Sunday, June 03, 2007

Green? Probably in the Black. With a red face.

The furore with packaging rumbles on, and this snippet from Marketing Week to me throws up a few issues: Green & Black's defends packaging

In the green corner, if you are selling yourself in part on being 'green' literally as well as in name, I'd guess you may end up a tad defensive following 'consumer complaints about wasteful packaging.'

But then we go into Marketing Operational Reasons Obfuscation Nonsense (yeay.. a new acronym!) MORON-speak: it does use excessive packaging for its ice cream sticks because "it adds to the Green & Black's experience".

Closely followed by Simply Own-up? Why? Have A Timewaster (another one: SO WHAT?): it says that it has always tried to source packaging that will "protect the product, reflect the premium and luxury status of the brand, but at the same time take into account the environment."

And I love this one, which is now a staple: it is "currently conducting an audit of all packaging". It says that its packaging has to "strike a balance between protecting the product, and maintaining our ethical credentials." (Read: Bluster Unmercifully - Generally Goes Away: BUGGA)

Thing is, in light of my previous blog (following Norman Baker's 'raid' on Ferrero Rocher with the Indy) that food packaging is a minute aspect of a much bigger problem and, let's face it, you are no more likely to want a premium brand of chocolate on a paper bag than a Ferrari in a Reliant Robin shell, I can't help but feel a little bit of grownup commercial reality needs to pervade around here, or there will soon be no advertising, design, marketing and we'll all be living in a monochrome box eating gruel.

Meantime the climate will change as we get distracted from big issues by those with agendas getting a bunch of folk who should know better to sweat the small stuff.

Carbcon trading?

On Friday, an email from the BBC Politics Show offered this: Trading in question

If only carbon trading was as easy as apples...
On the international scene, there is really only one game in town for tackling climate change - and that's something called emissions trading.
Put very simply, the idea is that countries get an allowance of carbon, which they can then sell if they don't use all the carbon to which they're entitled.
The theory is that by putting a price on carbon, the market will make it cost effective to reduce pollution.
But is this big idea the best idea?
Paola Buonadonna will be asking if it's the only option, or simply a load of hot air.

I'd suggest they take a gander at this, that I noted that same day: Truth about Kyoto: huge profits, little carbon saved

Sorry kids, it 's going to take a wee bit more than I'd hoped.

If it's worth saying, say it again

Green is certainly the next big thing... for now, in the world of marketing.

The greening of CSR

I have on occasion tried to reply to the comment section online, but either it doesn't like my Mac/Safari set-up, or my over-40ness has rendered the technology beyond me.

It seems that green is no longer just good, but big. And what you have written here is encouraging and all makes very good sense, though I'd like to offer a few extra thoughts on the environmental side of CSR from a position of some experience as a consumer.

The issue of greenwashing remains significant, and it is, if you'll forgive projecting the metaphor, in danger of staining a lot of good with some that is less so being carried out for reasons that range from the misguided to the downright venal. Trouble is, when they happen they get noticed (usually in the tabloids), and the consumer is not that sympathetic to unsubtle manipulations, especially when the intentions are murky. And mud sticks.

One of the biggest issues 'we' (those trying to navigate green issues ourselves, and also help others along the way by sharing our journey) face is that so little that is green can be viewed simply in black and white. But all too often that is what we are served up, and called upon to do.

Though itself erring on being an absolute, I have tended to apply a measure of my own to any and all that comes my way by way of green claim, from government initiative to eco-advertising: the enviROI. So long as it is clearly explained as such, I have no problem with making a purchase or commitment that actually makes little financial sense... if it still genuinely makes the planet a better place for my kids. And I am finding a lot of stuff that fails in this regard. The latest proposals for food miles labelling being the latest example.

Because I'm also finding a lot of information that is clouding our abilities to make such fair judgements.

I note Andy Bond of ASDA is soon facing the WI. That should be interesting. I saw one of his subordinates face a formidable lady from that estimable organisation a wee while ago, and frankly neither came out of the encounter very well as far as I was concerned:

But at least there is now dialogue, and that can only be a good thing so long as it is not used as a delaying tactic instead of action. And with luck both sides will be better briefed and hence engage in more useful debate.

The odd thing to me is how, despite all the evidence to the contrary, so many in marketing still seem to have a mindset that the environment is a problem to be 'dealt with' rather than an opportunity to be embraced... with genuine intent... with win-wins all round. And there are plenty of ways that brands (and the planet) can benefit from going green.

You just need to look a little bit into the (green) left fields to find them out there. And if you are interested I'd be happy to point some out to you.

Lunch. Working?

A while ago my frustrations with BBC's Working Lunch bubbled up and I fired off an overly aggressive, cause-affecting complaint, to which they fired back a very defensive licence-fee-negotiation-damaging reply. Neither side came out of this well.

Sadly, I still need media. And they, in theory, seem to be soliciting stories. Look what was in my in-box today:

Over the coming week on Working Lunch you will see me sitting on two hundred thousand bushels of corn, sheltering under a solar powered tent and revving up an aircraft engine powered by a fuel cell. We've been on the hunt for renewable technologies again, but this time in the USA. All the companies have a special feature: they prefer to list their shares and raise money on London's Alternative Investment Market (AIM).

The quest took us up the Oregon Trail to Wyoming, down through the cornbelt to Iowa and back to Massachusetts and its quaint woods and villages. It's a fascinating story. On the one hand you'll see the world's technological powerhouse feeling its way towards a low carbon future. On the other, you'll hear the pioneers of these frontier technologies saying that they need our help to realise their dreams.

On Monday I'll be looking at ethanol as a replacement for petrol and, later in the week, at flexible solar panels and those fuel cells. There will also be a feature on electric vehicles being made in the UK. Please send in your questions on the technologies we show and on AIM - we plan to answer as many as we can on Friday.

But why, oh why, do they keep posting this, when I and many others have responded to not even get the courtesy of a reply?:


To get in touch on any of the following subjects, please click here…

The... seemingly invisible... Elephant in the room.

With all the various initiatives to solve our energy, waste, etc problems, and the less than measured way most media have reported it all, I found this form last week's Sunday Times most interesting: Making a pile out of rubbish

Significantly, it was in the Business section.

There was also a small panel that is worth repeating here in the spirit of enviROI:


The materials that have been the historical favourites for recyclers make up a surprisingly small proportion – glass accounts for 7% and tin cans only 3%.

Last week’s government paper focused on household waste. But in terms of the total waste generated by the UK as a whole, domestic rubbish accounts for less than 10%. Commerce produces slightly more (11%) and industry produces 14% of the national total.

By sheer weight, more than 60% of waste comes from mining, quarrying, demolition and construction. So why not worry about these really big waste producers?

Quite, though a new strategy to tackle this will apparently be outlined later this year.

However, I remain concerned where the priorities lie here.

Round peg. Square hole.

With our efforts to sell RE:tie grinding on, I found this piece on selling invention in BusinessWeek to be interesting, and was moved to comment: Think Like an Inventor

Appreciating the second subhead says 'The Essential Ingredients for Technological Innovation', I am also looking at the one preceding it: 'Making innovation happen'.

Having just won a gold medal for an invention - most definitely bringing two diverse products together - at a international competition, in this regard I'd have to suggest the first needs to be split, and '..aided by collaboration' placed at the top.

With few exceptions, having a great idea is the easy part; selling it into 'the system' is the tricky bit. And, I would venture, few innovators have the skill sets or personalities to both come up with the idea and then negotiate the suit mentality-driven waters to bring it to market.

Yet, oddly, almost every aspect subsequently seems to expect round pegs to become square in pushing things through.

Of course one has to work harder to get luckier and meet half way, but I believe there is huge opportunity, especially at public-funding level, in looking to bridge the skill sets between the creators and those who can market them to create effective sales complements.