Two Brands that talk and walk sustainability and are criticized for it.

Last week I talked about how fear of green wash labeling can deter brands from talking about their sustainability initiatives. This week I will highlight two brands that brave the nay-Sayers and talk about their good doing.


Coca-Cola doesn’t just talk the talk; it has integrated sustainable practices into its business practices at multiple levels. To begin, Coke has minimized its use of PET plastic by 23% and has focused on striving for a closed loop supply chain, meaning they reuse plastic bottles when sourcing plastic for the new bottles.

Coke has also proudly talked about its efforts and encourages its consumers to recycle. This both contributes to Coke’s mission of closed loop supply chain and to society’s need to more properly manage trash. Coke has footprints at events, such as NASCAR, state fairs and other major events.

Even though Coke’s efforts are notable, there are still people that say it is greenwashing. In 2007 Coke was named as the Polaris Institute’s first Corporate Greenwashing Award recipient. Also people say that because parts of Cokes operations are not sustainable that they are greenwashing.

In my opinion, Coke is not exaggerating what they are trying to do and are making an effort to integrate sustainability where possible and are thus not greenwashing. At least it is attempting to tackle its overuse of resources, Coke should talk about it, because every little bit counts and it is contributing to a more conscious consumer.

Tom’s Shoes

Tom’s is responsible for the one:one business model. For every pair of shoes consumers buy, Tom’s donates a pair of shoes to someone in need. After the success of its shoes, Tom’s introduces glasses into its product offering, so now consumers can purchase eyeglasses and the matched funds will either provide glasses or eye care for someone in need.

Tom’s, like coke, pridefully discusses its business model and the benefits of purchasing Tom’s shoes over another brand of shoe. Tom’s has won multiple awards including placing sixth on FastCompany’s list of Top Ten Most Innovative Retail Companies and in 2009 Tom’s was named People’s Design Award recipient for its innovative business model.

Even Tom’s has its critics as EcoSalon typifies in its article about the good and the bad of Tom’s shoes. EcoSalon is not alone in criticizing Tom’s efforts, if one Googles Tom’s and greenwashing there are a number of bloggers articulating their displeasure with Tom’s efforts.

There will always be people hoping for brands to fail and attempting to be whistle blowers for sustainability. In using a proactive sustainable messaging plan that focuses on initiatives with real impact and integrates messages about sustainable business practices, brands will produce messages that encourage conscious consumers to look into the brand and find out for themselves.



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.


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.