OK, everyone, left foot green!
Twister was released by Milton Bradley in 1966. Few companies at that time focused on the environment as a differentiator. Today, many companies are jumping onto the vinyl with an emphasis on anything green. The question is, what could drive real impact and what is just a game?
- Look at the entire system, not just the end point. New compact fluorescent light bulbs use less energy, but contain mercury. How do we make it easy for consumers to safely dispose of burned out or broken bulbs? Are we trading coal emissions for landfill contamination?
- Come clean on cost versus earthly motivations. I have stayed in hundreds of hotel rooms that have little signs next to the sink that ask me to re-use towels and linens in the interest of saving the environment. Let's be clear, unless the entire hotel operation is focused on green-ness, the only reason this sign is on the counter is to reduce the cost of washloads and slow down the wear and tear of bath towels.
- Clarify political vs. environmental interests. In the US corn belt, ethanol-induced demand for corn has pushed up grain prices, helping improve farm incomes. What is the net environmental impact if we use more fertilizer to grow the corn while using lots of groundwater to grow the corn and process the ethanol? Ethanol support has come form the positive emotional response to reducing oil imports.
The lesson here is to look at the facts and assumptions behind the green motiviation and give yourself a bit of a reality test. Is it real or just cool for the moment? Is your organization committed to full focus on environmental impact or just riding a popular wave? For the moment, customers "buy the headline." If it's green, it's good. Over time, expect buyers to become more sophisticated as they get beyond the headlines.
Firms who are not clear about their motivations could tie themselves in knots when trends shift and the spinner reads, "Right hand blue!"