Think Green, Act Green, Create Green

Today, most companies have some type of environmental policy or social responsibility initiative in place as part of their brand identity or corporate mission. These efforts may vary in breath and depth, but in most cases, they all are focused on making a difference in the world in which we live, be it the condition of our planet or the lives of its inhabitants.

As a small agency, we have been fortunate to work with a number of clients over the past few years who not only have well-defined environmental policies and initiatives, but who have also taken a leadership role in protecting our environment. In addition, working in the youth and young adult market, we have the privilege of interacting every day with very passionate and highly focused young adults who view being environmentally-friendly not as a cause or policy, but as a way of life.

One day a little over a year ago, while a number of our team members and myself were fully immersed in a brainstorming session focused on creating a series of “green” promotions for a client, it struck me how little our agency was actually doing in this very important area. Here we were, day in and day out, creating exciting and engaging green initiatives for other companies, yet our agency wasn’t practicing what it preached.

After an impromptu discussion with senior management and few key members of our support team, it quickly became apparent that the time had come for our group to start making a difference, but where do we start?  Knowing very well that our agency didn’t possess either the financial or human resources to make a huge environmental impact was somewhat discouraging at first, before it eventually became the guiding mission for our future efforts. In fact, I’ll always remember the moment while we were in the midst of a passionate debate over what grandiose things our agency can do to “go green” that a member of our creative team insightfully stated, “Don’t forget, even small choices make a big difference.”  There it was, short and sweet, and as they say, the rest is history.

Using this statement as our focus, transitioning our standard operating procedures into ones that guided us to be environmentally responsible was easier than any of us thought. Maybe it was because we were all committed to this effort, or maybe because we employed a familiar method of focusing our efforts (see sidebar “The 5W’s of Going Green”), but whatever it was, the transition has been seamless and painless. Again, keep in mind that we are not talking about monumental changes here, but nonetheless, change is never easy no matter the size or scope.

So what exactly did we do? To start, we divided our efforts into the three key areas of how we operate i.e. “Think Green,” Act Green” and “Create Green.”  Under each of these banners, we brainstormed ideas of how we can make a positive difference on our environment. During this phase, we only had three ground rules:

1.    Keep our “reason for being” and our clients’ desired outcomes front and center at all times.

2.    All ideas should be financially possible and humanly attainable for our agency and our team.

3.    The ideas need to be non-threatening to anyone involved in our business including our team, associates, vendors and clients.

While we developed a number of very sound ideas under each of our key banners, following are the ones that I feel have been the most impactful thus far in our agency:

Think Green:
â–     Develop an icon for our initiative that can be used on all agency materials (both print and electronic) that keeps our green effort top of mind with team members.

â–     Apply a “Think Green” test to all strategies and ideas developed to ensure that our recommendations are as environmentally-friendly as possible.

â–     Adjust our creative process and tools to incorporate and use technology both in our infrastructure and in our client recommendations.

â–     Educate our team members, associates, vendors and partners on ways they can “think green” as well as on the positive impact their efforts will have on future generations. 

Act Green:
â–     Fully automate our internal traffic system eliminating the need for paper-based processes.

â–     “Green Up” our office by implementing such environmentally-friendly practices as fax paper recycling, electronic internal proofing, “lights off” when you’re out policies, and use of recycled or recyclable office products.

â–     Cease printing our quarterly newsletter and transition it to an electronic format for distribution to clients and associates.

â–     Disseminate client invoices and project information electronically whenever possible.

Create Green:
â–     Specify recycled papers and soy-based inks for printing whenever possible.

â–     Design to maximize the full sheet of paper, both sides, when printing materials as part of a project.

â–     Encourage and create the use of more electronic forms of communication (i.e. text messaging, blogs, websites, etc.) in projects whenever possible.

â–     Be innovative. Look for ways to do things differently and to do them in an environmentally-friendly manner.

There are many more ideas than those listed, but I think these give you the essence of how we embraced the notion that “small choices make a big difference.” 
We decided to do this because it was the right thing to do, not because it was another way to gain more business. All of our efforts have been very low-profile, and in fact, most of our clients don’t even know what we are doing in regard to going green.
Our goal was simple, our actions were simple, but the results have been nothing but incredible. If you take anything away from this article, I hope it is this…when it comes to our environment and even those other important areas of our lives, remember that “small choices make a big difference.”  PRN

This article was written by Peter Steve, Jr, chief creative officer of Ideaworks Marketing & Design. It was excerpted from the PR News Guide to Best Practices in Corporate Social Responsibility, Volume 2. To order a copy, visit the