Monthly Archives: April 2013

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:

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).

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:

My blog post this time isn’t related to last lecture, but I was so intrigued by an advertisement I saw in women’s magazines that I had to investigate this more.

Nanso was advertising its clothes as “more responsible ones”, freely translated. This was new news to me that they actually have taken responsibility and sustainability as an agenda in their advertising campaigns. I started studying their web site and was quite taken by all the things they have started to make and tell about in public; there is always the risk of criticism when doing things “in more sustainable way”. From the web sites one can see quite easily that this is new stuff to Nanso as well, since not all the information they want to share isn’t there yet, but apparently it’s coming soon. In the web site they have opened their production cycle and the issues related to sustainability sharing what they are trying to do in a more sustainable manner. They have of course realized that by having the production chain to themselves, they have more control over the sustainability issues, but still they only make 60% of all the clothes in their own factories. They say this is because they have different channels to sell the clothes; markets and boutiques and they have a price point that determines where the clothes are produced. Of course the clothes sold in markets are done in lower cost countries. This is a major point of critique, but they have taken an honest way of communicating this and at least I can appreciate it. Nanso also tries to educate consumers to act more sustainable, and this sharing the knowledge that the same clothes sold cheaper in markets are also done in more unsustainable way, is important.

What I also like in their web site, is that they have actually taken responsibility promises. They are clear and easy to verify. Nanso also has a sustainability and responsibility YouTube video, but unfortunately it is in Finnish only. All the things Nanso does, they share openly and use it in their marketing. They have some issues that can be criticized but for me it still feels as if they are trying their best, and that wins me over. These are the ways companies can prove their responsibility and not just make hollow marketing campaigns with no back up for their promises.

One major affects this course and the assignment of writing blogs is that you get really alert to all things related to sustainability. For me, this has changed the way I look marketing messages aimed for me unintentionally or not. In fact, I think it has changed my perspective towards the whole idea of consumerism to more conscious and alert (and here I thought I already was this, but actually I wasn’t..). So I thank you all 🙂

It is hard to miss how convenience-loving people really are when I take out my garbage. Our apartment building complex has two containers for landfill waste and a row of containers for all the recyclables. But every time I have something to drop off,  I cannot help but wonder why it is so hard to take 6 steps. The first landfill container is always filled to the maximum and overflowing with garbage bags preventing the lid from closing. When you take three steps to the right and lift the lid of the other one it is always nearly empty. It´s quite incredible!

Every week it is the same thing. Three steps right and three steps back it all it would take. But this week someone had turned the first container sideways, so that to open the lid you have to take two more steps from the door to reach it.  That means just one more step to reach the container number two. I am excited to see if we now get the containers filled more evenly – or if someone decides to turn the first one back facing the door to avoid the extra exercise.