Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Putting green in the shade

I recently read this - Who's the greenest of them all? , and decided to pursue it a bit further. The editor has kindly replied.

It kind of highlights what has been mentioned earlier about 'looking' green without actually 'being' it becoming a worrying trend.


Dave said...

In last place with only 6% of the poll, no wonder Tesco is pushing its own green agenda so hard!

The public is, perhaps, not as easily fooled by 'greencloaking' as the corporates believe. I really hope Tesco is enjoying the fun of building a corporate image and then trying to modify it!

Peter said...

To be fair to Tesco, one point to make is that we are talking perceptions here, which is the key point. Are those seen to be 'more green'in fact that way? Which goes to definitions.

I look forward to a point where we as consumers can make decisions based on actual facts.

Of course, then we get into the massaging of stats.

So do we go with 'efficiencies'in enviROI based on sales, profit, number of shops... customers?

And is that worth very much? Which is better? A monolith doing 10% 'better' or a niche brand at 50%. Short term you probably need the big hits of the former simply to make a difference to the numbers, but longer term you want the others to get creditted and supported so they grow and bring their commitment to enviROI over profit to mass markets.

Dave said...

As someone with a background in the Ad industry, you must know that it is perception that counts as far as the downstream consumer is concerned.

Waitrose being perceived as the 'greenest' did not surprise me one iota; they were the first into fair trade goods, and the first into 'organic' foodstuffs (but don't let us get into THAT argument!). The public views them as 'caring' and 'ethical', albeit more expensive than most. That is enough to provide an assumed aura of 'greenness', that is, in all probability, entirely unjustified.

Tesco's mighty financial and market clout has seen them desperately scurrying to up their image in terms of 'greenness', but the general public has always viewed them (and probably always will) as a cheap and reasonable quality provider, and not in any way as 'ethical'. (They jumped onto the 'organic' and 'fair trade' wagons way later than most of the others). That perception will not go away in years and probably not even in decades.

But you are right, it is probably not possible to empirically measure the degree of 'green' that a company actually is, and polls such as this one are a reflection of the publics historic perception of a business rather than a reflection of the true state of the actual effort they may, or may not, be making.

My guess is that over the next few years we will start to see all the majors producing annual reports which have special sections on their 'green' efforts (including how much CO2 we've saved this last year), and even new accounting classifications appearing on the balance sheet for things such as 'investment in renewables', 'investment in CO2 reduction technology' and 'costs of carbon reduction projects as a % of turnover'. It's probably something like this final one that will eventually allow a business to genuinely shout that 'we're the leader in investment to become greener'. In the meantime, long established public perceptions will take a very long time to disappear.

BP dropped the BP Shield and changed to the 'green'(?)sunburst logo nearly 15 years ago now - perhaps their marketing people were way ahead of others in the perception game?