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Archive for the ‘sustainability’ Category

“Over 50% of consumers want greener, more natural housing cleaners, but only 5% actually purchase this category of product.”

– Jennifer Van der Meer –Former Wall Street Analyst, green activist and innovation strategist.

Fantastic piece on Core77 by Jennifer Van der Meer on the convergence of design, (customer) movements, product adoption and innovation against the backdrop of “green” product growth.

Here are some tidbits:

Recently, I was invited to participate as a Speaker at the Greener by Design conference in Alexandria, VA, with innovation culture and systems guru, Robert Shelton. Our talk focused on the encouraging shift towards more open models of innovation, where knowledge is shared both inside and outside a company’s walls to solve for the complex and daunting challenges that we face. This praise for the widening of knowledge networks emerged as a theme in many different conversations throughout the rest of the conference. More and more companies have begun to shift sustainability from public relations statements and corporate social responsibility promises to actual product development and marketing activity–a way to create real value. Facing up to climate change will require a major redesign in the way we bring things to market.

The caveat? Over 50% of consumers want greener, more natural housing cleaners, but only 5% actually purchase this category of product: consumers do not want tradeoffs. Clorox’s Green Works is one company that embraced this gap. How did the Green Works team aim to get past the 5%? When choosing household cleaners, green-leaning consumers are looking for proven efficacy, broad availability, comparable price, and a brand they know and trust. They’re not willing to settle for a product that performs less than a more eco-unfriendly alternative. Clorox Green Works accepted these constraints and delivered a natural product that passed blind performance tests–in partnership with the Sierra Club. Despite initial external skepticism that a brand like Clorox could succeed with a natural product offering, the good word got out and sales results have “far exceeded expectations,” according to Kohler.

The “no tradeoffs, no compromise” approach has served as a mantra in many companies and across industries when challenged with comprehensive green innovation. But there’s something missing in this stark consumer win-it-all equation: Consumers are not part of the conversation and they know it.

I have spent a good deal of time sitting down with these emerging green consumers and many themes come into to focus. When asked to take the time to give their real opinion about their lifestyle, they reveal an untapped desire to participate in the process to be more than just a stat about consumption and purchase behavior. When you move the conversation beyond price and performance benefits to engage people in the challenge of designing a green future, they want to do so much more than just vote with their wallet.

Unleashing the Innovator in Everyone
In fact, I found that once on the topic I could not get these consumers to stop thinking about innovation and the role they should play in the design process. One-on-one interviews, blog studies, and focus groups all inevitably turn into green therapy sessions. People wanted to dissect how they chose to eat their food, build their home, rely on transportation, raise their children, and create meaning in their lives. When the conversation shifted to how we could live more sustainably, the real ideas would begin to flow.

While it was personally gratifying to be a part of these discussions, I found that my role as a strategist and researcher had major limitations. It was costly to send someone like me around the world, burning jet fuel, to have deep conversations only to fold these insights into traditional briefs on brand and product development. At the same time, every industry started getting green religion and claiming a green message. But the old compartmentalize structure was still in place, which resulted in confusion all along the chain, the initial pleasure and fascination with the complexity of the problem devolved into fatigue amongst the newly green converts at the consumer and corporate level.

The roles of designers, product development specialists, and marketers should never have been as segmented and will never be again. Participation is the key to innovation…

I realized that the nature of this challenge requires constant, ongoing conversation between all the elements. Even a successful human-centered approach to the fuzzy front end completely drops off when we hit the conveyor belt process for product development. Ideas once sensibly vetted are suddenly forced to move lock step through the phases required for launch, and often get watered down in the process. This is in fact where the activity of greenwashing occurs–good intentions turn into skepticism, compromises, and incidental innovation. How do we create a system that provides more interaction, iteration and a feedback loop?

Read the rest of Jennifer’s piece here. It’s well worth the detour.

Have a great Monday everyone. 😉

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Fascinating article by Rough Type’s Nicholas Carr on the energy requirements of Second Life. (Okay, so it’s 2 years old, but it seems more relevant today than it did then.)

“We’re running at full power all the time, so we consume an enormous amount of electrical power in co-location facilities [where Second Life/Linden Labs houses their 4,000 server computers] … We’re running out of power for the square feet of rack space that we’ve got machines in. We can’t for example use [blade] servers right now because they would simply require more electricity than you could get for the floor space they occupy.”
– Philip Rosedale, Linden Labs

To put it all in perspective, Sun’s Dave Douglas looked at kilowatt hours in terms of CO2 production to see what the actual ecological impact of an avatar is: Each Second Life avatar requires 1,752kwh/year, which is basically 1.17 tons of CO2.

How does that translate into plain American? Easy: 2,300 SUV miles (or 4,000 Prius miles) per year. For just one avatar.

Wow.

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Brains on Fire‘s Justine Foo (PhD) on the sustainability of value props, innovation, and the courage of looking beyond conventional ROI:

Maybe it’s the idealist in me, but I’m hoping sustainability isn’t just a trend. I’m hoping this is the beginning of a paradigm shift toward more sustainable business practices in general. Not just with respect to the use of renewable vs. non-renewable resources for manufacturing. But also with respect to the kinds of consumer goods we innovate, and how we communicate about products and services to people. I long to see sustainability as a price of entry for doing business, and yes marketing. Wouldn’t it be nice if you actually kept, for example, 80% of the mail you get instead of throwing it straight in the trash?

We spend billions of dollars on communications that are short-lived and sadly waste paper, vinyl, and other things. We know that mass advertising isn’t having the impact it used to, and that we need to look to other venues like word of mouth. But even then we’re still thinking short term; creating buzz, not lasting energy and enduring excitement.

(…)

You’ll think I’m crazy. But I’m hoping that oil prices stay high. That the “crisis” mainstream advertisers are in doesn’t subside. That consumers continue to grow their demand for pesticide-free, natural, organic. Even that food prices rise. It’s instabilities like these that drive REAL change. Why? Because they create the motivation for finding a better way to do things. They force us to innovate and not relax back into the status quo.

Marketing, like manufacturing, stands at the doorstep of a great opportunity. An opportunity to revolutionize how we think about growth, measure return, and exist in relation to the communities that support us. Will we invest in developing better, smarter, more efficient ways to excite people about our products? Or will we continue to play the numbers game and bask in a false sense of security we feel when we’re promised a reach of thousands and millions of people, even when our strategic objectives have moved beyond raising awareness.

It will take courage to look beyond conventional ROI. It will take dedication and creativity to see new ways to measure return. It will also take companies demanding sustainability from their marketing departments and partners. And the recognition that it emerges from passion and excitement, not impressions.

Source post.

If you think that the gas prices comment is harsh, well… yeah. It is. But when we’re too set in our ways to make necessary changes on our own, the universe has a funny way of using the foot-in-ass technique to get us to move. It may not be pleasant, but that’s just how it is. Deal with it.

The same is true about business. Way too many companies are still in denial mode: “We’ve been doing it this way for 50 years and it’s worked fine!” (Yet their business is going down the drain and they can’t figure out why.) Wake up and smell what’s cooking. Numbers don’t lie. Customers don’t lie. Your bottom-line and market share don’t lie. Winners win and losers lose: What is true of athletes, nations, products and even species is also true of marketing campaigns and businesses.

Reality is often too harsh to bear. True leaders accept reality and deal with it. Far too many business executives, however, are not leaders. For them, competition, price pressures and innovation are the cosmic kicks to the rump that force them to cast their “business as usual” mentalities aside and get back in the game, sometimes much too late, when at all

Leaders and the companies they head will survive. Posers will not. I say let natural selection, market forces and user/customer communities sort them out.

Great post, Justine.

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