Are you de-railing your sustainability story?

Are you de-railing your sustainability story?

This week, I was checking out at my neighborhood pharmacy (part of a national chain) and shoved the twelve-inch receipt into my purse with the usual irritation. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about discounts. I reviewed the receipt later and tore off a coupon for future use. But I threw three-quarters of the receipt into my recycle bin, thinking, “Does it really have to be that long? How many other people just throw that into the trash?”

They have obviously been tracking my purchases through their rewards program. They sometimes “get it right” with coupons for the products I regularly purchase – but often they don’t. It occurred to me that this practice, while state-of-the-art when it comes to targeted discounting, actually flies in the face of their growing sustainability focus, as evidenced by the product lines they’ve recently added and the initiatives touted in their corporate sustainability report.

Judging by the Facebook activity on this topic, I’m obviously not the only one who’s had this thought.

The point is that your sustainability story is cumulative. Almost everything you do either adds to it or subtracts from it.

Another example: Apple, a company that has led the electronics industry in some areas of sustainability (particularly product content), has recently come under fire for so-called “planned obsolescence.” I have experienced this issue first-hand, as well. In addition to my phone’s rapidly-diminishing charge life, I was chagrined to learn that when I upgraded to my iPhone5, my charging accessories no longer worked. I had to buy all new ones.

Finally, Walmart, the retail poster child for sustainability, has made great progress in packaging reduction with manufacturers in some categories, like detergents and personal care, but they have a long way to go with toys. I recently purchased a gift for a little girl that was packaged in such a way that it took ten minutes and a pair of scissors (which will now no longer  cut paper) to get into it. I shudder to think about the mounds of plastic that will be sitting outside American homes (hopefully in recycle bins) on the first trash pick-up day after Christmas.

Companies should think through all of their processes and practices and ask themselves if they are doing things that contradict what they’re saying about sustainability – because actions speak much louder than words.

About the Author

Lee Ann Head

Lee Ann Head

Lee Ann is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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Suzanne Shelton

President and CEO

Suzanne is the voice and the vision of Shelton Group. Drawing on her extensive experience in energy and the environment – and 25+ years in the marketing and advertising industry – Suzanne provides high-level strategic insights for our clients and guidance for our research and creative departments. She regularly speaks at conferences around the country, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and the International Builders’ Show, and serves as a guest columnist for publications like Fast Company, Green Builder and

Susannah Enkema

VP Research & Insights

Susannah directs our research team and plays a key role in extracting the nuggets of information that pave the way for recommended marketing strategies and creative approaches. Susannah has nearly two decades of market research and strategy experience, including her role as president of SE Consulting, where she led the services for the likes of DIY Network and the makers of GORE-TEX®.

Matt Brass

VP Creative

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing campaigns. He ensures sound strategy and deep insights inform everything his team develops, and works closely with the accounts department to ensure copy and designs will meet our clients’ goals. As a designer and filmmaker himself, he’s also a principal contributor to all of Shelton’s in-house photography and videography work.

Courtnay Hamachek

VP Operations

Courtnay oversees our day-to-day operations to keep us running smoothly and support our growth. She establishes project management systems and processes to help our teams anticipate bottlenecks, prevent process issues, and keep projects on time and on target. Courtnay has built extensive experience over 25 years in all aspects of marketing, from account services and project management to design and production.

Aaron Crecy

Digital Marketing Director

Aaron is responsible for planning, executing and measuring digital marketing strategies for Shelton Group and our clients, with an emphasis on inbound, content, SEO, social media, email and paid initiatives. He constantly researches and explores new tactics and strategies to improve digital campaign performance and results.

Aaron brings to the table more than 20 years of marketing leadership experience with premium consumer-facing brands. He came to Shelton Group by way of Malibu Boats, where, as Director of Global Marketing, he oversaw strategic marketing planning and execution for multiple product lines, with specific emphasis on social media and digital. Prior to that, he served as CMO for a leading daily fantasy sports operator, guiding it from startup to the industry’s third-ranked site.

Scot Case

Senior Consultant

A sustainability strategy consultant since 1993, Scot has served as non-profit leader, as a partner in an environmental marketing firm that he grew and sold, and as an executive in a multi-billion-dollar, international company. He has published dozens of articles and case studies, was co-author of the original “Sins of Greenwashing” study, testified before Congress, and been quoted on NPR, Good Morning America, CNN, The New York Times, Business Week, and the Wall Street Journal. Scot was also highlighted in an Emmy award-winning documentary on sustainable purchasing.

Casey Ward

VP Account Services

Casey manages our relationships, growth and development with a specific group of clients that includes Environmental Defense Fund, Cotton LEADS and CertainTeed Insulation. She provides leadership and support for the account team members who manage the day-to-day processes for these clients. She contributes to strategic direction for each client and guides our creative efforts to ensure everything we do builds toward meeting – or exceeding – the client’s goals. Her ability to simultaneously see the big picture and pay close attention to the details helps her champion her clients’ needs and identify new growth opportunities for them.