Check out the latest Marketing Week/You Gov poll on green brands. In fact, the whole magazine is dedicated to environmental issues, with a heavy climate change focus. The success of M&S is no surprise, although as the survey notes one eye-catching feature is the rather poor performance of so-called ‘deep-green’ brands which are founded entirely on sustainability or ethical propositions. 5 years ago, it would be hard to imagine any communications magazine devoting this much space to sustainability issues. Indeed, sustainability seemed to live only in the public affairs departments of major companies, largely deployed as a reactive lobbying tool when under pressure. Today, sustainability is a big consumer-facing business. That’s good news, although it means the potential for greenwash and environmental nonsense has never been greater. Marketeers, take note! I’m off on holiday for a week now, so no more blogs for a while. See you soon.
Following yesterday’s piece about JP Morgan buying Climate Care, BBC and several newspapers this morning report on another major collaboration between conservationists and money makers. This time the goal is to place a financial value on rainforests, those giant planetary utilities that have been so ravaged for so long. One of the directors of Canopy Capital (the financiers of a deal to protect Guyana’s pristine Iwokrama rainforest) puts it nicely in today’s Independent, asking “How can it be that Google’s services are worth billions but those from all the world’s rainforests amount to nothing?” Expect to see a lot more work on valuing rainforests and creating financial incentives for their preservation in the months and years ahead. The Prince of Wales has launched his own Rainforests Project backed by a number of NGOs and multinationals, in an effort to find practical and profitable solutions to reverse the collapse of these vital eco-systems. As the profile of climate change peaks, it’s about time that rainforests (which of course play a central role in mitigating global warming by acting as a natural thermostat and storing carbon) took centre stage again. And if people make some money out of saving something of benefit to the whole world, at least it’s profit with a purpose. Iwokrama is one of just four intact rainforests left on the planet. So I’m 100% behind this deal.
We’ve all read about JP Morgan’s ongoing attempt to snap up the troubled Wall Street bank Bear Stearns, but an email newsflash just alerted me to another, perhaps more intriguing JP Morgan acquisition. The bank has just bought Climate Care, the carbon offsetting company that I’ve worked with in the past, and who provide offsets for Weber Shandwick’s most frequent UK flyers as part of our environmental policy. Mike Mason, the entrepreneur behind Climate Care, has taken this organisation from strength to strength over the past 10 years. I suppose the intention always was to sell, but I do find the merger of one of the most credible carbon offset companies with such a huge international institution a fascinating sign of the times. The big banks are under pressure for all sorts of reasons at the moment, not least because of the perceived underlying weaknesses in the global financial system. But scrutiny is also increasingly focused on how the financial world is tackling (or not) the major environmental challenges the planet faces. Today’s news suggests that JP Morgan intends to play its part, and of course make some money out of it too. Read more about the deal here
Last week the Rainforest Alliance edged closer to stardom – and tea from sustainably farmed sources also hit the big time with the official premiere of A Tale of Two Continents at London’s Prince Charles Theatre in Leicester Square. So my girlfriend and I headed over to the red carpet with some friends and Rainforest Alliance colleagues to join in the fun.The movie is a new 10 minute comedy from Unilever’s PG Tips, who are busy converting their tea to Rainforest Alliance certified, a first for them and indeed for the Alliance. There’s more plot in this film than any recent 2 hour romantic comedy. The sustainable tea project is a very large scale innovation, and another major milestone in the mainstreaming of sustainable produce. Just as Unilever pioneered the Marine Stewardship Council for seafood more than a decade ago, once again they lead the field with tea. The film features my friend and colleague Anita Neville, with whom I’ve worked on Rainforest Alliance issues for the past 3 years or so. She is now so grand she is no longer taking calls. I expect she’s house hunting in Bel Air…Sadly, the other star of the show, iconic PG Tips front man Monkey couldnt join us in person as he was busy picking up awards in Hollywood but he did take a brief moment to speak to us live via satellite and introduce the movie. You can see a trailer clip here…A 5 minute version of the film will appear before The Spiderwick Chronicles, Horton hears a Who, Hannah Montana and Gameplan for the next 3 weeks in cinemas around the UK. And then fans will be able to grab a DVD version (with added extras) and a tea towel from supermarkets during April. The film will then be available as an online download from May.It’s hard to believe how far the Rainforest Alliance has come in the UK in recent years, but last Wednesday’s event was a timely reminder. If you want to see business-NGO collaboration at its best, then this is it.
Supper on Sunday with my friend and colleague Leslie Gaines-Ross, Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist. Leslie is one of the world’s foremost thinkers on corporate reputation and has recently published a new book, Corporate Reputation – 12 Steps to Safeguarding and Recovering Reputation. Leslie and I sit on the Advisory Board of Ethical Corporation, and our fields are of course intricately linked. I think we agree that proper, embedded corporate responsibility is the best insurance policy to avoid ongoing reputation crises. But before you get into one, you’ll definitely want to read this new book. To hear Leslie’s webcast interview click here. Leslie’s book is already getting a lot of media and client interest, and rightly so.
It’s been a while. OK, so blogging isn’t as easy as I hoped, not with niggling things like work getting in the way. No point in recalling the last six weeks, but suffice to say they have been filled with some very interesting client work, some interesting new friends, and no holidays. On Monday Planet 2050 was pleased to sponsor the Green Alliance annual lecture, which marked the first environment speech by the newish leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg. Nothing particularly earth shattering about his speech, but as ever with the Green Alliance, the evening provided the opportunity to catch up with old friends from the environmental movement and engage in a bit of light plotting. Clegg can be amusing, especially off the cuff. He was handed one opportunity when, towards the end of what I found a rather wooden (and, unusually for Clegg, scripted) speech, the room suddenly fell into darkness. He coped well and raised a laugh. Later, after being asked a bundle of three questions which were, to say the least, somewhat dry and technical, he raised a titter in the back row with the observation that it was clearly going to be a light-hearted evening. Geoffrey Lean of the Independent (a giant in environmental reporting) asked the last question, which was mercifully cheeky and got the room ready for its post-lecture wine and nibbles. Was it true, Geoff asked, that Nick Clegg was the only member of the Lib Dem shadow cabinet who had not listed the environment in his top three interests? ‘Rubbish’, came the retort. I had some American clients in town. General verdict: Clegg is no Obama, but shows signs of promise. If you want a more serious account of the evening, see the BBC story here.