Earth Day an Annual Reminder of CSR Authenticity and Transparency

On Sunday, April 22, 2012, Earth Day will be upon us. And not only will millions of individuals—maybe a billion—around the world pledge money and time to help clean up the environment, so will a plethora of brands, some that have far-reaching corporate social responsibility programs that tie strategically into their business goals—and some that will execute one-off environmental campaigns.

A look at the Earth Day Network site ( shows exponential growth of the movement, from 20 million Americans participating in the first Earth Day in 1970, to the more than 1 billion expected next month. EDN works with more than 22,000 partners in 192 countries to help clean up the environment—that’s a lot of campaigns.

For brands, much has changed in the environmental space in 40-some years—especially in the last three or four years.

“Greenwashing” was a much-used term in CSR circles three years ago. Now, says Tara Greco, not so much. Greco, senior VP in APCO Worldwide’s corporate responsibility practice, says false environmental claims by brands caused a painful consumer backlash. “Companies became much more authentic in communicating their green programs,” says Greco.

Yet there’s one important aftereffect: There is now a perception that if a product is green, there’s a trade-off in quality, says Greco.

It’s up to the brand to dispel that perception, and household products maker method is one company that’s achieved just that, says Greco. “Method’s products are built with sustainability at their core, but they still project quality,” she says. “Plus, they have an emotional appeal as well.”


While Greco says Earth Day still has an “earthy,” almost fringe image, the day is coming into its own as a launching pad for green initiatives—and thus a launching pad for green communications trends, says Jonathan Yohannan, executive VP, and head of Cone Communications ’ corporate responsibility practice. Those trends include:

1. Packaging: Innovation is on the rise, because packaging is what consumers can touch and interact with, says Yohannan. Procter & Gamble’s Pantene brand recently introduced plastic packaging made from plant-based sugarcane. And Deer Park water, a Cone client, has reduced the amount of PET plastic in its bottles by 60% (see the Green Case 2 for more details).

2. Second Life: How can the consumer turn trash to treasure? Recycled motor oil is being used by NASCAR, and used tires become soles for Timberland shoes. “This is something that makes people feel good about using a product,” says Yohannan.

3. No Green for Green’s Sake: In 2008 it was the trendy thing to do, but now it’s about the efficacy of the product, says Yohannan. “There has to be a consumer benefit—meeting their needs and price, and a social benefit is third.”

4. Better stories: Companies have been successful in driving sustainability and efficiency, says Yohannan. What is lacking is the ability to communicate those stories to the public. “There is a lot of unrealized value because brands haven’t figured out how to leverage their successes,” he says. Better stories will translate into better and bigger brands.

One brand that has been telling a pretty effective green/sustainability story is Glad. Its One Bag campaign is about individuals taking small green steps—keeping trash down to just one bag by recycling and composting (see Green Case 2 for details).

Of course, the bags most suited to getting everything in one bag are from Glad. According to Molly Steinkrauss, associate PR manager at The Clorox Company (Glad’s parent firm), Earth Day figures heavily into the One Bag program—this year they’ll be at Clorox plants around the country spreading the One Bag message internally.


As Earth Day approaches, keep two concepts in mind for your green efforts. The first is “creating shared value” (CSV). Born from a 2011 article that appeared in the Harvard Business Review, the central premise behind the term is that the competitiveness of a company and the health of the communities around it are mutually dependent.

And the second and perhaps most important concept is transparency. This goes well beyond green and composting, says Greco. It’s having a system in place to track and report green efforts, such as making use of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to record green progress.

Keep those two in mind and Earth Day for your brand will be something to truly celebrate. PRN


Jonathan Yohannan,; Tara Greco,; Molly Steinkrauss,

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

Comments Off


About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

Deals of the Week

$150 Off PR News' Social Media Summit

socialmedia201602-180x150Join PR News in Huntington Beach, CA on Feb. 26 for the Social Media Summit, where you'll be immersed in real-world, tactical case studies from brands, nonprofits and agencies and get takeaways in pulling and analyzing social media data; emerging social platforms and apps and so much more. 

Use code “150” at checkout to save $150 o the regular rate.

$50 off the CSR & Green PR Guidebook

csr_vol7_print_digital-thumbPR News’ CSR & Green PR Guidebook, Vol. 7 captures best practices in communicating the positive relationships that organizations are building with their communities of interest. This six-chapter guidebook connects the dots between the effective communication of positive social contributions and corresponding improvements in bottom lines.

Use code “50off” at checkout.

Save $100 on a PR News Subscription



Let PR News become your weekly, go-to resource for the latest PR trends, case studies and tip sheets. Topics covered include visual storytelling, social media, measurement, crisis management and media relations.

Use code “SUBDEAL” at checkout.

Comments are closed.