Concern for the environment used to be on the fringe of society—something that most consumers and businesses could, like Scarlett O’Hara, worry about tomorrow. Now, with the harsh realities of climate change hitting us all hard, going green has become mainstream. And yet, I’m noticing a peculiar slant on the conversation, something that indicates a fear of being labeled a fringe-riding cuckoo.
From consumer magazines to infotainment woven into the marketing campaigns of businesses looking to brand themselves as part of the eco-revolution, the corollary to going green has become, “Don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger.” While I understand the hesitation to come off sounding preachy when your company doesn’t have a spotless track record on sustainable business practices, I think an apologist stance is a bad strategy. It suggests that if conservation wasn’t au courant, you might not be flying your green flag. That is the exact opposite message the direct marketing industry needs to share.
What many consumers and legislators don’t know is that while some of the processes that fuel direct marketing produce waste, quite a few companies have worked hard to reduce or eliminate the harmful impacts. Partly to benefit the environment, but mostly because it made good business sense. For example, envelope manufacturers have been engineering solutions to reduce or reuse scrap waste for decades.
I’m not advocating the direct marketing industry do a little greenwashing to color over any negatives (see Brand Matters, on page 23, for more on what this term means and ideas on how to properly communicate your firm’s eco-activities). But I do hate when groups like ForestEthics get to paint the direct mail picture black with twisted statistics and less than the full story.
We should be telling our stories, plainly communicating who we are, what we do and how we do it. More importantly, we should be partnering with our customers and suppliers to identify ways to conduct business in a way that’s efficient for all parties yet yields no lasting harm to the planet. That’s the goal at Consumers Union, this month’s cover story profile, starting on page 28. And its efforts inspired us to step up our service to you, resulting in 24 tips for going green that you’ll see scattered throughout this issue. We hope you find an idea or two to champion at your company.