Going Green Shouldn’t be about the Green

September 28, 2009

As a public relations agency, we are responsible for portraying our clients’ stories and news in the best light. Every person in this industry has at one time or another used fluff, superlatives and excessive adjectives to promote products and companies. However, there is a fine line that PR professionals must teeter, but never cross when it comes to doing this job.

We’ve all heard of the term greenwashing. With the boom of “green” products it was only inevitable that every Tom, Dick and Harry would want to jump on the bandwagon. But a word of caution to every company who believes they have something to offer in the green space: do it for the right reasons (and no, increasing profits isn’t the right reason).  

I recently read this great article on Newsweek, “It Ain’t Easy Being Green”. The editor focuses on hotel chains that claim to be green by not changing towels and sheets everyday to reduce the amount of water and energy demands the hotel requires to run their washers. It’s a novel idea, however this tactic has some strong implications that the root of going green comes down to just that…the green. It’s no surprise that in these economic times companies are looking for ways to cut costs. But many are starting to cut costs and claim that they are going green. Do you ever wonder where the money the hotel is saving by not washing your towels everyday goes to? If you guess into their bottom line, ding ding, you’re correct. I have no problems with companies taking these measures to save resources, however I have a problem when companies claim they are being green, but what they really mean is they are saving green.

Going green means a company is taking the proper steps to ensure that ALL pieces of their business are reducing its environmental impact, not just the ones that will save them money. Going green costs money, especially in the short term. In looking at Newsweek’s recent “Greenest Big Companies in America”, the top big businesses that have gone green are doing it the right way. These companies are changing the way it does business, and looking at everything from operating costs to materials used and production, and finding how to do it with less of an impact on our environment.

Companies understand that offering green products is going to become a necessity. When promoting these products, make sure that it isn’t just a ploy to jump on the bandwagon, but that the company has a serious investment in doing what is right for the environment, not just the bottom line. You have to cover all of your bases when putting this product to market, otherwise you will take the wrath. “Green” forums, blogs and media are ruthless. If there are inconsistencies in your story or product, they will find them, and they will call you out – as they should.

When rolling out green products or green initiatives, make sure you do your homework. And read Katie’s Tips to Avoid Greenwashing on the basics of what to do and what not to do when promoting a “green”

Posted by: Lauren

Tips to Avoid CE Greenwashing

September 2, 2009

CE Pro magazine, a publication specializing in (you guessed it) consumer electronics and the custom installation professionals that sell, install and service them, recently published the “7 Deadly Sins of Greenwashing”. As “green” has become THE buzz word in recent years, more and more companies are (knowingly or innocently) participating in greenwashing practices: “making false of dubious claims about whether a product of service is green, or how green it is.”

CE journalism vet Steve Castle provides some great “Don’t!” tips for companies looking to manufacture or tout their environmentally-friendly (or not) products and services.

  • Hidden trade-offs: Don’t focus on one thing, like energy efficiency, and disregard another, like a product’s toxicity.
    Every little bit helps, but to claim true “green”, we are talking more than just the color!
  • No proof: You should have a third-party review of your claims.
    You’ve watched Law & Order, right? No proof = no case.
  • False claims: Don’t lie.
    Remember, everything we (should) know, we learned in kindergarten.
  • Vagueness: Don’t stretch the truth with claims like “all natural” that includes naturally occurring mercury, for example.
    PR professionals, take heed. Oh wait, that’s us! Note taken.
  • Lesser of Two Evils: Don’t say, “Sure it’s toxic, but it’s also energy efficient!”
    HA! Yes, that is a joke and dangerous for company.
  • Irrelevance: Don’t take something good, like LED lighting, and make its ecological virtues irrelevant by overusing.
  • Label Worship: Anschel cites the NAHB’s “Green Approved” product label as one that is available to many products and does not indicate a green certification.
    There are a number of resources and certification programs… The bottom line is be smart and stay true to the underlying goal – to create products and services that are more environmentally friendly to protect the Earth’s resources and natural state.

Great tips to follow to ensure you and your company are not inappropriately capitalizing on this tempting trend. The penance for these sins could be severe.

Posted by: Katie | follow @katieshort on Twitter

McDonald’s to Show Greener Side

August 18, 2009

In an effort to test various energy saving and waste-reducing methods, McDonald’s is evaluating 10 prototype “green” restaurant locations.

The restaurant is treating the 10 locations as “learning laboratories,” said McDonald’s Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility Bob Langert, in a Q&A with DailyFinance.

One of the green prototype stores, in the Chicago area, uses 25 percent less energy than similar locations.

Energy savings and waste reduction are central to McDonald’s corporate social responsibility strategy, Langert said. Globally, the restaurant consumes $1.7 billion annually in energy and it spends another $1.3 billion handling its waste. McDonald’s has more than 31,000 locations worldwide.

Reducing waste most often comes down to redesigning, trimming and using new materials for existing packaging, he said, with solutions that can be organically composted getting the most traction. “Turning waste into something that can be useful is our vision,” Langert told DailyFinance.

So far, finding a type of biodegradable packaging made from corn or other non-tree resources has proved fruitless, Langert said. Most such options have had problems with warping or not keeping the food warm, he said.

In other news, a McDonald’s location in Cary, N.C., which was built with an eye toward sustainability and energy efficiency, is offering drivers of electric cars use of a charging station on site.

In May, McDonald’s began an effort to show consumers its “greener” side with a new institutional marketing effort, “Global Best of Green.”

via Environmental Leader

Being Green & Going Crazy

November 22, 2008

Let’s face it – the person who coined the term green and used it to equivocate consumer products and helping the environment is a damn genius.  But it brings us back to a key point in this movement – the more I research, the more I’m realizing that green is less of a revolution and more of a giant marketing campaign.  Perhaps I sound very cynical – but here’s my point.  If companies like BP and DuPont can list themselves as “leaders of the green movement,” how can the movement hold any validity at all?  These are companies who were founded on the premise of super capitalism, not super conservation.  Nothing they have done in the decades they have been in business has even remotely helped the environment.  Al Gore does one moving documentary and suddenly everyone’s green?  I just don’t buy it.

This morning, on my quest to practice what I’ve been preaching, I changed a lot of lightbulbs in my home to CFLs.  Yes I realize these aren’t THE answer to saving the environment, but they do produce 2000 times less greenhouse gases as regular light bulbs and are proven energy savers.  I’ve got lamps in my house, I might as well NOT use a product that is extra wasteful, right?

I then examined the packaging these bulbs had come in.  They were your typical, heavy-duty, plastic containers that are almost impossible to open and require scissors and hedge trimmers to even crack the surface.  Huh.  Those can’t be very eco-friendly.  Even if I do tear apart the packaging, recycle the paper insert into my green bin and the plastic container from hell in the blue bin, how much was wasted in the production of this package?

Part of the problem with knowledge is that you find yourself examining things in a way you never thought you would and feeling frustrated at the layers you must dig through to find some actual truth.  It’s similar to the way I felt the semester following my first film class in college.  I stopped being able to watch movies with the sort of mindless abandon that I had previously enjoyed.  I was analyzing each frame, each shot, the plot, the characters, the dialogue.  It was exhausting.

Do we expect all consumers to think this deeply about their green choices?  Or is the label “green” enough for some people to feel good about saving the planet?  What do we do if the green revolution isn’t green at all?

Posted by: Ashley / ashleyatcaster

E-Recycle? More like E-Toxic Waste.

November 14, 2008

There has been a lot of talk about e-recycling programs around the country and how recycling your computer, TV, DVD player, iPod, etc you can help save the environment.  It sounds promising, as the story of how all this stuff gets made and what a huge negative impact it is having on our world is almost scary, but there seems to be an even more frightening behind what is actually going on.

CBS’ 60 Minutes has an exclusive story on following one such program and I warn you – it’s fairly depressing.  In an era of a green marketing boom, consumers are bombarded with programs and products that promise to help them live an eco-friendly lifestyle.  But this all begs the question – who do you believe?  How can we really know what is real and what is simply fraudulent?  This story has taught me to be much more vigilant and cautious when I read about a new green initiative. 

Read about this story here: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/11/06/60minutes/main4579229.shtml 

Posted by: Ashley / ashleyatcaster on Twitter