Just a Green-Tinged Thought…

Posted on January 15, 2008 
Filed Under General

Recently, I’ve been asked to address the concept of “green” PR a number of times. Not that this is unusual–after all, I’ve covered “green” in PR News many times. However, a recent request to come up with green-related questions for a panel on corporate responsibility got me thinking: Why the obsession with “green” when it does nothing to address bigger CR issues? Green implies all things environmental, but what about fair labor practices, human rights issues, etc.? Green is something that Hollywood glitterati can wrap their arms around, making (fashion) statements with their hybrid vehicles and their eco-friendly bags. But this doesn’t have the longevity of a real, world-changing movement towards good business. Even I am old enough to remember the last green movement, which, as we all know, faded into oblivion as quickly as scrunchies and spandex.

If you accept this argument as sound, what is the best label for “good” business practices? Sustainability? Corporate citizenship? Corporate responsibility? What will give initiatives the best chance of enduring time, rather than just languishing as a momentary trends?

I don’t have the answer, but I thought I’d pose the question …

By Courtney Barnes

Comments

  • John P. Katsantonis

    Anyone who wasn’t at the very first Earth Day (….who was alive at the time, that is….) who’s now espousing “Greenitude” needs to shut up for 90 days. (Mister Gore, I’m looking at YOU…)

    That should quiet things down for ya.

  • http://rdwgroup.com Guy Shaffer

    Holy cow John, when the ship is sinking, it doesn’t matter who is holding a bucket, just let them bail. We’re all going down with this ship!

    BTW I was there… in Philly at Independence Mall on the first Earth Day… I forget what happened so you know it’s true.

  • John P. Katsantonis

    HAH……..right you are, on all counts!!

    So, if you were there, than you’ll vote for my campaign to make “Nature’s Way” by Spirit (from TWELVE DREAM OF DR. SARDONICUS) the official Green Tune: “It’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong….” followed closely by “Animal Zoo” (“…much too fat, and a little too long……”), right???

    BTW, I kinda like George Carlin’s take on the whole thing, from 10-12 years back: how arrogant of us, to think that we can “save the Earth.” The Earth does not need Us, we need It. So The Earth will shrug us off, like so many lice, and be JUST FINE. (Think about it. You know he’s not wrong, dontcha???)

  • Michal Stahilevitz, Professor of Marketing

    It’s all good, so why attack it?
    Consumers buying fair trade coffee, consumers prefering to buy from companies that treat employees well, consumers choosing brands that participate in cause-related marketing: It is all good, as even when the impact is small, it is in the right direction. Companies doing the right thing in whatever way they choose is good for the earth, good for consumers (who feel the warm glow of doing the right thing, even when it is on a small scale) and good for the companies that get involved, because consumers are often willing to pay more for brands that “do good.” Brand equity and brand loyalty can both be improved by combining products with helping make the world a better place. Companies involved in such practices is even good for employees and stock holders who are happy to be working at and invested in a company that does the right thing. In short, regardless what you call it, I think the trend is a good one. Green does not take away from other aspects of social responsibility, it is just one of many ways to do good. So lets encourage it, and at the same time, we can work on the terminology, and reminding firms that green is just one of many ways to have a positive impact that will make everyone feel better about the choices they make as consumers.

  • Michal Stahilevitz, Professor of Marketing

    It’s all good, so why attack it?
    Consumers buying fair trade coffee, consumers prefering to buy from companies that treat employees well, consumers choosing brands that participate in cause-related marketing, and consumers preferring green products: It is all good, as even when the impact is small, it is in the right direction. Companies doing the right thing in whatever way they choose is good for the earth, good for consumers (who feel the warm glow of doing the right thing, even when it is on a small scale) and good for the companies that get involved, because consumers are often willing to pay more for brands that “do good.” Brand equity and brand loyalty can both be improved by combining products with helping make the world a better place. Companies involved in such practices is even good for employees and stock holders who are happy to be working at and invested in a company that does the right thing. In short, regardless what you call it, I think the trend is a good one. Green does not take away from other aspects of social responsibility, it is just one of many ways to do good. So lets encourage it, and at the same time, we can work on the terminology, and reminding firms that green is just one of many ways to have a positive impact that will make everyone feel better about the choices they make as consumers.

  • John P. Katsantonis

    A thought so nice, it posted twice!! ::))

    (Not attacking “it,” or anything. Read more closely, Doc.)

  • http://www.marek-co.com Annemarie Marek

    Michal makes a good point. Any step forward is better than two backward. I earned my stripes marching on the first Earth Day in San Antonio, Texas. Still, it seems that two questions should be asked of anyone who speaks about “green” with ease.

    The first question is personal: Do you know how much you consume? To change your lifestyle, you must take a baseline measurement, then focus on reducing your footprint. One step forward…

    The second question is political: For any community or neighborhood that is being developed, each of us should ask that developer, builder, retail merchant, business owner and, even, resident, what will you bring that’s green? In other words, how will you improve our local habitat? Another step forward…

    Keep these questions handy, ask them and make people think individually and collectively.

  • michal strahilevitz

    HUGE APOLOGY! I did not mean to post twice.
    I actually have thought more about this. I don’t think good deeds compete. I think that starting with one aspect of social responsibility often leads to moving on to the next. So if a company starts recycling and encouraging car pooling, the next thing you know they may be allowing employees to take time off for volunteer work… and then before long you have the company thinking: Perhaps we should work on a fair-trade line of our product, start a cause-related marketing campaign, and/or look into solar heating for our offices. It seems that the warm glow of giving is not something people and companies satiate on. They feel good when they do good, and then they are motivated to do more good things so they can feel better. A major bonus is that it makes consumers, employees and investors also feel warm glow to know they are buying from, working for and investing in good companies. So as it benefits the company, the company is again motivated to do more good. So as far as I am concerned, the green obsession is not taking away from other aspects of CSR… it may in fact be a good starting point that leads more companies to explore other aspects of CSR they can also pursue. I am going to try hard to only post this once! (Thanks for being so forgiving!). Michal Ann Strahilevitz, Professor of Marketing, Golden Gate University, San Francisco, CA.

  • John P. Katsantonis

    My primary concern = “Doing the right thing because it might be profitable” needs to be expunged from all thinking.

    Some things must just be done in the public good. For example, why should Amtrak or other forms of public transportation need to show a profit, necessarily??? Of course, we’re in the era of “small government,” AKA “Just enough government to make sure the fat cats stay fat.”

    As we say, “If you’re hopping on the bandwagon, you’ve already missed the boat.” ::))

    But there are some companies, products, and services that are naturally Green, and others that are naturally….what….RED???

    A friend of mine in Alaska calls it “Global Swarming.” I like that more, as time progresses.

    thanks~jk

  • http://www.creatingresults.com Erin Read Ruddick

    JK, I love the “global swarming” moniker because I look at it from a slightly different perspective. I feel much of the PR obsession with “green” stems from the media’s pack mentality.

    The media pack seems to love trends, fads. They’re easy to report on and seem to guarantee readership. So the media are now swarming around “green.” And PR people follow. It’s easier to pitch what the media wants to hear.

    A housing industry trade group I work with just held their annual symposium this week. I had been working hard pitching a local business reporter to attend. Thought I had a fabulous story, too – only one day after the Fed dropped the cost of money 3/4 of a point, we had a panel of experts who loan money to builders and developers. And that money flows down to the reduced cost of housing for consumers. What a great angle to a very timely national story!

    The reporter listened to my pitch and said “what else is on the agenda?” I mentioned there would be a session on choosing green materials for housing and she brightened right up. Why? Looked like global swarming to me.

    That said, our agency offers full service marketing. Whenever possible, we try to increase brand loyalty AND use a green approach to the trade. Value engineering printed pieces to reduce waste. Choosing paper products that are recycled. In many cases, counseling our clients to skip paper and choose email communications. There’s more, but I’ve already taken too much space, so …

    Thanks.

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