Tag Archives: environmental practices

To compost or not to compost

So, I was going to write an article about Frito-Lay/SunChips’ new biodegradable bag (which I purchased for the first time last week), and to initiate a discussion about whether or not, from a cause marketing point of view, the company has done a strategic job of leveraging their CSR efforts to their best business advantage.  But when I sat down to read up about SunChips’ marketing process, I learned that the biodegradable bag had been yanked due to noise levels!

Indeed, I noticed right away that the bag was noisy.  Like a freight train actually.  But as an environmentally concerned consumer, I felt good knowing that I could put the bag in my green bin. In fact – I wasn’t much of a SunChips enthusiast before the bag hit the shelves.  I bought the chips because of the bag.  And I suppose that was part of the company’s motivation for introducing a compost-able bag in the first place.  Again, as an environmentally concerned consumer, I was shocked that feedback over the bag’s noise level would have been enough to prompt an overhaul of SunChips’ heavily hyped and costly compost-able bag rollout. 

So what exactly is going on here?  Why all of the corporate flip-flopping around a fairly compelling and cutting-edge green packaging initiative?  My best guess is that Frito-Lay determined (after an assessment of focus groups and initial reactions) that the bottom line business gain resulting from their CSR efforts (after all, lots of folks like me would have probably continued buying the chips in spite of the noise) was going to be eclipsed by the broader public’s reaction to the bag’s noise level.  In other words, good business sense trumped the company’s interest in doing good

Frito-Lay is going to reintroduce a quieter version of their biodegradable bag soon enough, so they haven’t abandoned ship altogether.  But there is a fundamental lesson to be learned – that is, CSR efforts must be strategic.  They have to integrate with the bigger business picture.  They have to consider the needs and interests of target markets and corporate stakeholders.  In other words, while they have to be authentic, they ultimately have to help drive business (and certainly not undermine it). 

Sounds like basic stuff.  Also sounds like Frito-Lay learned the hard way.

Passion Points:

  • When considering a CSR or sustainability strategy, don’t lose sight of the business bigger picture
  • Consider the demographic of your key stakeholder groups – what are their priorities and interests, how will they react to your CSR platform?
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An Apple A Day

I’ve always been a fairly devoted PC user, but two weeks ago, after soliciting feedback from all of my Apple-savvy friends, I bought my first Mac. And I have to admit, my new Macbook Pro laptop is impressive.  The applications are user-friendly, everything is sleek, and the system operates at lightning fast speed.  It weighs next to nothing; it is virus-resistant and even my children think it is ‘beyond cool’.

But perhaps most intriguing to me is the very strong way in which the Macbook integrates with Apple’s CSR platform.  And as a consumer, I have been engaged by Apple as a partner on that journey – and I feel pretty good about that!  My new Macbook is highly recyclable, it boasts a longer-lasting battery, it is more energy efficient and even earned a ‘Gold’ label from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT).  By ensuring that their product meets these high environmental standards, Apple has empowered me to reduce my own carbon footprint.

Five years ago, were computer owners even considering the environmental impact of their computer use?  Certainly car owners were becoming informed along these lines, but computers seem on the periphery of this movement, to some degree.  Apple’s very aggressive campaign signifies to me that the importance of a strong CSR platform has become a standard, no matter the industry.  Everything from coffee to make-up, cell phones to pet food are all being marketed with CSR goals and drivers in mind.

Apple serves as a best practices model since they have not only developed environmentally friendly business standards to herald as a selling feature, but the very product that they are selling empowers the consumer to make environmentally responsible choices – watch this commercial

This is the best possible integration of CSR values with a company’s business model.

So what can other business owners learn from Apple’s example?

Passion Points:

  • No matter the industry in which you operate or the size of your business, you should be thinking about your Corporate Social Responsibility platform.
  • Consider whether or not you are manufacturing your product in a manner that considers environmental impact.  For instance, can you reduce packaging and use ‘green’ packaging materials?  Is your product recyclable?  Can you eliminate or reduce the use of harmful toxins?
  • Make sure to share your company’s ‘green’ choices with its stakeholder groups as a selling feature.  Consumers care about your environmental practices and they should be made aware of your company’s policies and practices.
  • If your product or service cannot be ‘greened’, consider what your company can do operationally to reduce its carbon footprint.  Can you reduce paper use?  Can you encourage ‘remote’ meetings to cut down on business travel?   Do you have policies to ensure that computers are turned off?  Do you use energy efficient lighting and power sources?