Often, the greenest companies do the worst job communicating their credentials, and the most impressive green marketing is left to firms who have, to put it charitably, some way to travel in getting their environmental house in order. This isn’t a universal truth, but often I’m struck when I meet a firm for the first time just how much good work is going on about which I had heard precisely nothing. The reverse applies too – in many cases a firm you think of as on the right track because it has put its marketing budget behind one green platform or another turns out to be doing very little else to embed sustainable practice across its business. No, I’m not going to name names – sorry. But I’m sure fellow environmentalists will have examples aplenty of what I’m talking about.
As we advise multinational clients on what they should be doing in the next ten years to weave sustainability into every sinew of their being, they rightly ask, ‘So, can you share examples of companies who have done what you’re saying we should be doing and benefited from it?’ Yes, there are a few of course, but the reality is that very few companies, other than a handful of very niche ‘ethical brands’ and a couple of well known leaders in food and retail, have really yet undertaken the fundamental systemic and tonal changes that we push them to adopt.
So the answer is often, ‘You’ll really be the first – that’s why we are advising you to do it’. It isn’t always what they want to hear. But it also means the market is wide open for real trailblazers, who don’t just reduce impacts, source responsibly and run the odd impressive flagship initiative, but who revolutionise their thinking, engage their customers fully on the journey, and speak and act in ways that were never thought possible. These giant corporate eco-warriors are going to emerge in every greater numbers in the next few years. I hope some of that will be down to us.
I no longer believe our enemy is business cynicism about environmentalism. I think the final barrier we face is fear or ignorance – sometimes both. If we can crack those two lethal obstacles, there really is no limit to what business can achieve for the planet. And whatever it achieves, it will be infinitely more than governments do, and faster too.