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Archive for the ‘CSR’ Category


by Megan Yarnall

Social media is popular for various reasons including the fact that it’s easy to reach people and that it’s free. Media such as advertising and marketing often is not free, so for many companies it is hard, if not impossible, to find room in the budget. For companies who don’t mind taking a leap of faith, there’s another option, one that TerraCycle relies heavily upon: owned media.

I say “leap of faith” because sometimes you have to shell out some cash to create the owned media, and then be patient and wait for the fruit of your efforts to materialize. Here at TerraCycle, we just started a bi-weekly podcast that documents eco-tips, eco-news, and features interviews with key players from our partners such as Elmer’s, Dropps, and Garnier  as well as leading voices from the sustainable industry.

Of course there was some limited start-up capital required to outfit one of our tiny meeting rooms: making the space soundproof, purchasing a podcast mic and sound equipment, and making sure our social media manager had the most appropriate sound editing programs on his computer. So, how do we justify spending the money on something that won’t bring us outright income?

Well, the podcast is an affordable investment. The start up cost wouldn’t have paid for a few days of Google Ads and this piece of owned media (the podcast itself) becomes a multi-use platform. When people hear the podcast, they learn about the company, its mission, and then (hopefully) are encouraged to sign up for the TerraCycle Brigade program and help us collect and recycle waste! Moreover, we can offer interviews to our valued partners and create or solidify relationships with industry leaders.

Other pieces of owned media include books, TV shows, company magazines, and blogs. Some of these require a larger output of money, but in return the outcome can be greater. The product can end up paying for itself. Additionally, with things like magazines, you can partner with advertisers to help foot some of the costs involved.

Some pieces of owned media will be more of a challenge than others. You can always write your own blog, you can’t just sign up to have a TV show. As with all things, it’s easier to start small, at TerraCycle we began blogging for smaller sites years ago, today we write for the New York Times, Treehugger and other major news sites. TerraCycle was in the media long before the founder and CEO, Tom Szaky, wrote his book and appeared on the National Geographic Channel with TerraCycle’s show “Garbage Moguls.” But any company can find a unique engaging angle worth pitching for a show or a book; just turn on your TV to find a 100 examples of small business turned reality TV hit show.

Additionally, you have to remind yourself that owned media is an investment. There’s cost involved, and while it may pay for itself in the long run, you’ll have to be patient. For the less patient, or for those who can’t (or don’t want to!) put up the cash, blogs are a great option. Social media partnerships allow for collaborating with like-minded businesses and charities and you can support each other’s causes with guest posts and mentions.

The vital element is this: you must remember what you can offer to other people, not always what they can do for you, and you should keep in mind popular media and how people are consuming content these days.

For TerraCycle’s podcast, visit iTunes and search “Talking Trash with TerraCycle” or visit www.terracycle.podbean.com.

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By Elisa Niemtzow, Sequoia Lab Principal.

 

2011 marks an exciting year in luxury goods. After years of being singled out for lackluster social and environmental performance, luxury brands are recognizing the benefits of going green, and are starting to talk about it. Backtrack four years ago to the release of WWF-UK’s analysis of the luxury goods industry, and things looked bleak. For example, Tiffany scored a D+, PPR a D, and L’Oréal a C+.

This year, Tiffany launched its well-received sustainability website, detailing the responsible business practices that have made it a sector leader. PPR unveiled the first complete annual environmental profit and loss account for its brand Puma, committing to extend the practice to all of its brands, including iconic luxury houses Gucci, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta by 2015. Finally, L’Oréal pleasantly surprised more than just one sustainability expert at its inaugural global stakeholder forums this year.

Like other business sectors, luxury brands still face a lion’s share of challenges. In September, the Ethical Consumer Research Association (ECRA) in the U.K. lambasted leading designer clothing companies in its special report Style Over Substance, at the height of the “killer” sandblasted jeans problem involving brands such as Armani and Dolce & Gabanna.

For sure, there’s a lot of work to be done.

However, in reading the ECRA report, many companies received criticism for lack of available information, and ECRA assumed the worst. Dig a little deeper and I’m convinced that better things are brewing beneath the surface. Secrecy, after all, is a hallmark of the industry, which protects its craftsmanship and its margins like a mother bird her eggs.

I used to manage wholesale at Chanel, one of the most coveted brands out there (and one of the most searched for names on the internet). Online videos will take you backstage at December’s Paris-Bombay runway show, but you’d be hard-pressed to find much corporate information on this very private company.

Because of their glamorous role front and center, we expect the best from luxury brands (and that creates a special risk for them if customer perception of good business doesn’t match reality). But, as luxury brands begin conversations around sustainability, they face the same challenges as their non-luxury counterparts.
Since I don’t have the space here to discuss all these questions, I’ll focus on that last one, i.e., how do you talk to customers about your social initiatives without detracting from key brand messages?How do you communicate on your sustainability journey, essentially a work in progress, without becoming a target for criticism or losing control of the dialogue? How does a corporate executive support sustainable consumption while meeting ever-increasing sales targets? How do you talk to customers about your green or social initiatives without detracting from key brand messages?

The question of how to communicate on CSR themes to customers comes up frequently with my consulting clients these days. Fortunately, luxury brands have the potential to excel in this arena. They know how to create universes – whether that’s stores, fashion shows, websites or ads – which are on brand, make you dream, aspire, and ignite all your senses.

First, let’s start with a CSR-focused ad campaign gone a little wrong.

Italian leather and fashion house Ferragamo pioneered eco-luxe in 2007, with the launch of a small collection of bags made of natural, metal-free leather. This year, it launched the Ferragamo World collection, with 5 percent of proceeds going to the vanguard Acumen Fund. What a great partnership, but what a bad ad.

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by Megan Yarnall

TerraCycle is a national and international company that stays local. Sound like a paradox? It doesn’t have to be one.

Since there’s usually a big push around “buying local” at the holidays, when everyone is doing more shopping than usual and trying to get the best prices, I started wondering how staying local fits into the plans for a national and/or international company, and how those companies can help encourage consumers to stay local. I’m not talking companies like retail stores, but instead companies like TerraCycle or even those that aren’t often consumer-facing (think, a national film company or a social services company).

The temptation to go to the large, national retail stores that are offering substantial holiday discounts and incentives is hard to resist, understandably. So what will help consumers veer toward local stores regardless? And why should a company not personally involved with, say, shoes, when people are looking for shoes, be concerned?

My answer here is community and personality. Even for a national company, engaging consumers at every level – including local – is key. Not only that, but by showing that your company cares about local causes in the areas it has offices, or the area it serves individually, you show part of your company’s personality, and that your company has depth. When you care about what your community cares about, they will care about you as well. Participate in a walkathon or help coordinate a gift drive. TerraCycle does this in August with its Graffiti Jam, works with local community improvement non-profits such as Isles, and enables its Brigades to donate to local charities in their respective towns.

One factor that can also help consumers buy local is knowledge. Consumers need to know why buying local is beneficial and why not all of the focus should be on cheaper prices at large stores. In order to engage people in your community, team up with a local shop to offer a “Buy Local Challenge” like the one run by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission.  Help them discover how to find discounts at local stores and local coupons (maybe suggest looking on community boards or in community handouts).

TerraCycle, a socially responsible company at our core, found a way to grow to 16 countries and still maintain our focus on being a local business. In each new market we expand, we find a local office, local shippers, local processing partners and hire citizens of that country to run our operations. The waste collected in a country stay in that country or region (in Argentina and Brazil for example uses the same facilities as needed) and nevers comes back to the US. So why we are turning into a global company each of our markets are kept very locally focused.

While national and international companies are concerned with more than local activities, it’s important to remember local connections and community so


companies can remember who they’re serving and can express their company’s personality and drives. What better time to do this than the holidays? So give your employees an extra day off if they volunteer at a local soup kitchen or food bank, donate to local charities on their behalf or find other ways to spread the holiday cheer to your workers and your community.

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By Wayne Visser

As part of the Quest for CSR 2.0 series

By May 2008, it was clear to me the evolutionary concept of Web 2.0 held many lessons for corporate social responsibility. At the time, I declared: “The field of what is variously known as CSR, sustainability, corporate citizenship and business ethics is ushering in a new era in the relationship between business and society. Simply put, we are shifting from the old concept of CSR – the classic notion of ‘Corporate Social Responsibility,’ which I call CSR 1.0 – to a new, integrated conception – CSR 2.0, which can be more accurately labelled ‘Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility.’”

The allusion to Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 is no coincidence. The transformation of the Internet through the emergence of social media networks, user-generated content and open source approaches is a fitting metaphor for the changes business is experiencing as it begins to redefine its role in society. Let’s look at some of the similarities.

Web 1.0

  • A flat world just beginning to connect itself and finding a new medium to push out information and plug advertising.
  • Saw the rise to prominence of innovators like Netscape, but these were quickly out-muscled by giants like Microsoft with its Internet Explorer.
  • Focused largely on the standardised hardware and software of the PC as its delivery platform, rather than multi-level applications.

CSR 1.0

  • A vehicle for companies to establish relationships with communities, channel philanthropic contributions and manage their image.
  • Included many start-up pioneers like Traidcraft, but has ultimately turned into a product for large multinationals like Wal-Mart.
  • Travelled down the road of “one size fits all” standardization, through codes, standards and guidelines to shape its offering.

Web 2.0

  • Being defined by watchwords like “collective intelligence,” “collaborative networks” and “user participation.”
  • Tools include social media, knowledge syndication and beta testing.
  • Is as much a state of being as a technical advance – it is a new philosophy or way of seeing the world differently.

CSR 2.0

  • Being defined by “global commons,” “innovative partnerships” and “stakeholder involvement.”

    From netasbitsandpieces.blogspot.com

  • Mechanisms include diverse stakeholder panels, real-time transparent reporting and new-wave social entrepreneurship.
  • Is recognising a shift in power from centralised to decentralised; a change in scale from few and big to many and small; and a change in application from single and exclusive to multiple and shared.

So what will some of these shifts look like? In my view, the shifts will happen at two levels. At a macro-level, there will be a change in CSR’s ontological assumptions or ways of seeing the world. At a micro-level, there will be a change in CSR’s methodological practices or ways of being in the world.

Macro Shifts

The macro-level changes can be described as follows: Paternalistic relationships between companies and the community based on philanthropy will give way to more equal partnerships. Defensive, minimalist responses to social and environmental issues are replaced with proactive strategies and investment in growing responsibility markets, such as clean technology. Reputation-conscious public-relations approaches to CSR are no longer credible and so companies are judged on actual social, environmental and ethical performance (are things getting better on the ground in absolute, cumulative terms?).

Although CSR specialists still have a role to play, each dimension of CSR 2.0 performance is embedded and integrated into the core operations of companies. Standardized approaches remain useful as guides to consensus, but CSR finds diversified expression and implementation at very local levels. CSR solutions, including responsible products and services, go from niche ‘nice-to-haves’ to mass-market ‘must-haves.’ And the whole concept of CSR loses its Western conceptual and operational dominance, giving way to a more culturally diverse and internationally applied concept.

Micro Shifts

How might these shifting principles manifest as CSR practices? Supporting these meta-level changes, the anticipated micro-level changes can be described as follows: CSR will no longer manifest as luxury products and services (as with current green and fair-trade options), but as affordable solutions for those who most need quality of life improvements. Investment in self-sustaining social enterprises will be favored over cheque-book charity. CSR indexes, which rank the same large companies over and over (often revealing contradictions between indexes) will make way for CSR rating systems, which turn social, environmental, ethical and economic performance into corporate scores (A+, B-, etc., not dissimilar to credit ratings), which analysts and others can usefully employ to compare and integrate into their decision making.

Reliance on CSR departments will disappear or disperse, as performance across responsibility and sustainability dimensions are increasingly built into corporate performance appraisal and market incentive systems. Self-selecting ethical consumers will become irrelevant, as CSR 2.0 companies begin to choice-edit; i.e., cease offering implicitly ‘less ethical’ product ranges, thus allowing guilt-free shopping.

Post-use liability for products will become obsolete, as the service-lease and take-back economy goes mainstream. Annual CSR reporting will be replaced by online, real-time CSR performance data flows. Feeding into these live communications will be Web 2.0 connected social networks, instead of periodic meetings of rather cumbersome stakeholder panels. And typical CSR 1.0 management systems standards like ISO 14001 will be less credible than new performance standards, such as those emerging in climate change that set absolute limits and thresholds.

As our world becomes more connected and global challenges like climate change and poverty loom ever larger, businesses that still practice CSR 1.0 will (like their Web 1.0 counterparts) be rapidly left behind. Highly conscientised and networked stakeholders will expose them and gradually withdraw their social licence to operate. By contrast, companies that embrace the CSR 2.0 era will be those that collaboratively find innovative ways tackle our global challenges and be rewarded in the marketplace as a result.

Note: This article has appeared on CSRwire

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By Lillias MacIntyre, Program Associate, Corporate Partnerships

OK – so you’re part of the ever increasing group of environmentally conscious global citizens trying to make a difference.  I’m sure you’ve found yourself browsing a retailer’s shelves or clicking through Amazon.com in search of a product more sustainable than the one sitting on your shelf at home…But you couldn’t remember if you should avoid PBDE, PFOA or NPEs!  Now, undeterred and armed with your smart phone, you launch the GoodGuide mobile app, and learn you should try and avoid all three chemicals.

GoodGuide helps consumers make better purchasing decisions by ranking product performance on a relative scale using an array of environmental, health and social impact metrics.  And with the recent launch of its “Transparency Toolbar” you can now browse products on Amazon.com and see how they stack up to the competition in areas of interest to you.  Naturally, the moment I learned about these tools I decided to give them a try.

The mobile app allows you to scan or manually input barcodes for product information and is a fun and convenient tool when it works.  With a database of about 120,000 products, you can opt to browse GoodGuide or simply use the scanner when shopping.  Conveniently, when browsing product categories, you’re given a list of “ingredients to watch for.”

The Toolbar is supported on Chrome and Firefox, currently works with Amazon, and will soon be supported by Walmart,SOAPTarget and Google Products.  While helpful when it finds a product from the database, this too has its inconsistencies.  For example, a search for “Avalon Organics Biotin B-Complex Thickening Shampoo” on GoodGuide.com, Amazon.com, and the mobile application produced an overall product rating of 6.2 on the first; a non product-specific 5.2 on the toolbar; and a 6.2 overall rating on the app.  Additionally, when clicking through for the “Full Rating” from the Toolbar, I was taken to a page with partial data and no overall rating.  It seems that in this case, the first Toolbar rating of 5.2 draws on overall company data (Avalon Natural Products).

Information on GoodGuide’s ratings and methodologies can be found on the website, but in general, data is acquired from many sources including scientific institutions, government agencies, NGOs, media outlets and corporations themselves.

That said, the next time you’re wandering the isles of your favorite retailer or searching for a great deal on Amazon.com, keep these tools in mind, because despite their kinks – you’re on a more enlightened path with GoodGuide.

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by Megan Yarnall

Going green, or being green, has often been associated with expensive organic or eco-friendly products, lifestyle and habit changes, and limited luxury. But going green at home and in the workplace doesn’t have to break the bank.

Many tips that families use to stay green around the house and save money – such as turning off the lights when a room is empty – can be applied to the office as well.  This can lead to happier employees, reduced costs and of course a smaller carbon footprint.

Example of how we re-use objects in our office every day

First, a few things that can be done every day, with contribution from everyone in the office:

Tip #1 Limited printing. Most things don’t really need to be printed out in hard copy. And if they do need to be printed, you can re-use paper and print double-sided. When you’re done with it, stick in the recycling bin.

How we do this? Just the way it sounds! We print double-sided, or reuse paper when we can. We also only print when we need to, and do most things by email. Afterwards, we’re TerraCycle. So you better believe we recycle.

Example of how we re-use objects in our office every day

Tip #2 Turn electronics off. If a room is empty, turn the lights off. If a bathroom is empty, turn the lights off. If a computer is not being used, especially overnight or over the weekend, turn it off.

How we do this? Just the way it sounds! We turn our computers off at night, and turn the lights off when we don’t need them.  Power strips at each desk make it really easy to make sure monitors etc are not “leeching” overnight.

Tip #3 Reusable flatware. Most offices have small kitchens. Install an energy efficient dishwasher, and provide reusable flatware for employees. This will cut down on paper plates and plastic silverware being thrown away constantly.

How we do it? Here at TerraCycle, we also have an employee lunch program, in which lunch is served every day. This cuts down on takeout trash.

Tip #4 Mugs and reusable cups for guests. As opposed to offering a guest a bottle of water, offer a glass of water. Instead of offering coffee in a Styrofoam cup, have a clean mug handy.

How we do it? When we have someone in for an interview, or a business meeting, we use real glasses when we offer them water. The water comes from our cooler, which is hooked up to the city water, not shipped in.

Tip #5 Limit travel. Instead of traveling to a meeting, employ an application like Skype or GoToMeeting. Share screens, talk face-to-face, include as many people as you need – and don’t spend as much or leave so much of a carbon footprint.

How we do it? TerraCycle has offices in 15 different countries, with which there are meetings and calls a few times a week – via Skype.

Tip #6 Create a ride board to encourage employees to carpool, and help facilitate it to make it easy for them. Display who is coming and going, and locations and times.

How we do it? Some TerraCycle employees take the train down from New York, rather than driving separately, and when they arrive in the morning, one person picks all of them up. This cuts down on people driving from a far, and on people being picked up separately or taking separate cabs to the office.

Tip #7Make things from waste. Instead of buying new pen holders, make them out of recycled bottles or old mugs. Don’t buy new

Example of how we re-use objects in our office every day

furniture; buy used.

How we do it? TerraCycle’s office is made from waste from floor to ceiling – literally. The carpet is made of remnants, the desk are old doors and the walls are bottle, vinyl record etc.

There are other lengthier, more expensive projects (that will pay off in the long run!) that offices can investigate and institute in order to go green. While some of the upfront costs may be pricey, the money saved on energy bills in the end can make the investments just that – investments, rather than just costs.

Installing solar panels on the rooftop cuts down on electricity bills (eventually, you may have none!) as well as offering a source of clean energy for your office.

A green roof – which is essentially a yard and/or garden on top of your roof – helps insulate the building during the winter and keep temperatures down in the summer as it shields the building from the sun. (It also gives employees a neat place to take a break and eat lunch during the beautiful days!)

Many truly green moves that are more costly will pay off in the end anyway, but if you’re not ready to invest quite yet, the smaller green moves can make a difference in the meantime!

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by Andrew Winston

As a car, the all-electric Nissan Leaf has received mostly great reviews. But as a positioning statement, Nissan has, in many marketers’ eyes, missed the boat. After some missteps, Nissan may now be on the right path. An ad I pulled from Fast Company recently hits all the right marks.

The debate — or more accurately criticism — began last year with a now infamous ad showing a polar bear lugging himself from the Arctic to some guy’s suburban driveway to hug him for buying a Leaf. The ad was gorgeous, no doubt, and the YouTube version has been viewed 1.3 million times, which isn’t bad. But some green marketing leaders, such as Jacquie Ottman, found it a bit heavy-handed and way too focused on the hyper-green benefits vs. driving experience.

But even before getting to ads, some have pointed out that the name itself is a problem. A “Leaf” doesn’t exactly speak to the same part of the male brain that car ads usally target — the caveman lobe that asks, “How will this car make me sexy and powerful?”.

As one ad agency exec with a specialty in green marketing told me, “What guy is going to the pub and saying, ‘Hey, I test drove a Leaf’?” As she pointed out, the print ads have focused on images like seals and kelp — it’s basically the worst of green marketing, “like it’s packaged in burlap.”

Instead, experts suggest that the Leaf should be positioned in a much more exciting way, as the first electric car for the masses and a true innovation. This, Nissan could trumpet, is a new era of mobility!

So skip to the latest print ad, in which Nissan does something new. A fascinating, colorful graphic shows different cars on a spectrum of fuel efficiency. The axis is not, however, miles per gallon, but “miles traveled for one dollar.” As the ad says in small print: “comparing miles per gallon is suddenly irrelevant.”

Nissan%20Leaf%20Ad%2C%20Green%20Marketing%20%28May%202011%29.jpg

The traditional mpg metric has always been really odd: who thinks that way? And the government has had a devil of a time plugging (forgive me) electric cars into their normal rating system. What the heck does miles per gallon mean if you use no gallons?

But showing how far I can go for each dollar I spend? Now that’s dead on. This is brilliant marketing, in tight economic times or at any time. Nissan has declared a new metric for a completely new model of transportation. Bravo.

(This post first appeared at Harvard Business Online.)

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