State of Greenwashing on this Earthday

Greenwashing, or the practice of marketing false claims of corporate responsibility is a response to growing consumer trends of conscious buying, specifically tailored to exploit this burgeoning conscious. Grown out of the "whitewashing" term for covering misdeeds, consistency and financial sourcing both can indicate the degree of truthfulness in a "green" campaign.

"The Record" of Stockton, CA did an informal "review" of consumer products found in a neighborhood store and come up with these types of statistics:

  • 1,018 consumer products analyzed
  • Only one did not make false or misleading claims (TerraChoice)
  • Most used hidden tradeoffs
    • One environmental advance at the cost of others
    • End result is a greener image on the shoulders of the minor advanc
  • A review of garden products found that 10% of all claims were meaningless

As a result of this blatant disregard for brand transparancy and authenticity towards sustainability communications, the FTC has decided to impose new regulations in a crackdown on greenwashing (Washington Post 3/4/08). In new proposed regulations, the responsbility for the authenticity of the communciation will fall on the brand manager. With the last review and modifcation to guidelines in 1998, time is up for a change.

Brands play a dangerous game when they practice false advertising, consumers can end up hating or vilifying the brand and it can alienate the consumer from what is supposed to be a transparant process.

Brands need to practice brand-balancing and understand regultory, distribution, competitive, investor, and general public pressures that face the company. If they find that they are aligining hot topics with little substance, trying to have superhero image, walking a fine line between truth and lies, and generally ignorning consumer dialog, the brand will find that they will not perform up to expectations through their "green" marketing. We found that the brand story needs to be consistent and measured against consumer benefits, and teach consumers. Also enabling brands that allow consumers choices and options and invite them to be a part of the ongoing dialogue about their needs and wants in terms of sustainability and transparancy, will be more effetive green communications.

FreshDirect in NYC

FreshDirect faces a few strategic issues and problems in the expansion and development of their made to order grocery delivery system. While the company focused its efforts on cost reduction through its centralized warehouse and producing efficiency as a core competency in the fresh grocery delivery market, key competition, excessive waste, and negative public relations exposure all deal FreshDirect a problematic hand.

One of the largest strategic obstacles for FreshDirect is the negative publicity it currently endures. Although the company is taking steps to align itself in a positive light, fallout from negligent practices have ultimately hurt the company's ability to thrive in a community based environment. Customer perception starts to become a key factor in competitive staying power as the market matures, and with over 10 years of market maturity, this started to become a factor. Negative perception and publicity of FreshDirect largely stemmed from public awareness of its negative environmental impact.

Firstly, the conveyer packing system forced FreshDirect to use an excess quantity of cardboard boxes. Without a strategic and well thought out packaging return system, FreshDirect was seen as a squanderer of precious paper products.

Second, the oversized and often times under stocked delivery trucks that congested New York streets were of concern not only for local residents but worldwide citizens as well. The trucks could be easily replaced with energy efficient, smaller, hybrid powered trucks but were nevertheless larger, more dirty, and smog producting trucks that negatively affected the chemical makeup of the local air and globally impacted global warming reduction efforts.

Finally, negative publicity and protest against FreshDirect came from their impact on local businesses (i.e. grocers in neighborhoods) and how they could undersell and eventually breakdown these community landmarks. These local industries provide safety, foot traffic, and physical interaction in neighborhoods.

FreshDirect has only taken only to rectify the latter of the above causes for the overall strategic planning issue of negative publicity. Even in this case they have not totally cured the problem at hand, but instead are starting to contribute to local economies by sourcing their stock from local and organic farmers. On the other causal factors, FreshDirect has neglected to address them. The packaging and delivery trucks remain to be detrimental requirements of FreshDirect’s continued operation and thus prove to pose a serious risk in an industry that is centered upon responsible and clean reputations.

iPhone: Planning vs. Implementation (REVISIT)

One year ago, in January of 2007 I posted an item about the introduction of the iPhone. Referencing the unorthodox nature of its advanced announcement and marketing efforts, and its intuitive interface, the analysis was one of those who would pay and those who would abstain. Quote from the original article:

What the iPhone does for us creative types is help provide an alternative to the highly formal blackberry or treo. We are no longer mislabeled by the phone we carry, and we can succumb to our ever-vocal choice in electronics
I would like to update this commentary, based on recent developments of the iPhone market.

The value embedded in owning the iPhone is incredible. Just like my previous analysis:
Apple knows it has cornered a certain type of market and is seeking to expand that market everyday (see the latest TV ads obviously geared towards older PC-using men).
There is incredible value in the conspicuous ownership of the iPhone, as is a functional benefit. Nonetheless, I still know of, and see, here in New York, many many people required to utilize two phones because of the ever-difficult business functionality of the iPhone. Blackberry and iPhone ownership represent the dual nature of the business telecommuter. One for play and one for work. The weak email application is partially to blame for this observation.

Additionally, the iPhone has lost control of its inventory. With over 1.7 MILLION phones missing, of the some 3.1 million produced, the "unlocked" iPhone black market is HUGE. A large percentage of these missing and unaccounted for phones are surfacing in markets where the iPhone does not even have a carrier arrangement: Thailand, Hong Kong, India, Eastern bloc european countries.

Here, the iPhone is unlocked and then distributed as a hacked phone, with the ability to insert a SIM card and use on local wireless carriers. This, I feel, is represented by the iPhone's strict standards because of their carrier contracts, like here in the US with AT&T.

The iPhone carries with it that inherent playful and intuitive value, that Apple so cleverly has accomplished in its brand recognition, yet the facts are cold and true:
  • Millions of phones are already hacked and have circumvented Apple's ability to profit off of its carrier contracts.
  • Apple does not utilize business productivity as one of the driving factors of selling its device, thus requiring many business people to keep two phones (one blackberry) if they want an iPhone
  • The iPhone's post launch price drop and recent introduction of new and superior models have soured some Apple fans.


The Power of Viral Marketing

Recent efforts that I have started to further a notable cause was struck with hard negative pressure, in terms of my ability to secure and transmit the reason for being and purpose for joining in the cause for which I was working (Sustainability). This was until I secured the efforts of my efforts in viral marketing.

By utilizing my existing social networks and established and related facebook group, I was able to quickly (in 1/1000th the time) secure the syndicate of information for which I was seeking and able to see my registrations of interested people exponentially grow over two days.

Incredibly, messages sent through my facebook group for sustainability were returned within minutes, not hours or days, and with more enthusiasm than my face to face efforts at Parsons.

Moreover, membership in my group grew, hits to the official website generated with inertia.

Suggestive Authors on Our Current Ecological Crisis

We are in the starts of the crisis of our era, our degradation of our social and environmental framework. A large part of my personal education rotates around the sustainability movement. In one of my courses, I dissected different notable authors and their sociological explanations of why we are at this pith of human survival. The following short paragraphs are taken out of one of my final exams at Parsons.

Lynn White's thesis about Judeo-Christian anthropocentrism is a causal factor of our current ecological crisis. He states that because of prevailing Judeo-Christian values. From the start of religious experiences, we have seen values imposed upon followers which refer to anthropocentrism as a pivotal norm. The preachings and writings have led to a people-centered mindset, in terms of ecological harmonization. The values passed through religious medium instruct people that "man" has mastery over nature, and that we are to exploit its resources (to some degree). This implicates generations of environmental misconduct, leading to crisis.

Lewis Moncrief critiques Lynn White's thesis, and while he does not refute it, he writes an alternative explanation, which indirectly includes White's thesis. Moncrief writes that because of democratization and capitalism we have increased population, wealth, urbanization, and industrialization (India, China..). These resulting factors are, and have been, the cause of our environmental crises. Moncrief writes on White that, Judeo-Christian values did play a contributing factor to democratization and capitalism, and this could be indirectly involved. Moncrief also writes that environmental degradation has been occuring since before Judeo-Christian values prevailed.

-- Flash -- Age of Conversation Monkey Hits My Table

He wants a hug before he sends off to Ohio!

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