‘Go green’ goes down
Firms push ads that appeal to more than taste buds.About two years ago Sustainable Industries—along with every media outlet—started receiving “going green” press releases en masse. It seemed everyone was touting their green measures, even if they didn’t amount to much more than a change of logo color or a tricked out annual report.
But today, because both the media and its consumers have matured a bit in relation to what they view to be truly “green,” companies need to stretch much further to garner attention for their environmental initiatives.
“It used to be that putting a solar array on your rooftop would get media attention, but those days are gone,” says Jennifer Maxwell-Muir, founder and president of Portland-based Maxwell PR.
Such is the case in part because everybody’s doing it. Sustainability—for better or for worse—has trickled into board rooms large and small. To differentiate themselves in 2009, companies are going to have to rethink—and retool—how they tell their sustainable business story. Those with an authentic story will have an easier time of it, but that doesn’t mean they’re not concerned.
In the past year, Sustainable Industries has talked to several authentic sustainable business leaders who noted that it was getting more difficult to provide consumers with real information above the chatter. “My sense is there will be a backlash over the next three to four years about sustainability, caused by concerns about ethanol and rising food costs, and we need to be prepared for that and consistent in telling our story and why it makes sense,” Dave Williams, president of Ilwaco, Wash.-based ShoreBank Pacific, told us in April 2008.
Peter Truitt of Oregon-based Truitt Brothers cannery echoed Williams’ concerns in a more recent interview. “There is so much conversation going on about these topics that I personally worry that some folks are just straying from really good solid information,” Truitt said in October 2008.
According to Laurie Demeritt, president and COO of Seattle-based market research firm The Hartman Group, getting the right information out to consumers is not just about garnering media attention; it’s about attracting customers as well. As her company prepares to issue its latest sustainability report, Demeritt notes that while a lot of consumers are aware of environmental issues and believe that corporate environmental responsibility is important, actions such as reporting carbon emissions are not in the purview of most consumers. Demeritt places such things in the “nice, and maybe useful as a tie-breaker between two companies” category.