April 19, 2010

B CORP:

True Green?: Determining what's really green is tricky. Marketing it is even trickier (Robert Klara, 4/18/10, Brandweek

Is it realistic to expect consumers to go online -- or depend on related outreach via social-media channels -- so they can have a ball with an environmental-impact white paper? "No, it's not," says Keirstin De West, principal of Vancouver-based brand consultancy Conscientious Innovation. By sending shoppers to the Web, she says, "you're asking them for more time, and you're not making it easy for them to become more conscientious consumers." De West's firm recently conducted a survey in which it asked shoppers where they go to learn about a brand's sustainability practices. Only 30 percent responded that they visit a company's Web site, and when it came to relying on social networking channels, that number dropped to 15 percent.

Discouraging figures like that may be part of why a growing number of brands are looking toward third-party certification to explain green credentials too drawn out for packaging or for, say, a TV ad. The idea's appeal is obvious. Since true green is often a lot more complex than most consumers have the time or inclination to deal with, one solution is to let an independent certification outfit crunch all the data and then give the brand a stamp of approval -- think of a UL seal or a kosher designation, but for green.

Jay Coen Gilbert is the co-founder of one outfit that furnishes such a seal. His not-for-profit firm -- called B Corporation -- evaluates a brand on 200 green criteria, ranging from environmental conservation matters on up to progressive human resources practices. "Consumers have a mind-numbing series of rabbit holes they're forced to go down to make sense of the ever-increasing complexity of environmental claims," Gilbert says, explaining that there's a need for "a credible third party to say how these claims stack up against one another."

Currently, some 300 corporations sport the "B" seal (they include Method household products and King Arthur Flour), which Gilbert says can go a long way toward saving the marketing department the headache of explaining complex conservation practices to consumers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 19, 2010 12:00 AM
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