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Turning Over A New Leaf

I chose “Turning Over A New Leaf” as both my blog and blog post title simply because after taking this course, I expect to be able to have at least changed a part of me. And to be honest, it did. I have always been on the “green” side of things, but I think this course has further developed my knowledge on sustainability and how it can be integrated into marketing. In all honesty, I think marketing is one of the key things businesses should work on because it’s the best way for them to connect with their customers and spread their “sustainable message.”

Sustainable Marketing has helped me discover a number of different green ideas that are arising in the business world already. I didn’t know that many entrepreneurs have developed all these ingenious ideas already that could contribute to reducing corporations’ overall carbon footprint. I am also thankful that this course has deepened my knowledge on sustainability more and how it can be seen and applied everyday, even in the simplest of things. I am more conscious of my behaviour, especially when I consume water, food, energy, and anything of the sort. Simple things like walking instead of driving or turning off the lights when they’re not needed help.

I know that it’s still a long way to go and I may not have created a huge positive change in the environment (like other environmentalists), but I know that initiating a change within you can slowly affect your surroundings and hopefully, even other people’s behaviour. In the near future, I hope that I will be able to work for a company that heavily values corporate social responsibility in their business operations or better yet, be a part of innovative entrepreneurs who can develop the next most sustainable product or service that would benefit everyone.

As for businesses, I applaud many companies that are working towards being as green as they can and as mentioned, heavily emphasizing on corporate social responsibility. It was through this course that I was able to discover a number of different sustainable companies and other big companies who have changed many of their ways to ride on the green wagon (i.e. Nike, Walmart, etc.). I am truly impressed with the many initiatives they have started and the vision and goals they have placed for their company in order to follow the triple bottom line. This is why I would love to work for companies like these, who stick to their vision of being green, and being as transparent and genuine as they can. In short, they are not doing this just to show off or commit any form of greenwashing, but it’s because they truly care. This may seem impossible at times or it may be hard to tell, but the fact that these companies are investing so much money to change up their operations says something.

Hopefully, sustainability will continue to grow in the future and evolve into something more permanent than just a “trend.”

I’ve been working for McDonald’s as a part time employee for almost two years and as much as I enjoy working in a fast-paced environment, it bothers me that McDonald’s day to day operations are not close to sustainable at all. I constantly see food wasted and any supplies we used to serve our customers (may it be cups, straws, ketchup packs, etc.) all go to waste for the smallest reasons. To be honest, they can still be used again for other customers, but I guess McDonald’s follows a strong food safety policy and offering their customers the best customer service is also key.

During one of my working shifts, I remember asking my manager if we had recycling bins and she simply told me that we didn’t have any because McDonald’s DOESN’T CARE and isn’t “green” at all. This struck me because I expected this massive fast food chain to be involved in any form of corporate social responsibility. I guess I was wrong to think that and it me sound ridiculous to my manager. I was disappointed with McDonald’s that preserving our environment wasn’t in their top priorities, especially with the fact that one of their biggest target markets is children. It may appear that they are such a fun-loving company, but they try to hide the fact that they are quite harmful to the environment.

However, to my surprise, when I came into work, I suddenly see a number of different trash bins inside our workplace. McDonald’s finally learned how to segregate, reduce, and recycle their trash. It made me happy to see that McDonald’s is slowly working its ways towards being a steward to our environment and practicing good product considerations for sustainability. Recently, I also read an online article that talks about McDonald’s piloting the replacement of their polystyrene foam cups (used for coffee/tea). They plan to replace these cups with double-walled fiber cups instead.

Polystyrene is not widely recycled and has become harmful to the marine environment. Polystyrene breaks down into small indigestible pellets, which animals perceive as food, resulting in the death of birds and marine mammals. The production of styrene, used in the production of polystyrene, also carries occupational safety risks. Several epidemiologic studies suggest an association between occupational styrene exposure and an increased risk of leukemia and lymphoma.

With the harmful effects of polystyrene mentioned, I do hope that McDonald’s will push to changing their foam cups in all of their stores. According to the article, they have only implemented the change to about 15% of their US stores. McDonald’s is now a global company and has hundreds of franchises in many countries. This would be very costly to McDonald’s and it will definitely be a challenge, but I do hope that they consider the long term effects of this change in their foam cups. The benefits would probably outweigh the costs in many aspects. Again, I salute McDonald’s for starting to be more sustainable in their business operations, but I hope they push forward even more with this movement of becoming a greener company.

During our last class, we had a guest speaker named, Tamara Brooks from October 17 Media. She mentioned in one of her slides about another group buying website called ethicalDeal. Based on its name, you can tell that it’s quite different from the other group buying websites like Groupon and Living Social. They have addressed the problem of customers’ hesitations of purchasing green products because of their high prices. The companies that they partner with are local (depends on which city you’re from). They offer eco-friendly products/services, ensure they meet ethicalDeal’s standards, and then use the collective buying power of their members to get exclusive discounts on the best “green stuff” each city has to offer.

I found ethicalDeal very amusing because they practice sustainable marketing communications. Their method of promoting their deals and getting the word out is through e-mail marketing, which doesn’t require any use of paper. They also communicate in their deals on how the products they are offering are eco-friendly. For example, a body care product was described as 100% natural and organic and that it’s from BC, which means that it is local and doesn’t have to deal with transportation costs (both in terms of money and to the environment).

I also read one post in one of the student blogs that he rarely buys organic products even if he wants to just because of their high prices. With us being students, we are usually on a budget. The cheaper the product, the better for us. That’s why I think ethicalDeal is doing a good job with this sustainable group buying website. They are able to attract a wider range of customers, especially with the growing trend of more sustainable customers in the community. This will definitely attract price sensitive customers, like students, who want to take part in being more sustainable, but never really could due to their high prices. However, I’ve observed that ethicalDeal doesn’t offer a lot of deals yet daily, compared to Groupon and the rest. This could be because ethicalDeal is one of the new group buying companies and it’s still adjusting and trying to capture as much customers as they can and also creating awareness among their customers as well. I do hope that this group buying site will catch on among its customers in order for other local and eco-friendly companies will sign a contract with ethicalDeal. This would be a win-win situation for both sides and they earn and money at the same time help in promoting sustainability.

An example of one of ethicalDeal’s green deals:

Sustainable Solutions

I recently saw a FedEx commercial that talks briefly about the different ways FedEx is currently doing in order to work towards sustainability. This short commercial shows a random company boss who is well-inspired by FedEx’s sustainable ways that it plans to adapt these ways into their daily business operations as well. As mentioned in the commercial, the boss plans to start small by printing double-sided instead of one-sided for any company documents.

I found this commercial quite appealing because it was presented in such a simple manner. It was straightforward and informative too as it tells you some specific ways FedEx is doing in trying to reduce its carbon footprint. Also, with the random company boss involved in the commercial, it makes me think that this commercial is giving off a rational appeal to the viewers. It is implicitly saying that since FedEx is doing this, the right thing to do would be to follow their sustainable ways as well, as portrayed by the random company boss. Not only that, FedEx also mentions about “Sustainable Solutions” and provides a link to the website at the end of the commercial. This quickly brought me to action as it got my interest on finding out what other things is FedEx doing to become more sustainable. After my readings, I’ve discovered that they are doing practical things that are in sync with their main business operation. They do simple and practical things such as reducing the amount of paper used by doing online documents instead of paper. They also offer local pickups or deliveries to reduce carbon gas emissions and you can even choose to print on a certain type of paper that is made from more sustainable materials.

Of course, skepticism among consumers is inevitable with these kinds of actions. Many companies are integrating sustainable business operations into their company simply because it will make them look better to society and it is one of the biggest trends at the moment. I’m not saying that I think FedEx is green washing or anything, but I actually think they’re off to a great start. They don’t make magnanimous claims on how they are the most sustainable company or anything of that sort, but they are mainly focusing on how they are helping the environment by developing a number of sustainable solutions. Their commercial is quite humbling in the sense that they don’t brag about their greatness in developing these sustainable solutions, but instead, it tries to convince you that you should do the same thing. You should take action and change your ways, before making any claims. This would be best if you would want to avoid being accused for green washing as well. But other than that, I suggest that viewers should always double check to be sure. They can do this by looking at the company’s statistics on the change or difference in carbon emissions (if there’s a reduction) after adapting to these sustainable solutions and other things like that.

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I Approve!

These days, third party eco-labels can be often seen in various products. According to our textbook, there are currently around 300 eco-labels. The question is, what do these eco-labels really mean? Can we really trust them and are they assuring enough to make us feel that the product is safe and eco-friendly? A man named Kevin Owsley, who owns a company that produces carpet-cleaning fluid, recently tried to find a reputable organization that can grant his company an “eco-seal” of approval. He was able to find one, but this organization instantly granted him a “green diploma”, no questions asked. This got Kevin quite confused and he debated if endorsing this “eco-seal” on his cleaning fluid would mean anything to his customers. I consider this as one of the problems eco-labels have. Most customers don’t really know what these eco-labels mean. Just as long as they see that stamp of approval, they immediately assume it is a “good” product. At the same time, companies might be confusing customers by making them believe that their product is actually an eco-friendly product through that stamp of approval, but in reality, it’s just a method for them to show off to their customers that they are sustainable (but actually not). In other words — green washing. Despite all this, I was browsing through Whole Foods’ company blog and they’ve come up with a new eco-label, which I think serves as a good example of a legitimate and believable eco-label.

Whole Foods is widely known for their high quality and organic products and their strong commitment to corporate social responsibility. These company values highly differentiates them from any other grocery chain and this makes them highly believable up to this moment as they meet the standards they have promised to their customers. Recently, they have developed a new standard/eco-label called, “Premium Body Care.” It astonishes me that they are aiming to provide not only organic and natural food products, but they have branched out to their body care products as well. This shows their commitment to providing the best quality of all products to their customers and how they genuinely care for their well-being as well. Whole Foods’ product line called 365 Everyday Value already have this eco-label and can also be bought at affordable prices, despite their high quality (See image below).

I’ve also read the Whole Foods website and it says that company experts spent years examining ingredients according to the strictest criteria for safety, efficacy and impact on the environment. They are continuing to do this for all ingredients as they have found more than 420 ingredients that do not meet their standards.

If you look closely as to what the image says above, it compares conventional body product standards and Whole Foods’ premium body care product standards and you can evidently see a significant difference. For Whole Foods’ body care products, they don’t only function well, but even offer nutritional benefits. They also contribute to a positive impact to the environment, which again highlights one of their company values. Having read the standards they have set for the “Premium Body Care” eco-label, I am convinced that this is not a questionable label. Also, Whole Foods put enough effort to inform their customers through their company website about this label and what it really means to have this seal.

Super Mom to the Rescue!

Golden Globe nominated actress, Jessica Alba, together with Christopher Gavigan recently co-founded a company catered to baby’s needs called, the Honest Company. The Honest Company offers a monthly subscription service at Honest.com, with an initial product line of diapers, wipes, bath/skin care, and household cleaning products made from non-toxic ingredients and packaged in attractive, modern designs. The products are placed into personalized bundles that are automatically shipped every month. Diapers are priced at less than $20 a week, and a monthly supply of the body care and home cleaning products is roughly $9 a week.

In the past few years, it has been quite common for celebrities, who are seen as aspirational models, to partner up with charity organizations or support any causes happening in our world today. However, what struck me the most with what Jessica Alba is doing with the Honest Company is that she seems extremely passionate about this cause. Given that she is the mother of two daughters, she easily relates to the cause of providing a clean and safe environment for her children to live and grow up in. This may sound like a simple initiative, but I believe that small steps go a long way.

I’ve also read through the company’s principles, social efforts, and health & sustainability standards. So far, I am impressed and I can tell that they are a “real” company dedicated to providing eco-friendly products to babies and earning profit comes second on their list of priorities. They also live up to their company name by making sure that there is transparency of information between the company and their customers. Not seeing that living for this cause is enough, the Honest Company plays an active part in being socially responsible to our community. This year, they partnered with Baby2Baby, a non-profit organization, who supplies families in need of baby essentials. As this company continues to grow, they further plan to partner with more non-profit organizations in terms of donating some of the profit they have earned.

Lastly, the Honest company is very dedicated in living up to being a sustainable and eco-friendly company. They have a clear vision on how they want to achieve sustainability in their company and they also set a list of goals that they want to achieve throughout their business life. Most of their business practices are sustainable, even with their packaging and day-to-day operations. For example, they only source natural, organic, sustainably harvested, renewable, pure raw materials for their products. This company acts as stewards of our environment and strongly believes in creating amazing products that are non-toxic and healthy as possible. It may be a challenge, but they strongly believe that they can. I highly suggest you read through their Health and Sustainability Standards as you will be amazed at what they do.

For more information, here are the two co-founders, Jessica and Christopher, telling you what this company is all about. YouTube Preview Image

The Lorax Project

Universal Pictures will be releasing a new movie, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, in March 2012. Initially, I thought this was another typical heartwarming and family oriented type of movie, but based on this article I read, the movie holds an even more significant and underlying meaning.

On Earth Day 2008, Conservation International, Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Random House launched the Lorax Project. This project aims to engage individuals of all ages to do their part to conserve the places and species that are critical to the future of our planet, such as the Brown Bar-ba-loots and Humming-Fish. I found this very appealing because they aim to capture a larger market in terms of spreading the message of being sustainable and conservative when consuming resources. Particularly related to this movie, The Lorax, it shows that they are targeting families, specifically children, to create awareness among them of the planet’s current situation and at the same time, hope that they will be able to influence these children with their actions.

Not only that, one of the leading sustainable brands in North America, Seventh Generation, has created marketing partnership with this movie in order to further spread their message. Through this famous quote by the Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”, John Replogle, CEO of Seventh Generation, thinks this ties in exactly into their company mission. He also thinks this is a one-time opportunity for them to spread their environmental message to a new market and one that they would normally find it difficult to reach. Looking at the green marketing grid, I’d say that Seventh Generation is under “tribal brands” as it ties/partners itself with a cause. This shows that they have an opportunity to strengthen their message, especially with the help of this movie that will be released worldwide, increasing the likeliness of capturing a large demographic. It also says that Seventh Generation will have the Lorax logo and message printed on their products for a couple of months. This would easily attract children when they are out grocery shopping with their moms (example).

Just to reiterate the purpose of this famous quote, it’s trying to say that in order to make a difference, people would have to care first. Both Seventh Generation and The Lorax are trying to invoke its target market to support their cause. I also like how The Lorax has a full section dedicated to their environmental project in the Lorax movie website. It’s also presented in a kid-friendly way, which can easily attract their attention. They have also posted easy to follow tips to follow on how to lower your own carbon footprint.

I think companies should start targeting a larger demographic as well, specifically children, since they are the next generation who will take care of our planet. There is a good chance that if they receive this message, they might influence their parents into thinking the same thing as well, which is to find ways on preserving our environment.

A Different Side to Food

Last class, we talked about how consumers identify their needs and determine what level of needs they have satisfied through the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I’ve used and studied this framework for a number of times already, but it’s only this term that I have looked at it in a different way, which is having it related to sustainability.

Being the food adventurer/guru that I am, I’m easily fascinated with the food services/companies that take a unique approach in what they provide to their customers. In other words, if I see a food company that uses wholesome and organic ingredients or if they partake in corporate social responsibility, they will usually have won me to their side already. It is very common that companies these days just “greenwash” their customers into thinking that they are eco-friendly, but I like to give the benefit of the doubt to these food companies.

One food service company that I think that’s doing a splendid job on being sustainable is One Planet Catering. Another exciting fact about this food catering service is that it’s Vancouver-based, which continually to amazes me on how Vancouver is adapting to the sustainability trend.

Going back to the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, One Planet Catering satisfies the physiological needs by recognizing that in order to enjoy the benefits our natural resources provides for us, there is a strong need to constantly sustain these environmental systems if we wish to continuously consume them. Their website opens with a quote from John Seed saying, “May we grow into true understanding – a deep understanding that inspires us to protect the tree on which we bloom, and the water, soil and atmosphere without which we have no existence.” This embodies their whole understanding of how to preserve out environmental systems in order to satisfy our physiological needs.

Aside from using only organic and natural ingredients when making their food, One Planet Catering has set up a solid vision and mission statement, plus a list of goals as well. They are focused on creating awareness among their customers by informing them of the list of ingredients and nutritional values in the food they serve, which will help them be inspired to make positive choices regarding their own health and the environment. In relation to the quote by John Weed, One Planet Catering enjoys giving back to different communities. They have made it a goal to donate 2% of their earnings for a specific social or environmental cause. Currently, they are pursuing a lunch program with Quest Outreach that feeds the hungry in Vancouver, especially children. As they expand, they will seek to partner with more non-profit organizations to further expand the meaning of their cause.

I honestly look up to this company as they try to differentiate themselves from other competitors by being fully sustainable in their day-to-day operations. As mentioned in the video (see below), Michael Kraus (owner of the company) said that there are companies out there that only want to work with sustainable companies. I think this gives One Planet Catering a competitive edge as they are considered one of those sustainable companies in the industry, which will help them stand out.

To know more about this company, here’s a video of Michael Kraus talking about the company’s philosophy and more:
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Upcycling > Recycling

During our class on Wednesday, we talked about how upcycling is more efficient and productive for our environment as it turns waste products into something more useful. In short, the product’s usage is not being degraded and it can be used for other purposes.

I looked into companies that were actually doing this practice and one of them is TerraCycle. This company aims to eliminate the idea of waste by creating national recycling systems for previously non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle waste. They encourage anyone to join their cause by sending in any of your waste products. After this, they convert the waste into a wide variety of products and materials. TerraCycle is very successful in converting the waste they received and even has major retailers such as Walmart and Whole Foods sell TerraCycle’s products on their own shelves.

Recently, TerraCycle has launched an upcycling program for disposable diapers. As researched, disposable diapers is considered as one of the most complex waste streams in the U.S. and having a solution to this problem would benefit any large city. With this program, TerraCycle will be able to use certain parts of the disposable diaper and upcycle them into plastic lumber, pallets, and outdoor furniture while the remaining parts will be compostable (after they have been fully sterilized and processed). TerraCycle plans to reach out to various numbers of childcare facilities and hopefully build a partnership with Huggies in order for them to incorporate the new diaper program.

I find TerraCycle’s initiative different compared to what other companies are doing in terms of corporate social responsibility. These days, in order to appear that a company is engaging in “green practices”, the most common method they portray this practice is by showing to their customers that they are recycling whatever waste materials they use in order to reduce their carbon footprint. However, I feel that this doesn’t provide a strong competitive advantage to companies anymore as almost all of them have started to recycle their wastes. With TerraCycle’s upcyling program, I feel that they are trying to differentiate themselves as they are seeking towards achieving bigger and more effective goals in reducing their carbon footprint. They strongly encourage anyone to join their cause and even have different programs to offer such as incentives, bonuses, and even local events that promote their cause. They are actively engaged in increasing the worth of waste materials by converting them into other products that can be reused and sold to customers. Not that I am looking down on recycling initiatives, I just feel that upcycling is a more efficient method of reducing waste because of the higher quality products produced, which will let customers use the product longer than compared to the lower quality products produced when undergoing a recycling process only.

For more information on TerraCycle and their programs, please visit: TerraCycle.

Green is the way to go!

Last year, Nike was one of the companies that joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. This coalition aims to reduce the environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products sold around the world by establishing an industry-wide index for measuring and evaluating apparel and footwear product sustainability. Just like the companies in this coalition, Nike is finally about to unveil their own product index called the Materials Sustainability Index (MSI). It took them at least eight years of research to determine the sustainability of the materials they use in making their products. Nike is teamed up with a software startup company called Earthster to publish their MSI.

I am impressed that these big and powerful companies have partnered up to make their own sustainability indexes for the products they produce. The coalition also has companies such as Walmart and Patagonia as participants. These companies are leaders in their respective industries and will hopefully be able to encourage smaller companies to do the same. This initiative will also create awareness among product designers whenever they are working to produce the company’s products. This index will help them understand the environmental impacts of their work by enabling them to be more thoughtful of their choices in terms of which materials to use to produce footwear and apparel.

Nike aims to spark conversation about using sustainable materials among individuals. With this goal, I believe that Nike and the other members of the coalition will be able to make a necessary change on producers with their actions in terms of the materials they use in producing company goods. This initiative is quite new and I am certain that the world won’t see immediate changes. However, it is good that these leading companies are setting a good example to other companies and individuals worldwide.

Seeing that sustainability is definitely a rising trend in our world today, I think that it will be easier to convince people on the mission of this initiative and get them to jump on the “go green” bandwagon as well. If everyone is on board with this movement, we will slowly see positive changes in our world. Eventually, this initiative may be able to reduce harmful impacts to our environment and at the same time, benefit companies as they reduce their costs and risks.

For more information on this coalition, please see this article

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