Here I am – late with the final entry promised to you on that last meet up. The time has not gone in vain as my thoughts from the course have been settling down somewhere in the back of my mind. So I hope you forgive the delay and have the patience to read this to the end.

As many of you, I’m a first time blogger and I’m thankful that in your entries you’ve commented on the blogging and how that has affected your learning. There is a first time for everything in our lives, and this was the first time for us to use the blog as a learning tool in the course. I definitely had the feeling that it had a potential, but I could not anticipate what a great tool it turned out to be! From the teacher perspective it was both gratifying and inspiring to be reading your entries, I especially appreciated how sometimes the entries would anticipate the subject of the lecture-to-come by raising up few questions related to the upcoming topic. This is teacher’s heaven! What more can you wish for? 🙂  Jukka already praised the quality of your entries, which I absolutely agree with. In my opinion, although the blog-as-a-learning-tool has some downsides, the benefits outweighed them in the end. E.g. I’m aware that not everybody felt comfortable sharing their thoughts publicly, and it might have even felt awkward at times – always having to express an opinion after the lecture. But I feel that the obligation to post can in some cases be stimulating to reflect deeper on what has been presented, and at the same time have the unique opportunity for learning what all others are thinking about the same issue. It is not often that you get to read your fellow students’ minds…errrr…thoughts 😉 Good that you took on this blogging challenge and handled it elegantly!

From your feedback we learned that the blogging assignment requires some fine-tuning in terms of number of entries, etc. Thanks for this helpful comments! I’m happy you seemed to appreciate the blogging as much as we did. And I’m happy my first-time-blogging happened within the thoughtful and friendly atmosphere of this experimental course 🙂

Regarding the videos, I want to say that you surprised me – honestly! First of all, the amplitude of topics was impressive, but also the ways in which the groups have approached the assignment – choosing their own style, handling the openness of the assignment and finally performing with enthusiasm and thoughtfulness. I know it was difficult! And I know many of you have thought you don’t have sufficient skills for completing the assignment. But you did it! And as I have never created a video myself, I want to say to you – you have just exceeded your teacher (well, one of them) 🙂 I appreciate your efforts and your we-can-do-it attitudes.

Finally, I want to share with you that sustainable consumption has been my topic of passion for a long time. I can talk and talk about it, but what you might have noticed from the lectures – it is the kind of topic where you rarely get any straightforward and simple answers. In my teaching experience, I have come across some frustrations from students: if you take a course about sustainability and about sustainable consumption, maybe you expect to simply learn what it is, and how to tell wrong from right. But you have admitted this many times in your blog entries too – that sustainability in general is not a black-and-white topic, neither is it a green-and-grey one. I think it is more important that one starts to think about these topics and reflect them upon her/his own life. Maybe you have heard this before: sustainability is not an endpoint, it is a journey.

So, I thank you for taking one leg of this journey together with me, Jukka and Frank. And I give my warm thanks to Jukka and Frank who have contributed so profoundly to marry the topics of sustainability, marketing and consumption (note the commas!). Their expertise was invaluable, as were your comments and thoughts during the lectures, in your blogs and in your heads. Thanks for the fruitful atmosphere and the willingness and openness to learn and discuss.

best wishes for your journey 🙂
Angelina

 

 

Hey all,

Hope your exam preparations are going well (and I’m sure they are, the diligent students that you all are). As Angelina and I mentioned, we’d share some of our final thoughts concerning the course here in the blog. So here I go.

First of all, I’m not sure how many of you knew, but this was the first time ever this course was held at Aalto. When planning the course over the course of the year (no pun intended), I had pretty much no idea how things were going to pan out once things kicked off. For instance, for a while we had no idea Frank was going to join our team too, and what a great things his presence turned out to be. But more importantly, I had no idea what kind of a group of students I was supposed to expect. I wasn’t too familiar with the CS program, and had mainly instructed Bachelor’s and basic level courses before. However, after the first lecture and having taken a look at the first round of blog entries, I had a pretty good picture what kind of a group of people I was dealing with: intelligent, thoughtful, and enthusiastic. If I had to somehow summarize the three things that I liked the most, I’d have to go with the lecture atmosphere, blog entries, and of course the videos.

The lectures were always a lot of fun, whether I was on the center stage or just spectating. I like a fairly relaxed, informal atmosphere where everyone is fairly comfortable, and I got the feeling that was the case most of the time. I was very, very happy with the interaction in class, which, to me, seemed to get better and better as the course went on. It makes the lectures so much better in my opinion to have as people discussing as possible. Many intelligent comments, and many funny ones too. And good practical examples of the stuff we were dealing with too. There’s not much more you can ask from a lecturer’s point of view.

The blog entries were something I was very positively surprised with. I had literally no idea how the whole blog things was going to work. I’ve never been too happy with the traditional lecture diary assignment as people tend to finish it in one evening without putting much thought to it. In a blog, there are elements of visibility and interaction and so on, which in my view are a strength, but at the same time not everyone likes those elements. Having said that, the stuff you guys wrote was really, really good. I mean, we’ve had entry topics ranging from the special theory of relativity to dealing with consumer guilt to “trustainability” to even pubs in Tallinn. At least I got the impression that time and effort were put in most of the entries there (despite the relative frequency of writing), and that many of you were reading each others’ entries too. I’ve heard many positive comments from colleagues as well concerning the content in the blog, and I’m sure we’ll be using some of the material there on our future lectures – with proper references, of course 😛

Last, the videos. Just as with the blogs, this was the first time I’ve had a video assignment on my course (the idea for the video was Frank’s), and at least in terms of the final output it worked much better than I thought it would. Really well done videos in many ways. Lots of creativity in them, and lots of content too. Though like I said at the end of the video session, if nazi’s and douches get the most votes, what does that tell of us?

So wrapping up, as is evident looking at the text above, I’m quite happy about the outcomes of this course, and looking at some of your final blog entries, it seems many of you were too. I always want people to have things to take away from the course, and that’s what we were trying to achieve here. I know I have many things to take away from this. Just as a final remark, we mentioned in the video session that if any of you are planning on doing your Master’s thesis on issues related to this course, we’ll be happy to give advice. My areas of expertise lie in corporate social responsibility (especially in the critique of voluntary CSR) and business/society issues. I’m also somewhat familiar with traditional organization theory, degrowth, and as a curiosity, a method called qualitative comparative analysis, if someone happens to come across it. Also, don’t hesitate to contact me with other sustainability issues either, I’ll likely at least know someone who knows something 🙂

Thanks everyone and all the best,

Jukka

The last lecture of the course, given by Paavo Järvensivu about the Mustarinda art research collective and the intrinsic value of nature brought to my mind a lecture given by architect William Reed in the launch event of Sibbesborg sustainable community competition. Reed’s approach to sustainability differs greatly from the conventional approach. He’s actually talking about places and communities, but he makes some really good points about who the whole concept of sustainability should be understood. 

Here’s a link to the video of the lecture:

http://www.mirule.org/m/400/p/1075

And thank you everyone for a great course!

I don´t know any true “homo economicuses”, who are 100% rational and carefully conduct a  SWOT analysis in their head before doing anything. I know many who would like to think they are individualistic, independent and base their decision on strict rationality. In reality much of our behavior is preconditioned by our environment and emotions play a much more significant role in the decision-making process than we would like to think. When looking at marketing messages it is clear that every marketing professional knows this. Messages try to invoke feelings, stir memories and engage the recipient with imagery and music that many times has nothing to do with the product or issue at hand.

Paavo talked about the culturally-bound, pre-reflective understandings that we are not aware of. We have the meanings before we act, which means that most of the time we act before thinking. Habits are the drivers of our everyday lives, to the degree that they become invisible, part of the culture, something that simply is done, because “that´s how its done”.  Combined with the fact that we attach different meanings to things, through the invisible practices that have become naturalized for us, communicating and even understanding others can become a formidable task. For instance understanding of what “waste” is or what it means can be many different things depending to whom you talk to. Thinking about waste also evokes a lot of feelings, most of which probably are not very pleasant and make you want not to think about the issue at all. Dirtiness, disgust, diseases are on the top of the list of what comes to mind. Yuck! Convincing people with these attitudes to separate their  biowaste can be difficult. They just want their waste to be out of sight and out of mind. Period.

In the context of sustainability marketing it is just these things that communicators need to be aware of and tackle in their messages. A lot of sustainability marketing is about trying to make people change their opinions and attitudes about something, or start behaving in a new, improved and more sustainable way. In order to make that happen we need to know what the issue in question, for instance recycling, means for people. In Finland recycling can entail connotations of self-sufficiency and craftiness that can at least in some circles be positive and desirable qualities, but in some other cultures the concept can entail associations to poverty that the person might want to avoid.  If that is the case it is unlikely that recycled products become popular, unless new connotations AND feelings can be attached to the idea. Transformation of feelings and thoughts are needed.

Maybe Paavo was right, often you need to shake people up a bit to get your message across, to make others see things in a new light. A change of the surroundings can for instance do that, as in his example with the businessmen coming to the Mustarinda-house from their offices and having a chance to see things differently because of the surrounding nature, its sounds and smells. Changing from a desk in an office to doing work sitting around a table wearing woollen socks listening to fireplace cracking can be the rupture in the routines that makes people reflect about their thinking and behavior. Being aware of what you think and do is needed to change something.  Arousing feelings, tweaking something to be a little off the usual routines can be the opening needed for getting more “homo sustainabilicuses”, who are willing to look at the interrelatedness of everything and maybe even try to do some changes because of that.  So let there be plenty of music and art in the sustainability communications, because feelings are on the driving seat of reflection and  through that, change.

It feels strange that the last lecture is already over. It all went so quickly that I didn’t have time to realize the things learnt. Like someone already mentioned, the change was bigger than I thought. Before the course I wouldn’t have got irritated when seeing those H&M Conscious Collection ads all over the city – or maybe I wouldn’t have even noticed them – but now I feel like telling the fellow people at the bus stop the real truth about the collection’s sustainability. I also learnt that H&M isn’t that bad, but the way they marketed the campaign was questionable.

So thank you for the great course, I didn’t exactly know what to expect beforehand, but now I feel like being a lot wiser when it comes to sustainability marketing and consumption. It got me thinking about my own consumption habits once again but I guess I still won’t stop flying, but now I know more ways how to reduce my ecological footprint otherwise. Regarding the marketing part, one thing that stuck to my mind was TerraChoice’s 7 sins of greenwashing. When I googled the subject, I ran into this article that put the 7 sins in a different light. The author says that TerraChoice’s report may be as much of a greenwash as the products and companies it is criticizing – and there are a lot of those as 95% of the products failed the test in 2010, so almost everyone according to TerraChoice is a sinner. The author ends up by stating that:

“I wouldn’t blame shoppers for ending up more confused and cynical than ever. And I wouldn’t be surprised if some companies thinking about touting their green innovations and achievements decide to go back into their shells, keeping mum. And that would be the biggest sin of all.”

So even when we try to do good in terms of sustainability marketing, there can be dark sides to it as well. But still, it’s better to do something than to do nothing – and being too green is way better than not being green at all. So let’s stay green no matter what!

Kolk’s article was discussing about different sustainability certificates in coffee market. The same thing happens in many other markets, that there are several competing organizations selling the certification to companies. This whole system sounds pretty absurd. Firstly, many different organizations “compete” against each other, who can offer the best certification. Nevertheless the criteria for these certifications might be close to each other or even same. Which certification is the best then?  Is there are difference between these?

Most well known sustainability standards are Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Utz certified, and organic.. Criteria for Fairtrade is to offer minimum prices that are paid to producers. Rainforest Alliance is more concerned by the conserving use of rainforest and its biodiversity. It does not require price floor but it seeks to improve economic situation of producers. Utz Certified aims  to create an open and transparent marketplace for socially and environmentally responsible agricultural products by traceability system and code of conducts. Organic standard provides a framework of minimum requirements of operations. There are also several smaller organisation’s certifications, i.e. 4Cs, or coalitions of private firms

The organizations are assessed by international peers against the ISO 17011 standard, which are general requirements for accreditation bodies accrediting conformity. Most of the certificates demands constant auditing, not just in initial period, some companies might be audited even on yearly basis, to make sure that sustainable habits are carried year around.

secondly you need to buy the certification. This opens a change for corruption. Yes, clearly these organizations needs money for operations, but when the money is enough to operate, and what these organizations do with the “extra” money?

What is the best certifications on consumers side, how about on the organizations side? In Kulk article SL chose the certification according to the variance of the beans it provided. Price is the other factor that companies look for. It is more dilemmatic on the consumers’ side; there are not really differences between, more over preferences.

Does the certifications pays off? According to a study by Canadian public research firm GlobeScan, 73 percent of consumers that are familiar with the Fair Trade label also trust it.”As far as the beneficial impact of different standards on producers is concerned, no definite conclusions can be drawn, despite several studies on the implications of certification systems” (Kolk, 2010). “The few studies that compare multiple standards tend to find positive effects across the board, albeit in different ways: Fairtrade more often in the short run in terms of income and demand-side market creation, others concerning increased supply-side production efficiency and quality improvement” (Kolk 2012).

 

 

 

http://www.inc.com/guides/201101/how-to-obtain-fair-trade-certification.html

http://www.fairtrade.net/

I found Paavo’s lecture on his project to be very interesting and it was the theme of the intrinsic value held within natural spaces that resonated most with me. As a Canadian, I am privileged to live in a country where open and wild spaces are in abundance. Similar to Finland, the vast majority of the country is sparsely or completely uninhabited. Yet due to industry and “resource” extraction, natural areas are being exploited and forever changed.

Waiting for the start of lecture I happened to find an opinion post entitled “Antarctica: The planet’s imagination.” Coincidentally this article happened to be related to the lecture and looked to explain what it was about the protection of our wild and natural places that was so intrinsically valuable. Out of an inability to recreate the same meaning in my own words, and laziness, I will share large parts of the article by Lucy Bledsoe that I found particularly relevant:

“I went to Antarctica – the biggest, wildest, coldest, most intense wilderness of all – to find answers to that question, and also to the bigger question, why should wilderness exist at all?”

“At a time when people are desperate for oil for energy, water to drink and to nourish crops, minerals to make our mobile phones and computers, wood to build our houses, why would we leave vast tracts of land untouched, unused, just sitting there? It is a question I have deep feelings about but have difficulty articulating rational reasons why wilderness, including Antarctica, should be allowed to exist. When I read the reasons others give, articulate writers and scientists, I know they are right, and I can follow their arguments, but none of these answers are ones I can say to the guy sitting next to me on an airplane who just wants to drive his car and heat his house. Never mind the politicians who need not just simple and convincing answers, but ones that will sway them away from their corporate sponsors.”

“The answer has something to do with the value in being lost. Being lost is the antithesis of home. The relationship between the two is inextricable, a philosophical paradox. You cannot find home if you do not experience the unknown, and geographically, the unknown is wilderness.”

“Being lost is an extraordinary opportunity. Being lost is the heart of imagination. And imagination is the fodder of all creative endeavours, all new ideas.”

“Why do we need wilderness?  How can people justify putting it aside – these vast tracts of land that are not being used in any calculable way? We are seeing how the “emptiness” is necessary. How our knowledge of ourselves depends upon it. How places like Antarctica and the Arctic actually drive the entire planet’s climate.”

“The raw, uncontaminated continent speaks to something pure and vital in humanity. The apparent blankness might instead be called openness. We do not need to assign a purpose to every single square inch of the planet. We do need imagination, vast areas of space where ideas and creativity and solutions can foment. Antarctica represents the frontier of imagination, the gorgeous unknown.”

I found this articulation of the intrinsic value of nature to be particularly beautifully written and relevant.   Overall, a great argument for non-use. I do not have much to add but felt that this was something relevant and worth sharing.

The full article can be found:

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/04/2013416123436877504.html