Don’t pretend to save the World…

I remember couple of years back, everything was going green…

cities, brands, even the grocer next door…

We were hammered with ‘Sustainability’ messages promoting companies, brands, people…

in print, outdoor, conferences…you name it!

Everyone was on a mission.

You could easily spot the words ‘Carbon Footprint’ miles away on every other Billboard,

and hear it in every random conversation.

It was the ‘in’ thing. Everything was turning green…or blue.

Brands were compelled to act.

Being ‘environmentally active’ was the ‘Stamp of Approval’…

I remember in my previous company we even got branded blue water containers to stop using plastic cups.

Each one of us was asked to commit to a PSP (personal sustainability practice), a regular daily action that would reduce our carbon footprint.

We also had one full agency staff meeting on that subject….

….But it kind of ended there.

What happened since?

It’s been a while I haven’t seen any communication related to sustainability…and I am on Twitter!

Was it a mere trend?

Did ‘Social media’ take over as the new ‘in-thing’ to shout about?

Or was it that these companies / brands / people shortly realized that shouting ‘We’re Saving The Planet’ out loud, at every living soul didn’t double their sales dollars?

I guess they realized few sales reports later that ‘Sustainability’ was not an efficient ‘Marketing’ tactic.

Research and numbers finally proved that ‘Saving the Planet’ did not increase sales figures.

As a matter of fact, they probably came to the conclusion that most people would continue to buy

brands they love,

brands that converse with them,

brands that engage with them at the right level,

whether these brands are contributing to the wellbeing of the planet or not.

After all, the majority of the common mortals is selfish and really thinks short term.

Thinking long term is too much to ask, as long as Planet Earth will still be here for them and their kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not attempting to belittle the importance of Sustainability.

It is something I believe in.

(Ok, its not on top of my to do list and I don’t use the towel twice in a hotel, but I try to minimize the use of paper

and I still use my water container – but I changed the blue one to a more sophisticated silver one).

What I am definitely criticizing here is Brands taking advantage of it.

True Sustainability is that thing brands do, that costs them money, and that is aimed at improving the planet…and not sales!

It is very much altruistic…

Its actually an act of charity…

and the key thing with charity is that…YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT IT!

This is where action speaks louder than ads

And if Brands don’t stay true to this principle, they may as well forget pretending.

People are not fools. They can differentiate between genuine actions and cheap short-term marketing tactics.

And as one wise man once said:

Don’t save the world. If your product sounds too good to be true, then you’re a liar.


8 Comments on “Don’t pretend to save the World…”

  1. Brenda Kassir says:

    On the contrary, I disagree that the notion of sustainability has diminished. It has not. In fact the environmental movement has improved over the last few years. Only the way it has improved has not been mere heresay, it has been via real and tangible results and organisations at grassroots level. That’s why you might feel that at a corporate level it has declined. Because people have seen through the corporate lies and pretend. Now there are organisations tackling serious issues about food and water availability. Sustainability is now about sourcing food locally. Knowing what chemicals are in our food. The environmental movement has forced huge companies (nestle, NIKE, Apple) to change practices that were harming the environment.

    These days, if you are truly interested in sustainability and the enviornment you follow the many many many ‘green’ publishers and organisations on twitter rather than be bombarded with corporate messages, as a marketing tactic.

    So yes sustinability in the empty, lying, shallow sense of the word, tacked onto a company’s CSR to do list is dead, but long live true, ethical, honest sustainability and the green movement – because there is still a long way to go (and a financial crisis to completely get over first) before we save the planet!

    • Roger says:

      Hey bren, actually your last paragraph is the subject i am talking about. The ‘cheap marketing tactic taking advantage of sustainabilty has faded. The real genuine thing is of course still there coz there are still brands and people who genuinely care. But they dont shout about it right left and center. So i guess we’re on the same wave length.

      • Brenda Kassir says:

        True. I think this has been the result of the digital / social technological change. People do things as a community now, at a grasroots level (http://www.good.is/category/environment).

        Even when corporations are interested in sustainability and doing some good for the world / planet, they try to rally people behind a cause and get them involved and engaged digitally (for example GE Ecomagination).

        This is big news for our region. We have a long way to go here before comany’s start to understand how to be ‘sustainable’ for a start, and how to support and motivate sustainable causes. This region has always been shy of ‘shouting’ about their charity and other CSR activities because of the mentality that ‘we dont show off about what we’re doing’ but it’s not a question of showing off, it’s a question of being seen as a leader than can move others to action.

        I think there’s some room in the future for an agency specialised in sustainability and helping clients find their sustainability and CSR angle. Watch this space ;-)

  2. Brenda Kassir says:

    Check out also the Pepsi refresh project on facebook.

    “In 2010, B. BONIN Bough, PepsiCo’s global director of social media, launched Pepsi Refresh, an online project that funds community-development ideas. When people criticized the program, he responded on blogs and asked for feedback to help shape the project going forward. “It’s like any relationship,” he says. “You have to be honest.”

    He is # 77 on Fast Company’s top 100 most creative people in business 2011.


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