Sustainability Made Easy

Sustainability Made Easy

Last week I wrote a blog post entitled, “Why do we keep making sustainability so hard?” and ranted a bit about the challenges of trying to actually own and charge an electric vehicle. In the interest of balance, I wanted to tip my hat to those companies out there making it easy.

A little context setting first from our latest Pulse studies:

  • 74% of Americans and Canadians say a company’s environmental record positively impacts their purchase decisions.
  • The top two things people think companies should do are eliminate waste and use renewable energy.
  • When we dig into our data it’s clear to see that most of us expect companies to solve the Big Hairy Problems for us … we don’t really want to be inconvenienced or change our behavior; we just want things to be better and for sustainability to kind of happen automatically.

 

Thus, some of the best things I see happening today in the sustainability arena are the circular solutions companies are creating. I believe I’ve referenced HP’s printer cartridge program – cartridges are made from discarded, plastic coat hangers, and those cartridges are easily recycled again at the end of their useful life. But I’ve been absolutely delighted lately to see circular solutions that solve a consumer guilt problem and/or play to another consumer care-about.

Case in point: Harvest Power. They divert organic waste from landfills and make energy out of some of it … and they make soil out of some of it. So, first off, they do the two things consumers most think companies should be doing to be more sustainable. Check! But then they go one step further. The soil piece of their story means that yesterday’s food scraps can be used to make tomorrow’s food. Excellent circular story … and it also solves a guilt problem and plays to another consumer desire.

  • Guilt: the number one sustainability issue Americans feel most guilty about is wasting food. Harvest gives us all a “get out of guilt free” card on that front. We don’t have to feel bad about not cleaning our plate knowing there’s a company that can take those leftovers and turn them into good soil for others (or even ourselves) to grow food with.
  • Desire: Americans wildly prefer CSR programs that help their local communities (and the importance of social efforts is growing leaps and bounds – 68% now say CSR activities positively impact purchase intent, up from 35% just two years ago). As Harvest grows, they’ll be able to tell more and more local/regional stories – and, hopefully, get consumers involved in the collection of food scraps.

 

I think that’s what thrills me most about companies like Harvest: by offering such an excellent story, solving a problem and playing to a big desire, they earn permission to tell consumers more of the story (like why throwing an apple core in the trash is not good), and engage them in changing their behavior. Their very value proposition paves the way for consumers to listen, learn and engage.

Now THAT’S making sustainability easy!

 

Suzanne Shelton

About Suzanne Shelton

Suzanne Shelton is President and CEO of Shelton Group, the nation's leading marketing agency focused exclusively on energy and the environment. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of the industry, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights in her writing, research, and client work. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz.com, and she speaks at over 20 conferences a year, including ACEEE, AESP, Greenbiz Forum, and Sustainable Brands.

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1 Comment

  1. “We don’t have to feel bad about not cleaning our plate knowing there’s a company that can take those leftovers and turn them into good soil for others (or even ourselves) to grow food with.” Hmmm. While I applaud Harvest and think it’s a WONDERFUL thing to do, it is far from addressing the problem. As we know from LCAs, most of the environmental impact of the food is from growing the food. So while recycling waste food is better than throwing it in the garbage, all of the embedded resources and impacts from growing the food are still lost- and that is far more than the energy and nutrients recovered from composting. I only point this out so that we focus on the real culprit- REDUCING or eliminating the creation of the waste. Feeling good about recycling it is not really the message we want to communicate. Perhaps more messaging such as that of the Ugly Foods Campaign which makes previously unsalable fruits and vegetables salable will do more to address the issue. We need to feel good about eating everything on our plates!

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