Whatever the social commentary is at the time, companies will figure out how to tailor their message to it -- it's part of what fascinates me about the power of advertising. But while you could easily find out if something was Made in the USA (and companies would be pretty foolish to falsely claim it), that is not the case with being labeled green.
Does anyone ever question what green actually means? And why is it so important to just be green. What about how these companies treat their employees, give to their communities or provide more to the world than just another product or service? You could be buying an all-natural household cleaner in a recycled package but if the company has a team of migrants in Africa working in horrendous conditions in 18-hour shifts, does it really make you feel better about buying that product?
If you do care about the environment and want to make a difference, you want to make the biggest difference you can, and that means supporting "good" companies, not just the ones claiming to be green.
So how can we as marketers not succumb to the pressures of green-washing and lend our support to companies that are truly doing good in the world?
It comes down to evaluating how a company treats its employees, its impact on the community, and whether the company is a good steward of the environment.
We work with a number of B Corporations, third party-certified companies that must pass certain qualifications based on social and environmental standards. To become a certified B Corporation, a company must amend its corporate documents so it has a legal obligation to serve its environment, employees, consumers and community -- not just maximize shareholder returns.
That is a huge change in the way businesses operate. When the end game takes into account people and the environment over pure profit taking, decisions can be made that impact the greater good.
In our work with B Lab, the 501c3 non-profit organization behind the B Corporation concept, we've seen the community grow to over 350 companies across 55 industries representing over $1.2 billion in revenues. This is not some hippie, crunchy granola group of activist companies getting together to talk to themselves.
Working with B Corporations has benefited Ammirati in a number of ways. It has expanded our knowledge of the green movement to a point where we can confidently incorporate sustainability efforts into our packaging designs. It's also given us access to a comprehensive network of green vendors and sustainable business partners that we can leverage for our projects.
Our account team can rightfully question clients that come to us wanting to be marketed as green but not having the product experience to back it up -- because you must be transparent in this space.
And, finally, working with B Corporations has improved our own social and environmental consciousness as a business. We are moving towards a paperless office, supporting telecommuting and work from home days, encouraging employees to bike to work, and enlisting environmentally preferred products for our office.
Working with companies that are socially responsible -- and have the proof to back it up -- excites us. The more we find out about their efforts, the more inspired we are to promote them and their cause.