"With new deepwater drilling about to resume in the Gulf of Mexico just one year after the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, it would seem that the scale of the calamity would have to be truly (unfathomably?) unprecedented."
I'm optimistic that we don't have to wait for the "big one" before realizing that we should be a striving for a more sustainable society. What I am fearful of, however, is leadership, or a complete lack thereof. What really scares me is that our so-called marketers and leaders would translate perceived ebb in green marketing interest to signals of "abandon ship."
I stress "perceived" ebb in interest, because consumers are as enamored as ever with good, honest companies that offer quality products and services with a green edge. If anything has changed, there is just less tolerance with companies like BP.
Here are some important tips for those who care enough to take a leadership role in encouraging greater adoption of genuine green offerings.
1. Don't get distracted.
There are many competing interests and an equal amount of gamesmanship in the field of green marketing. Facts get thrown around like rice at a wedding, and everyone gets distracted. My main piece of advice here is to admit that you don't know the answers to some complex debates, then move on. This way, you can get to the substantial conversation without spinning wheels over whether wind is better than coal; global warming is a conspiratorial hoax; or SUVs are greener than dogs.
2. Don't choose
Your credibility will be seriously marred if you choose sides too readily. At the end of the day, as long as we're alive (and even for a while afterwards), we're all consumers. Finger pointing will eventually come back to bite you. Assume that we all essentially want the same things when it comes to the earth: to use as much of a finite resource as possible, while avoiding as many negative consequences as possible.
3. Be civilized.
Conversations about conservation are far from the last place where vitriol and conflict emerge. As a species, we are hard-wired to fight. Social media amplifies this all- too-human tendency. In 1990, lawyer/author Mike Godwin invented Godwin's Law to describe this fact of life:
"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."
Engaging should not be about name-calling and toppling people's moral or professional credibility. This is where social media is particularly dangerous. Message boards are a place of conflict, and it takes great skill to maintain reasonable decorum. Think Hugh Grant, not Hulk Hogan (did I just date myself?).
4. Keep an open mind.
Let's face it: we're not always right. Most of the issues that we face today are so complex that most of us can't possibly be experts. Once in a while, we will almost refuse to believe a piece of validated research simply because it doesn't fit within our own paradigm. How can we expect others to change if we ourselves are closed to new ideas?
It may well be true that the pioneers take the arrows, and the settlers take the land. Despite this cliché, however, there is much opportunity for visionary leadership. Breathe, sit back for a few minutes, shut your eyes, doodle, collaborate, and share.
Ultimately, we will never be able to go against the tide of the market. With the right leadership, however, we can nudge it in the right direction.