mackenzieyelvington


Really Give Them Something to Talk About

Green washing, the practice of boasting about sustainable practices that are either exaggerated or non-existent with the hopes of gaining conscious consumers, is a problem. However, businesses should not let the fear of being accused of green washing deter it from talking about its sustainable initiatives.

Quite a few companies have been criticized for green washed marketing, including Exxon Mobile, BP, H&M and Walmart, just to name a few. Green washing is often achieved by taking a small sustainable initiative and exaggerating upon it to appeal to consumers who want responsibly produced products.

As you can see in the Walmart ad below, the marketer has taken a great practice such as recycling, which can be applied to many areas of business, applied it to one product, and then proceeded to claim that they have, “Budget friendly prices. Earth friendly products.”

If one was to survey Wal-Mart’s product offering to gage how many of the products were actually “Earth-friendly,” they would probably not find as many products as the commercial may lead a consumer to believe. Marketers that prey on their targeted consumer’s environmental and social consciousness such as this one, scare brands that are making genuine strides toward smarter, more sustainable business practices out of talking about those strides for fear of condemnation.

This is a problem. Companies, such as Tom’s, Patagonia, North Face and even Coca-Cola that are truly attempting to make their brand more responsible internally and externally, and they should be able to proudly share their efforts with their consumers without fear of being labeled as green washers.

In a 45 second clip on Patagonia’s YouTube channel, Rick Ridgeway VP of Environmental Initiatives talks about a partnership between Patagonia and Ebay that encourages consumers to shop responsibly, by purchasing quality made items and putting them back into the market.

When a company practices sustainability rather than just marketing it, it tends to be infused throughout the company. When one understands the benefits of using minimal resources (environmental, monetary, etc.), living as a community and encouraging others to do the same, talking about it tends to be genuine.


Don’t Just Talk Green, Walk Green

While doing research for this blog, I recently came across the Sustainable Brands conference, which I hope to attend sometime. The Sustainable Brands conference allows people from various industries to meet and share their ideas about sustainable brand messaging and living up to the messaging.

A theme seemed to be that truly understanding sustainability allows organizations to implement sustainable initiatives internally and externally in the company. These initiatives show the company’s commitment to sustainability rather than just talking about it. Raphael Bemporad, principle at BBMG, led one of the sessions of the 2012 conference. I found the video of the presentation on YouYube, and it was such an insightful presentation that I wanted to share.

In the presentation, Bemporad discusses disrupt and delight, where he outlines five principles of sustainable brand innovation and communication which I have briefly outlined below:

  • Start with what’s sacred; a community that holds the same things as sacred will work together better.

i.            Chipotle and its responsible food sourcing practices

  • Design holistically; the good of the element is the good of the whole.

i.            Levi’s and its Water<Less denim design

  • Create collaboratively; consumers and employees can act as co-creators.

i.            Unilever’s Needs and Wants online, notifies consumers of research and development issues that need solutions

  • Play breeds creativity; it allows us to see our work with fresh eyes.

i.            “People who play video games actively are more creative…” Michigan State University study

  • How to connect and spread delight; being more creative and delightful with your consumers will encourage change in them.

i.            Warby Parker Eyeglasses; social enterprise to sell product 1:1 business model

These principles remind companies to integrate sustainability into every level of business. This total integration makes talking about the sustainable initiatives much easier for employees, because people better retain information through actual practice rather than memorization.

When it comes to sustainable messaging the time old saying, “Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk,” holds true. If a company wants to join in the sustainability conversation, it should consider business from the ground up, and decide if it can be doing anything smarter, cleaner, more inclusively and more intuitively.

Sustainability is a lifestyle; its integration into a company’s environment will encourage behavioral change within its employees.After this has been done, the sustainable messaging will coalesce organically and a company will have a new story which will warrant sharing.


Your Sustainable Message: Who Knows?

In PR we recognize that interactions at all levels of business should be considered when thinking about strategic communication. This, of course, includes a company’s consumers, but it also includes its employees, stakeholders, and the society in which it functions.

Printing messages of sustainability on packaging and putting them in media is a great way to get the word out, but one should not count out the importance of conveying your ongoing sustainability efforts to your internal publics as well.

Word of mouth advertising is powerful; it allows a company’s marketing messages to be conveyed by a third party source that is often credible to the message receiver. In Anatomy of Buzz, author Emanuel Rosen says that if a person receives a message on an advertisement and heard a different message about a competing product from a friend, that person is more likely to buy the product endorsed by their friend because they trust them more.

This applies in sustainable messaging as well.  If the general public, stakeholders and employees are informed about your company’s sustainable efforts, they are likely to talk about them with people they know, who in turn will hopefully share the information with their friends.

This highlights the importance of having clear, concise and consistent messaging. If a key message has clear meaning and is concise and consistent across all platforms, it is much easier to remember and share. Also the message will be spread more quickly if the benefit is meaningful and clear.

Making sure employees know about the company’s sustainability effort will help them have meaningful conversations with customers who may care to know. It will also allow them to casually bring it up in conversation if they feel it may increase a customer’s loyalty.

Consumers feel good when their money goes to a cause other than consumerism; arming as many publics as possible with the right sustainable messages helps them know that supporting your company is supporting a good cause as well.

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Strategic Storytelling

A strong component of sustainability messaging is the ability to tell a story. Story telling allows the company to connect with the consumer’s emotions, experience or logic. It can turn almost abstract sounding facts to tangible, relatable experiences.

There are multiple kinds of stories to tell and countless ways to tell them, and a company should strategically decide which kind and method is best for each story and each target audience. Some stories may be best told with a video clip for YouTube or a commercial, while others may be number heavy and best convey through info-graphics and shared on a company blog and social media platforms.

As mentioned above, each story and target audience will need to be considered when a company decides to tell its story. The Coca-Cola Company executes sustainable story telling by putting the right information in the right places. For Example, the Stories page on Coke’s website includes a Coca-Cola by the Numbers info-graphic that displays quick but impactful numbers of Coke’s success thus far.

cokefacts

It is an effective way to quickly convey pretty impressive information.

Coca-Cola also has a recycling campaign, you may have seen if you have been to the State Fair of Texas or a recent NASCAR race. The large footprint consists of a live DJ who talks about Coke’s recycling efforts and tells consumers how to participate; a large recycling truck, where consumers can trade their recyclables for coke merchandise and with brand ambassadors on hand, equipped with information about Coke’s recycling efforts.

In the above video, produced by the Coca-Cola Company, the campaign is shown and its successes thus far are highlighted. The video conveys the information in a clear and concise way that is devoid of jargon or facts that contain too much information. The content is interesting and attention-grabbing with clearly organized information and pictures to accompany it.

Coke’s sustainable story telling goes beyond traditional channels one may think of when considering storytelling. Consumers will notice a change from November to February in the iconic Coke can as Coke highlight its work with the Arctic Home project by coloring the cans white. The color was chosen to showcase the plight of the polar bear, a character Coke has used often in messaging.

As Coca-Cola exemplifies, storytelling can be a powerful way to convey a story and call consumers to action. A relevant story told the right way can connect to a consumer on a personal level. The marketer should consider how the target market gets its information and how to best tell a story using their desired channel. Creativity should be implored and new methods and channels considered. Remember, your story should sound genuine- as if told by a person. Try to avoid jargon and speak to the consumer’s higher self.

 

— This is 30 minutes too late to count as a weekly blog post, but better late than never I suppose.


Sustainable messaging should tell a story of your brand and the benefits the consumer stands to gain by choosing it over another.

In searching through the many companies that successfully highlight its sustainability initiatives, I found Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. As a long time fan, I was pleased to find that the value I gained as a consumer went beyond the bold and often delicious flavor combinations.

 Shel Horowitz, green/ethical marketing expert and author of Guerilla Marketing Goes Green, said B&J’s is one of the two companies that occupy up to 85% of the premium ice cream market, and is so largely because of their ability to consistently integrate their message, market and marketing.

Not only does B&J operate as cleanly as possible, it explains how and what that cleanliness equates to in clear and concise messaging. However, as I have said before, sustainability is comprised of economic, social and environmental approaches— B&J’s  considers all three components when incorporating sustainable actions into its business practices and conveying those actions through messaging.

MisSiON

B&J’s mission statement has three-parts: a social aspect, to recognize that business plays a role in society and should build it up; a product aspect, an all natural ice cream made by Earth and environment respecting business practices and a economic aspect, to sustainably grow, increase value for stakeholders and expand opportunities for its employees.

EcOnOmiC Efforts

The B&J website consists of three economic platforms:

  • The Occupy Movement states B&J’s support of the Occupy Wall St. movement and articulates what it believes to be the important issues raised by the movement.
  • The Get the Dough Out campaign states B&J’s stance on corporate corruption in politics and includes a call to action that allows consumers to get involved.
  • Tthe B&J Foundation, which has operated since 1985, grants $1.8 million annually to causes decided on by non-management employees.

SoCiAL Efforts

Along with B&J’s commitment to fair trade, its work with Greyson Bakery (a company leading in social consciousness) and its work with local farms and businesses, B&J’s has three main social programs:

  • Partnershops are stores that are independently owned by nonprofit organizations for which B&J’s waives the franchise fees to allow for community growth.
  • B&J’s is committed to providing employees a Livable Wage and recalculate that wage annually. In 2012 the wage was %15.97, and has been up to two times the current minimum wage.
  • The Community Action program creates a culture of caring within the company by providing an opportunity for employees to participate in large-scale community service projects.

The completeness of Ben and Jerry’s sustainability efforts is complimented by its ability to talk openly and with pride about them. The company’s website delivers messages in an engaging and concise manner, the packaging and design boldly states its ideals, and the social media plan is well executed (a topic I will undoubtedly cover later this month, so heads up).


Ben & Jerry’s is so FAIR!

Sustainable messaging should tell a story of your brand and the benefits the consumer stands to gain by choosing it over another.

In searching through the many companies that successfully highlight its sustainability initiatives, I found Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. As a long time fan, I was pleased to find that the value I gained as a consumer went beyond the bold and often delicious flavor combinations.

 Shel Horowitz, green/ethical marketing expert and author of Guerilla Marketing Goes Green, said B&J’s is one of the two companies that occupy up to 85% of the premium ice cream market, and is so largely because of their ability to consistently integrate their message, market and marketing.

Not only does B&J operate as cleanly as possible, it explains how and what that cleanliness equates to in clear and concise messaging. However, as I have said before, sustainability is comprised of economic, social and environmental approaches— B&J’s  considers all three components when incorporating sustainable actions into its business practices and conveying those actions through messaging.

MisSiON

B&J’s mission statement has three-parts: a social aspect, to recognize that business plays a role in society and should build it up; a product aspect, an all natural ice cream made by Earth and environment respecting business practices and a economic aspect, to sustainably grow, increase value for stakeholders and expand opportunities for its employees.

EcOnOmiC Efforts

The B&J website consists of three economic platforms:

  • The Occupy Movement states B&J’s support of the Occupy Wall St. movement and articulates what it believes to be the important issues raised by the movement.
  • The Get the Dough Out campaign states B&J’s stance on corporate corruption in politics and includes a call to action that allows consumers to get involved.
  • Tthe B&J Foundation, which has operated since 1985, grants $1.8 million annually to causes decided on by non-management employees.

SoCiAL Efforts

Along with B&J’s commitment to fair trade, its work with Greyston Bakery (a company leading in social consciousness) and its work with local farms and businesses, B&J’s has three main social programs:

  • Partnershops are stores that are independently owned by nonprofit organizations for which B&J’s waives the franchise fees to allow for community growth.
  • B&J’s is committed to providing employees a Livable Wage and recalculate that wage annually. In 2012 the wage was %15.97, and has been up to two times the current minimum wage.
  • The Community Action program creates a culture of caring within the company by providing an opportunity for employees to participate in large-scale community service projects.

The completeness of Ben and Jerry’s sustainability efforts is complimented by its ability to talk openly and with pride about them. The company’s website delivers messages in an engaging and concise manner, the packaging and design boldly states its ideals, and the social media plan is well executed (a topic I will undoubtedly cover later this month, so heads up).


 How can you g…

 

How can you go green?

There are so many different areas that one can tackle when considering ways they can modify their current behavior to become more socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable.

Environmental Improvements

  • turn water off while not using it when brushing teeth
  • reusable bags, try to keep them in the car to encourage usage
  • turn off all lights when not in use and as much as possible rely on natural lighting
  • recycle, even if your home doesn’t offer it, it may be easier than you think with a little effort
  • donate, don’t discard. whether to your friends or good will, someone will appreciate old belongings
  • walk and bike when possible instead of driving, hard in Texas summers, but rewarding
  • purchase consciously, considering packaging and ingredients

Economic Modifications

  • buy in bulk when possible
  • invest in items that will last, rather than cheaper goods with less durability
  • be aware of your financial situation and make choices that will honor it
  • sites like groupon or living social will send you coupons for things you enjoy spending money on

Social Modifications

  • refrain from judgement with out facts
  • stay away from thinking in stereotypes
  • when minds from different disciplines converge more competent solutions are created
  • share your successes and failures with others
  • dont be afraid to tell someone that you appreciate their effort
  • when possible, help
  • smile or acknowledge people, all deserve at the minimum, acknowledgement
  • I know its cliche, but the “Golden Rule” comes in here

Those are a just a few things that when practiced will create, for the most part, a more sustainable personal environment. There are many things not discussed here that would rely on more time on my part. I will attack each area more at length later… these are just a minimal few I conjured up just now.

Hope everyone is having a fantabulous day!!

Inspire each other with enthusiasm, dedication, and love.

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social and economic sustainability?

It has been a while since I posted last. What can I say, last semester was very busy. The upcoming one seems to be just as promising. Despite my lack of time to blog about it, I learned quite a bit about sustainability this last semester. What I would like to address in this post, however, is the breadth of sustainability.

Often when people hear the word “Sustainability” they think of things that are eco-friendly, such as low emission vehicles, recycling, and debate about pollution control that is so often in the media. What the word often fails to conjure up, however, is thought about the social and economical ramifications of being a sustainably minded individual.

The social ramifications of sustainability are very happy, sunshiny thoughts of oneness and considering others as well as ourselves. To many people these thoughts may seem hippie-ish and socialist, but to consider what is involved mentally in being sustainable, leads one to these thoughts of relative social equality. If I am to do what will be sustainable in things economic and environmental, then I must consider how my own actions, choices and decisions affect the things around me. Once I extend this consideration to inanimate things, it tends to spread to include animate things as well. If I wish to leave this Earth better for my children, and my children’s children, then that requires me to imagine what they would want from their Earth. And finally, once I consider that, I realize there are people living here now that don’t even enjoy the Earth I wish to leave to my children.

That my friends, is to me the domino effect of a sustainably minded individual. Once we begin to consider things required to consider in order to think sustainably, this landslide of information begins pouring forth and we can begin to imagine what kind of work actually would need to be done to change anything about our current situation. Which is a good enough segway into economic sustainability, which is almost as fun, if not more, to discus than social sustainability.

Economic sustainability is so fun to discus because it shows the need and beneficiality(yes that is a made up word) of thinking and being sustainable. For those not involved in finances or business, a ROI is a return on investment. This is a major term that takes part in deeming things sustainable or not. If one has to invest  thousands to implement a new, environmentally friendly product; then one will want to know how quickly they will receive their investment back and what kind of impact it will make upon their business in the long-run. The great part about this in the realm of sustainability, is that for the most part the ROI is obvious and a wonderful justification of “going green”.

The changes implemented in being more efficient can often actually make things more economically efficient as well- which is magical!

Well in keeping with the theme of not having time to blog, I am out of time but I will take more to discuss these and other topics later! Thanks for the read! Hope you have a wonderful day and take time to consider how easy some changes can be.


Entering the World of Sustainability: A beginners journey

Well in compliance with my supervisors recommendation I am going to begin this blog to discuss my journey through the world of sustainability as I learn, grow and hopefully become more impact full. 🙂

A brief introduction:

My name is Mackenzie Yelvington, I am a Strategic Communications major at the University of North Texas. I recently interviewed the Director of the Office of Sustainability as an assignment for one of my journalism classes and at the end of the interview the director, Dr. Todd Spinks, Ph.D. offered me a chance to come into the office and meat the outreach coordinator, Nicole Cocco, to see if I would fit in anywhere in the office. Dr Spinks also informed me that there just wasn’t anyone in Public Relations (my specialty within Strat. Comm.) that had the sustainability knowledge set, and that for the most part to work for the office, candidates must be trained in sustainability prior to beginning work. It was this little “nugget of wisdom” that inspired me to focus on sustainability.

Since that day I met with Ms. Cocco and now am writing content for the Sustainability Web site. UNT recently began offering a Major and Masters program in Sustainability, however there is currently not a minor in the field. Consequently, I decided to continue with my Philosophy minor and take all of my remaining electives in sustainability courses. After the first couple of articles it was glaringly obvious that although I was learning quite a bit of new things about the environment in my sustainability course that I was going to have to seek outside sources to get more familiar with the “sustainability jargon” so I would be better equipped to write about it.

This is where my journey really started to take off. I downloaded podcasts and my supervisor, Ms. Cocco, gave me a few books to peruse. I learned quickly that sustainability is probably more addicting than philosophy… maybe. The amount of information I have found is not only exciting but also inspiring. I look forward to sharing more with everyone as my journey continues. Thank you for your time and I look forward to supplying more reading for you in the future 🙂