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June 13 2013


Making Green Sexy and Spiritual

A deeper connection to love and spirituality is needed to effectively communicate sustainabiltiySustainability needs a new language that is more accessible and more compelling to the average person. Business, government, and other organizations are making strides advancing sustainability but we need wider involvement and faster growth. Although we are seeing increasing levels of environmental activism, we need to expand the message to reach a larger circle of people.

We must do more than preach solely to the converted.  The number of committed environmentalists is insufficient to induce the required changes.  At present, environmental communications are geared toward an elite group not the general population and for those that do get the message, it often fails to resonate. For those on the outside, the language of sustainability is a confusing jumble of fear-inducing figures that ultimately prove to be both polarizing and paralyzing.

We need government legislation and regulation, but if we are to bring about lasting results, we must augur change by speaking to the hearts and minds of average people. Fact based approaches have not worked and fear based approaches may make matters worse by breeding avoidance and apathy.

Making green advocacy more compelling to larger numbers of people demands new strategies that are based on more than fear, facts and figures. While the logic of sustainability is overwhelming, reason alone has proven insufficient to  change consciousness on a global scale.

Finding ways of communicating the value of sustainability to the masses is one of the most prescient issues of our time. To disseminate the message on a truly global scale, we need to tap into the positive emotional and spiritual elements of the human psyche.

The use of such positive emotional and spiritual communication is far more likely to induce people to act.

What we can learn from branding and marketing

We can learn a lot from branding and marketing experts. Whether or not we agree with the products and services they promote, we cannot disagree with the fact that many big brands have succeeded in changing both attitudes and behaviors. We need to harness this power and put it to work for the planet.

We must do a better job of communicating and marketing sustainability. We need to benefit from an understanding of the effective marketing and communications strategies employed by the big brands. As explained in a May 15 Marketing Magazine article:

“It is officially time to pass on, or at the least share with marketing, the baton of sustainability. It is also time to re-brand that baton. Reducing complex science to simple science in attempts to mobilise mainstream behaviour change has failed to deliver…”

We need to communicate in a language that is accessible to all.  To successfully communicate sustainability to the average person we need to employ language that resonates. As any marketer will tell you, consumers are more interested in what is sexy then what is reasonable.

“[A] sustainable society can be one where people enjoy high well-being and a rich culture, where we can all reach our potential and have an incredible time along the way. We need new and compelling consumer aspirations – ones that can be achieved within environmental limits, of course…The opportunity to frame a future that is sexy (and yes, of course, sustainable) is right here.”

We need to show that sustainability can be fun in addition to saving lives and radically enhancing our quality of life. To do this, we must understand that people are much more likely to respond to communications that speak to universal aspects of the human experience. namely love and desire.

Love and the desire to act

Cultivating love in ourselves and in others may seem like a tall order, but we are all born into the world hardwired with a capacity to love. We already have proof that love works to augur change. Love for the planet and each other is mobilizing environmental activists in unprecedented numbers all around the world. Eco-communities are popping up everywhere as more and more people are looking for ways to express their positive regard and make a difference. These passionate environmentally minded people are motivated by love, they care deeply about the planet and are prepared to act to lessen their impacts on the earth. Love for the earth makes us good stewards and tireless activists. Love endlessly motivates us to take the message out into our communities and into our workplaces.

Love is the most powerful motivation and it can help us to overcome both apathy and materialism. It is easy to feel helpless in the face of the threats posed by climate change. However the best way to combat paralysis is to care. Caring is neither difficult nor complex and it is within all of our grasps. If we really want to forge a better world, even more than the tactics we employ, we need to cultivate the love to make the effort.

Love is an antidote to rampant materialism. Although material concerns rule the day, love ties us into a value system that runs far deeper than money. Being part of a cause greater than ourselves offers a purpose and a sense of meaning to life that material pursuits do not. Acting with an awareness of the planet connects us to our world in a deeply fulfilling fashion.

Although the benefits both personally and collectively far outweigh the sacrifice, making a more sustainable world may entail a decrement in money, power, or position. These types of sacrifices are far more readily made out of love.

Love is a primary motivator that causes people to think beyond themselves and consider the needs of future generations. Without the impetus of love it will be difficult to move beyond self interest.

Accountability through spirituality

Spirituality is a powerful tool to help people be more accountable and this will increase environmental engagement. While organized religion is dying, belief in a higher power remains strong with more than 9 in 10 Americans calling themselves believers. What is even more interesting is the fact that belief is strongest amongst those who are most likely to deny climate change (conservatives and Republicans). The inference here is that spirituality may offer an inroad through the impermeable dogmatism of climate deniers.

It is important to understand that we are talking about spirituality and not religion. Religion promulgates certain fixed beliefs while spirituality in the context of this discussion is about soul-searching and the pursuit of truth. Spirituality commonly transcends the practice of religion. The distinction is important because we need to get beyond the polarization we have witnessed with environmental evangelists on one side and climate deniers on the other.

As explained by Mark C. Coleman, author of “The Sustainability Generation: The Politics of Change and Why Accountability is Essential NOW!,” one of the keys to getting people environmentally involved is fostering a greater spirit of accountability.

“Being accountable by being present and in the right frame of mind for sound decision-making is essential for (1) recognizing our behavior; (2) understanding the impact of our behavior on economy, environment, and society; and, (3) being able to take action through personal accountability to modify behavior to effect change.”

Spirituality is is an ego transcending journey that cultivates a sense of purpose beyond ourselves.

“Being able to think beyond ourselves requires patience, humility, a strong capacity for listening and learning, and an ability to separate ego from our true ‘self’,” Coleman explains. “Understanding that spirituality goes beyond the practice of religion, and that we all are part of a generation living within a context of time and fate which is requiring more accountability from each of us, is a perspective toward how people can begin to embrace sustainability from personal point of view.”

People are suffering from widespread disillusionment. Add to this the anxiety inducing reality of climate change and people are more likely to avoid rather than engage.  People are detached from themselves, from each other and from nature.

“The underlying power of humanity is that we are resilient and can adapt to change. But in the act of being resilient we rely on spirituality, being caring, and finding connections among one another and the world that foster sense of self, resourcefulness, and community.”

According to Coleman the answers to spirituality and sustainability are within us.

“The sustainability of our generation, and the earth, are intrinsically tied to our capacity to delve individually and collectively into spirituality. Individuals have the power within themselves to be the stewards of their behaviors, to set the standard for accountability within society, and represent a generation of enlightened individuals that can not only be resilient, but be a force for creating a better world. The generation living here and now is the Sustainability Generation. This generation will be measured not on its ability to wage war, land on the moon, or build financial wealth…From here on out the Sustainability Generation will seek out harmonizing its relationships with nature, among one another, and with God.”

The convergence of sustainability and spirituality can foster accountability and increase the will to act. Spirituality can also enable us to avoid falling victim to hopelessness and selfishness.

Deep Ecology

A direct offshoot of sustainability, deep ecology includes a spiritual element, and as such, may be a better vehicle to communicate the value of green. Deep Ecology brings together cutting-edge science, philosophy, action and spirituality. It is arguably the most holistic school of environmental thought as it is largely concerned with ecosystems and as such, it is a study of interrelationships.

This environmental philosophy is characterized by its advocacy of the inherent worth of all living beings regardless of their instrumental utility to human needs. It further advocates that societies need to be restructured in accordance with such ideas. It holds that human destruction of the natural world poses a threat to all organisms in the natural order.

Deep ecology’s core principle is the belief that the living environment as a whole should be respected and regarded as having the right to live and flourish.

Deep ecology is providing a foundation for the environmental, ecology and green movements and has fostered a new system of environmental ethics.

A new approach to communicating sustainability must engage people on a spiritual and psycho-emotional level. Ecological awareness must be communicated as a heart-felt mind-set that people embrace and practice everyday.

If the sustainability revolution is to expand and achieve critical mass, it must embedded into our core values.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: AlicePopkorn, courtesy flickr


The post Making Green Sexy and Spiritual appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 11 2012


The Growth of Corporate Sustainability in 2012

Many drivers are pushing corporate sustainability forward in 2012Powerful forces are aligning to drive corporate sustainability in 2012.  Companies are eliminating waste and diminishing greenhouse gas emissions due to the realization that the pursuit of environmental benefits yields material results. More companies than ever are creating economic value from enhanced social and environmental outcomes.

A recent study by Green Research titled Annual Sustainability Executive Survey, 2012, found that corporate sustainability spending will significantly increase over the next year. Almost 33 percent of the companies surveyed are adding staff to their sustainability departments, and 50 percent will increase spending on company-wide sustainability initiatives. A total of 25 percent of the companies surveyed said they are planning to increase the budgets of their sustainability departments.

Sustainability is fast becoming a core component of corporate practices. As Carl Rush, Senior Vice President of Organic Growth at Waste Management, explained to Greenbiz, sustainability is increasingly an integral part of business.

“I think we will continue to see an evolution in how companies view sustainability — as an integral part of their business strategy to reduce risk, improve their supply chain and address their customers’ needs and expectations.”

Corporate Leadership

Sustainability_thumb.pngEven in the absence of new legislation, corporations are seeing the value of leading the sustainability revolution. Peter Malik, the Director of the Center for Market Innovation at the Natural Resources Defense Council expects sustainability to keep growing with or without government.

“The world is changing…There is plenty of everything in the ground, but it will get increasingly expensive to get at it. This will drive sustainability even in the absence of any sensible government behavior.”

It is in the best interest of companies to be sustainability leaders; they can not afford to wait for legislation to act. This view is reflected in the remarks of Neil Hawkins, Vice President of Sustainability and Environment, Health & Safety, Dow Chemical Company:

“Companies will continue to move beyond sustainability as an obligation driven by outside forces. They will uncover more tangible economic value that drives both top and bottom line growth. But they’ll need to get ahead of the curve in order to do that.”

As explained by Rick Fedrizzi, President and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council, engaging sustainability is no longer a choice, it is an economic imperative. Fedrizzi was quoted as saying:

“In the last 10 years, the impetus behind building green has shifted from being a good thing to do to a necessary thing to do. And the bottom line drives many of these decisions and making performance-driven choices of utmost importance.”

Consumer Activism

The burgeoning awareness and popular activism that we saw in 2011 will continue in 2012. The fact that consumers are demanding more responsible product offerings represents a dramatic shift in consumer behavior that will impact business, marketing, and society at large.

Popular activism aided by the ongoing proliferation of social media is driving consumers to demand that the private sector become more socially responsible. The public’s access to digital media like mobile apps gives them unprecedented power. Adam Mott, Corporate Sustainability Manager at North Face, lists consumer demand at the forefront of forces driving sustainability.

“For most companies, [sustainability initiatives will be driven by] some combination of consumer demand, potential financial savings, constrained resources, regulatory requirements, long term business viability and company values.”

Consumers want companies to behave in a more responsible fashion. This point was born out in research by Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm. They discovered that 86 percent of global consumers want companies to put society’s needs on the same level as their business needs.

Businesses understand that to be competitive they must respond to these changing consumer attitudes. Corporations that respond to consumer demands for greater responsibility are being rewarded by increased levels of trust and enhanced customer loyalty. As stated by Kathrin P. Belliveau, Esq., Vice President, Corporate Responsibility and Government Affairs at Hasbro:

“Earning the trust of the children and families who enjoy our brands is extremely important and a driver behind all that we do. We hope that by providing transparency into our CSR goals and journey, it will give consumers added incentive to choose our products.”

Employee Engagement

Engagement in sustainability also offers significant returns within an organization. In addition to advancing a company’s sustainability initiatives, these efforts can improve recruitment and retention. The Green Research study found that employee engagement is a central part of corporate sustainability initiatives in 2012. The research revealed that 80% of major corporations are planning to invest significantly in employee engagement.

Employee engagement is important to companies like Molsen Coors, as stated by Bart Alexander, the company’s Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer:

“In our annual employee survey, almost nine out of 10 employees believe that we are environmentally responsible and responsible in the community. And these beliefs are one of the top drivers of their engagement. Our employees reflect the wider community: Consumers care about the company behind the brand.”

Technological Innovation 

Technological innovations are a powerful tool driving corporate sustainability. According to Eric Dresselhuys, Executive Vice President of Silver Spring Networks:

“The biggest driver [or corporate sustainability] will be a combination of policy and technology. There are great technologies coming onto the market as the result of the investments made over the last three to five years. They are commercially available and are proven to deliver value.”

Sophisticated software is making it easier for corporations to engage sustainability strategies. Software solutions have been developed that help to manage environmental impacts. Groom Energy predicts this type of software will increase 300 percent in 2012, while Pike Research says global expenditure for carbon accounting software and carbon management services will grow from $705 million in 2010 to $5.7 billion by 2017.

The level of new technology adoption will keep increasing as inter-operability and cloud computing become new IT standards. As explained by Chris King, Chief Regulatory Officer, at eMeter, these new technologies will be a powerful tool in the sustainability efforts of utilities.

“Technology will drive us forward to Smart Grid 2.0. We’ll see utilities adding data analytics software to plumb the rivers of data now pouring in from over 150 million smart meters globally, to operate more efficiently and reliably. We’ll see consumers getting new options for dynamic pricing, detailed usage information options, and prepayment from upgraded utility IT systems – and they’ll be able to purchase exciting new energy management devices, especially smart thermostats like those offered by Nest Labs, Tendril, EnergyHub, Control4, and others, from utilities and retailers, including Best Buy.”

Shareholder Demands

Corporate sustainability initiatives are increasingly motivated by the environmental concerns of shareholders. Investors are demanding that corporations manage risk through responsible sourcing of commodities and adopting more sustainable practices.

As reported by Ceres, the 2011 shareholder proxy season saw a record 109 shareholder resolutions filed with 81 U.S. and Canadian companies on climate change, unconventional fossil fuel production and related sustainability risks.

A study from Brighter Planet revealed that shareholder pressure is one of the fastest growing catalysts for sustainability initiatives. Another study by Ernst & Young found that there was a 40% year-over-year growth rate in sustainability shareholder resolutions and the same researchers predicted that fully half of all shareholder resolutions will be sustainability-related.

More companies shared their carbon emissions in 2011, and this is expected to increase in 2012. The Carbon Disclosure Project reported a 20 percent increase in indirect emissions reporting at leading companies (indirect emissions comprise approximately 80 percent of a typical company’s environmental impact).

Amy Hargroves, Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility at Sprint noted that shareholders are a driving force in the upsurge of corporate sustainability. According to Hargroves, sustainability is being driven by “increasing linkage between corporate responsibility and corporate reputation/brand identity and increasing shareholder activism on key issues.”

Supply Chains

Rather than focus solely on their own footprints, in 2012, corporations are taking sustainability concerns further and focusing on corporate supply chains. The Green Research study found that supplier sustainability performance is one of the most widespread corporate sustainability initiatives for 2012.

Rupesh Shah, Director of Corporate Sustainability at Intuit predicted that, “companies will dive deep and look for cost-saving opportunities to eliminate waste and operate leaner in the areas of operations, supply chain and distribution chains.”

Sustainable supply is one of most significant trends because it has the potential to bring about tremendous reductions in environmental impacts. As indicated by Alison Taylor, Vice President, Sustainability-Americas, Siemens Corporation:

“If we are instrumental in embedding sustainability into our supply chain, then we will spread sustainable practices much more effectively than simply reducing our own operational footprint. I think that many companies have recognized the opportunity that exists in their supply chains. But, our supply chains are large, global, and diverse. We will be talking about these challenges and opportunities in 2012.”

Economic Weakness

Economic difficulties are sometimes cited as an obstacle to corporate sustainability. However, far from being an impediment to sustainability, the state of the economy can actually be a powerful driver. Many see a direct link between the state of the economy and the drive towards greater sustainability. Being more efficient and reducing risk is good business, particularly in an unstable economic environment.

Both economic instability and climate change may be part of the new reality, but as Eric Olson, Senior Vice President at BSR points out, this will only increase corporate sustainability.

“Unfortunately, I believe we will continue to see the kinds of disruption — both in the markets and in Mother Nature — that have caused so many companies to question ‘business as usual’ and to recognize the value of sustainability in navigating the risks and opportunity of a brave new operating environment.”

Sustainability offers a strategic framework for organizational enhancement and a winning value proposition.

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

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