Friday, May 19, 2006

Greening Your Eats

One of the many pleasures of staying abreast of all the stuff feels it should stay on top of, is making links across a series of seemingly disconnected sources.

For instance, I have been entertaining myself lately with the antics of some of our major retailers (at least, as reported), who seem to have lately decided to bathe themselves in green a lot more than before, and thus suitably washed are quite aggressive/defensive in staking their competitive claims to be first, best, most, etc.

I accept most of what follows comes from the Telegraph (it would have been more striking had it spanned a few other colour shades of media, but as a lot is pretty factual it's worth working with me on this), but you can try this - Sainsbury's wrestles with Tesco for environmental high ground from the Indy - but their links don't seem to hold up for very long.

As followers of my blog will know, I have cocked a few eyebrows at some of the claims being made in this arena, and also lamented how little they have been delved into by the mainstream enviro-media who reprint their press releases.

So first up, to set the scene from another source than myself, there's this from the Telegraph Business Club, initiated by a question: “I would like to know peoples viewpoints on the ever increasing cost of energy in the UK.”

To which an obviously well-versed chap has responded extensively, but I do pick out these words in particular: "It is fair to say that large businesses are being motivated to take proactive steps to save energy, most financially driven and little to do with their Corporate Social Responsibly standing."

Which now brings me to a few commentary pieces, firstly one from Sophie Brodie's Business Diary: Leafy Leahy refuses 'greener than thou' row, which refers to Tesco's 10-point plan to make the world a better place. This I imagine includes the '£100m investment' that so comprehensively underwhelmed me recently, but has also stirred 'a bit of a do' with Sainsbury’s Head Honcho, and then, in short order, that of Boots.

Thing is, so far pretty much all I have heard from these CEOs in this regard is stuff about improving their energy efficiencies. Bearing in mind that comment at the start, when you read Sainsbury's energy bill rises £75m, with the comforting opening line that they '... tried to calm fears that it would be forced to pass on escalating energy costs to shoppers, after its chairman suggested the company could not absorb all of its hefty fuel bills', you start to see what's what.

And to which Tom Stephenson has referred (another dodgy link, but it is accessible by link from the base of the one above) in his Business Comment: 'Passing on higher energy costs is a non-starter when you are scrapping for market share with the likes of Tesco and Asda.'

My simple observation to all this would be to ask: 'Where are the benefits to the green consumer?'.

Of course costs and profits simply get reflected in the price we pay at the checkout. But until I see much that is tangible by way of environmental initiatives that have a direct relationship to the buying public (making the store cheaper to heat or cool is great 'n all, but so what?), I really rather wish they'd stop behaving like the pols and insulting our intelligence with all these 'smoke and reflective panels' stories. They really are only about helping their bottom lines and very little about doing their genuine bit for the environment.

Addendum: I don't always follow the path laid out by Friends of the Earth, but they are without doubt sincere and can be tremendously effective. Just after I wrote this a press release came in (rather dramatically entitled 'Fight Corporate Abuse, which at first seemed extreme for self-interested greed, but on reflection is pretty fair) from them that is pertinent and does seem to point at some relevant action.

Mad* if you don't. And it looks like, for now... we won't

We have been looking forward to the Mad* Show. After a few major disappointments on the exhibition front, this seemed like the real deal. A good message. A good blend. A good audience. And I was to be a co-speaker in very good company, an illustrious crew who were likely to attract a media audience as much for what they had to say as their celebrity.
So it is with great regret, and no little frustration, that I share an email from Richard Dratton, MD of the Mad* Group, received last night:

Dear all,
I am writing to you to announce the postponement of the Mad* Show 2006.
We apologise for the short notice but we believe this is in the best interest of all concerned.
We are busy working on an alternative date and will announce this together with
our future plans within the next few days.
We would like to thank everybody for the huge support that we have received so far
and hope to continue our relationship with you into the future.
From all of us at The Mad* Group.

That's about all I know for now, though I did manage to contact their director of sales. It seems there were 'problems' with meeting the minimum exhibitor number requirements of the hall. This the same hall that managed about 6 enviro-stands out of 600 on a show (the Ideal Home) billed as 'Sustainable Living and Recycling' not so long ago. The hundred odd for Mad* would have been a wonderful focus for like-minded exhibitors and visitors to interact. A shame they could not pad it out with jacuzzis and patio heaters too.

All I can hang onto is the word 'postponed'. I can only imagine what it must be like for the organisers. But being selfish, it has thrown a major spanner into our already dented marketing efforts for the year.