Thursday, September 11, 2008

Frogfile Green Business Expo

Yesterday was the Frogfile Green Business Expo held at the Vancity theatre in Vancouver. The event hosted booths from green office friendly vendors, discussions led by sustainability business experts and a variety of short films on sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

One of the most interesting discussions that I attended was on Green Marketing facilitated by Peter ter Weeme from Junxion Strategy. The discussion was held around the question that since CSR has become so popular, can business professionals still use CSR as a marketing differentiator and if so, how? A number of companies approaches - both successful and unsuccessful - were discussed.

The dangers and prevalence of 'greenwashing' were discussed. One statistic that I found astonishing was that after researching 1018 products claiming to be green, only 1% of them were making legitimate claims. This article Spin Cycle was published in BIV.

In order to combat greenwashing and create a business with a legitimate sustainable mission, Peter discussed a couple of Do's and Don'ts for green marketing:

Do:
- understand what your consumer is looking for;
- frame your product as a solution instead of a problem;
- align your green message with core attributes of company (a good example of who is NOT doing this are companies like Exxon and BP);
- state your facts with humility ;
- focus on your achievements not just your goals;
- bring in third party verification;
- engage your employees as part of the process.

Don't:
- wake up one day and decide to change every aspect of your company to 'green', take gradual steps;
- market buying green as a sacrifice;
- use vague messages or images (his examples were a picture of a leaf or hands holding a world);
- overlook value of leveraging web and word of mouth.

A couple of questions that Peter suggested companies should ask when developing a green marketing plan include: How can your company make passion and vision relevant? How can you ensure your approach is authentic? How can you inspire your customers to become advocates? Have you made your stakeholders aware of your goals? What are you making, how are you making it and with whom?

Of the three talks I attended at the expo, Peter's was the most interesting and relevant for expanding and thinking about how to create a positive sustainability model for one's business.

Videos at the event gave a number of positive case studies of success stories of sustainable business models around British Columbia.

One of the videos that I particularly liked, but was not specific to a case study in BC is the 'Story of Stuff':

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