Green Shift: What We Talk About When We Talk About Sustainability

What we talk about when we talk about Sustainability matters very much.*

Let’s start with: What is Sustainability?

I base my understanding on the 1987 UN Brundtland Report:

“Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

My personal definition explicitly includes the business sphere:

Profitably and responsibly living and working today so future generations can thrive .”

What does it mean to you?

Definitions are important because we they reveal our starting points, perspectives, and biases.

Definitions are important to create shared understandings, common goals and aligned efforts.

Since the Sustainability field gathers practitioners from across the business, academic, industry, activist, conservation and environmental spheres, we really really need this.

A Lingua Franca. A bridge language. A working language, to help us get work done.

The non-profit member-driven International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) has created a lexicon project to get us started:

IPPS Lexicon Project

*Raymond Carver.

Green Business: Go Cammo-Green

Customers don’t believe green claims as facts without proof, if a new survey has it right.

Can’t really say I blame them, what with rampant greenwashing that inflates, misleads or otherwise tricks customers into believing a product is greener than it really is.

Via Environmentalleader.com:

Consumers Don’t Trust Green Product Claims, Survey Says

Eight in ten Americans don’t believe companies are addressing all of their environmental impacts, and only 44 percent trust companies’ green claims, according to research by Cone Communications.

This skepticism may affect sales. In fact, as many as 77 percent would be willing to boycott if misled, according to the 2011 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker.

So what’s an eager green marketer to do?

It seems paradoxical but one of the best ways to succeed in the green marketplace is to side-step the Green message altogether. This tactic has worked for the Method brand. which wins by being better, not greener.  Green is the incidental benefit.

If you want to go cammo-green, here’s how:

Promote value over virtue: better health, superior performance, good taste, cost-effectiveness, durability, lower operating costs, and status.

Play to the benefits that your customers already know and trust.

They’ll thank you for a stealthily greener, safer, cleaner product or service with their repeat business. Even if you don’t call it green.