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.