Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Why you need to be GENUINELY green

There has been a lot of discussion lately about retailers being more "green". RSR's Paula Rosenblum and Steve Rowen did some research on the topic and found that a lot of retailers are pretty enthusiastic about the idea, and not just because they want to save some bucks. Retailers are up on green initiatives because they see the consumer trend towards valuing more responsible corporate citizens, and they want to position themselves to be seen as such "corporate citizens" when the trend hits its tipping point (are we there already? I don't know...).

The challenge is, when you decide to go green, you better go all the way. Especially in today's world of consumer access to information - and to soapboxes. Witness "This Store Blows", a blog set up specifically for consumers to report retailers that have their front doors open while running their air conditioning in the summer. The blog is NYC-oriented, but as the idea gets picked up, I'll bet you that it won't stay that local.

I don't remember where I read it, but if I find it, I'll update this to reflect it, but I read somewhere that the best green strategy is total transparency. If you decide to go green, chances are you aren't going to be 100% perfect right out of the gate - and that's OK, as long as you disclose where the skeletons are and what you plan to do about it. For example, Marks & Spencer has made a big deal about its green initiatives, but they had to take a step back on some of their plans to reduce the carbon emissions of their delivery fleet - they had planned to switch over to biofuels, but given the debate about the true net impact of ethanol, particularly corn-based ethanol, they decided to wait on that front, but were moving ahead with plans to redesign the trucks to lower the wind profile.

If you're not up-front and transparent about your green progress, you'll become an easy target for quite possibly millions of citizen green-watchers (and more aggressive organizations), who are just itching for a chance to call you on your green hypocrisy.

You know, given all of the raging discussion over on the marketing front about "giving up control of the brand" and letting consumers have more influence and say, it seems like green initiatives would be a great place to practice "letting go" - you're not going to have much choice in the matter anyway.

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