To be, or not to be

It's exam time.

It’s exam time.

Every time someone surveys the citizenry as to how they feel about companies that do good by the community and the planet, the numbers come back overwhelmingly in support of the obvious. Kinder, gentler corporate initiatives equal outright affinity in the aisles. For youth, as per the Statsthought (p. 21), the importance of a company’s commitment to conservation is continuing to grow in importance and as a condition of association. So it should be no surprise that the recent flurry of more robust CSR efforts, especially those in the green palette, are still paying off when times are tougher.

The retailers and insiders interviewed in our ‘Green 2.0′ Biz feature say green stewardship is giving them a competitive edge, and it’s not just a halo effect. Now that many eco-friendly options come with comparable price tags, shoppers have fewer Hamlet-esque dithers over saving money or saving the planet.

Strategy looks at Green 2.0 through the lens of retail this issue, as it encompasses the efforts of suppliers as well as the reaction of shoppers, plus operational areas which any organization must sort on the road to better planet custodianship. Green 2.0 (p. 11) covers the more advanced, comprehensive stages of overall greening that some early-in retailers have now achieved, and looks at how the progress has both raised the bar and paved the way for others.

The 2009 Cause + Action Award winners (p. 29) also set the bar for both individual brand and company-level ways to spark positive change. Our judges were impressed by the tangible results achieved by the winners, and commented on how both the causes taken on and the methodology employed to trigger action were organically linked to the brands. That typically requires an authentic platform in place to build from. And as our top C+A winner Cisco’s One Million Acts of Green proves, where there’s a will – and great partners – there’s a million ways.

This is where we get to the examination part. Last week, mid-conversation, one CD abruptly went off on a tangent: ‘whatever happened to the ****ing paperless society?’ I, at the other end of the phone, also pawing for a document through the weekly detritus of documents, piles of press releases and sundry odd items accompanying various creative mailings, concurred. So, in the spirit of Cisco’s OMAofG challenges, strategy is putting the following observation out there for the industry: there are lots of creative ways to have your message stand out that do not involve creating landfill fodder.

For instance, we get weird shit in the mail, some of which is created just for the press, some of which is destined for a wider audience. We’ve received items the size of a fingernail contained in layers of posh packaging seemingly inspired by Russian nesting dolls, culminating in inexplicably large final vessels (which we can only assume are the handiwork of thwarted-covert-op mailroom employees) and leaving us with piles of garbage.

Some items accompanying press releases can be helpful, like when it’s a new chocolate bar that needs to be experienced, but not when it’s a pen or a mug with a logo on it (although those at least we can use, unlike, say, a single shoe – and yes, that is an actual example, and has happened more than once). I once received a moldy plum pudding shipped from Australia to promote an animated Christmas show. It was terrifying and hilarious. But now all that creativity, which used to be impressive, just seems kind of wrong.

For inspiration, check out Vancity Visa’s ecoEnvelopes (p. 6), and ponder if there’s one thing you can change, and maybe even challenge a partner to do their bit as well (it works for Walmart).

Most of the stories this issue cover eco or cause-related initiatives, so there’s lots of good ideas to kick-start discussion. Also, check out the first installment of strategy’s Next Media Stars (p. 23), and learn a digital trick or two about efficient targeting. It’s not green, but their plans are great examples of minimal waste.

cheers, mm

Mary Maddever, exec editor, strategy, Media in Canada and stimulant