Cover Story: Green Mission
Consumers Union is dedicated to working for a fair, just and safe marketplace for all consumers. To accomplish this, it operates the world's largest nonprofit educational and consumer product testing center. It testifies before legislative and regulatory bodies and petitions government agencies. Through its Web site, Consumer Reports magazine and other publications, it helps the public make informed decisions about everything from health care to financial services and automobiles. And, if that's not enough, Consumers Union's marketing and production teams have successfully launched their own sustainability "revolution," implementing strategies that contribute to a cleaner, more hospitable planet.
Meta Brophy, director of publishing operations for Consumers Union, describes these efforts as "greening the mission." Appropriately, they began in the organization's grass roots. "This is not a top-down initiative," she says. "It's initiative all right-first on an individual level, then a departmental level and a divisional level. We think our efforts support [Consumers Union's] mission to test, inform and protect."
Starting a Revolution
The seeds for Consumers Union's green movement were planted in 2004, when Brophy heard about the Direct Marketing Association and the Magazine Publishers of America developing environmental handbooks for their respective memberships.
"I heard about these committees from industry colleagues, and I joined both," says Brophy. "I was looking to educate myself about the issues and to see how and with what we might do a better job with our direct mail and publications. I had no idea, really, the scope and magnitude of environmental impact. Working on these committees opened my eyes in a big way."
At the time, environmental concerns were beginning to surface within the magazine and catalog communities, but no one was really talking about direct mail, she says. Initially, most of the discussion was about paper. But Brophy quickly realized that truly sustainable marketing and production would require a more holistic view. "Recycled paper is only one item in the whole conversation," she stresses.