makes you happier, improves your quality of life, gets you more involved in your community, and helps the environment”.

According to Datamonitor, there are 12 million Natalies across Europe! So how do we downshift?

- Analyse your finances – 86% of women have bought clothes that have remained on the hanger ever since!
- Cut up your credit card
- Freecycle stuff you don’t want any more – the more stuff you have, the more there is to tidy!
- Cook a meal, using seasonal ingredients
- Take all of your holiday

Do you have any other ideas? Wow. Downshifting makes me relax just writing about it. Time to get a white tea :-)

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Hilary gets caught bathing in green

Hilary Clinton personifies the opposite of brand transparency, and a consequence of greenwashing.

Living on earth may be expensive, but it does include an annual free trip around the sun

Actually, green isn’t expensive. Which is why the guys at The Good Human (great name) have come up with ten ways to convince a non-green that going green, saves money.

1. By installing a low flow shower head, you reduce your water bill.
2. With a programmable thermostat, your electric bill could be cut in half.
3. Next time you need a car, check out some smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. (Check our Act On CO2 Best On CO2 Car Rankings if you're thinking about buying a car anytime soon)
4. Pick up a faucet water filter for $25 and stop buying bottled water. A one time cost of $25 lasts for about 3 months…how much does bottled water cost?
5. Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL’s. You can reduce your light bill by 1/3 if you replace every bulb in your house. Plus, they last up to 10 years!
6. Next time you are in the market for furniture, see if you can buy it used. Could save you a ton of money!
7. Baking soda and vinegar can create a cleaning agent for almost anything. Cost? $2.00 or so.
8. Check books out of your local library instead of buying something you will only read once. A book a month adds up to a lot over the course of a lifetime!
9. Buy products in bulk. Saves money, saves waste. Come on, you know your Uncle loves Costco anyway!
10. Encourage the use of manual tools rather than gas powered ones. A main culprit? The lawnmower. A reel mower is cheaper, cleaner, and provides free exercise.

There’s a lot of debate about whether fuel economy messages are right for green. Like any innovation, green innovations need to have a genuine utility and use that exist beyond ‘green’.

The big Q is “what extent is the new product better than the one it is replacing?” The more better, the better. Which is why within a hierarchy of messages (I’m not suggesting that fuel economy should be higher up than green), it’s important to think about the other relative advantages of green innovations.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

This Xmas - If I am what I have, and I lose what I have, who am I?

In his brilliant books, Erich Fromm talks about how ‘Having’ modes of living (acquiring, owning and making profit) and how it provides little happiness in comparison to that of ‘Being’ - based on giving, sharing meaningful, creative, and productive experiences.

What’s interesting about this Christmas is that the ‘Being’ mode is really coming to the fore. Yes, Christmas has always been about giving. Yet this year, there’s substance!

This is the Christmas Oxfam ad, which encourages people to buy gifts for others (rather than my 'having' Xmas list) that really make a difference to the lives of people less fortunate than themselves.

The folk at Good Gifts also offer a variety of gifts such as beehives (in developing countries, honey is a popular source of nutrition) and a flock of ducks in rural India that eat venomous serpent, and snails that destroy crops.

They have proof that this shift is gradually coming to the fore too…

- 30,000 people benefited from your gift of beehives.
- Over 150 villages now have fresh water where there was none before.
- Over 4,000 children in developing countries have been given the gift of sight.
- More than 50,000 goats have passed through our goat bank.
- An estimated 150,000 orphans have been helped through orphans' dowries.

Erich Fromm also says that “Not he who has much is rich, but he who gives much”. His ideas may have been slightly utopian back then, but if you have any other Xmas examples, throw them into Santa's sack! :-)