Author Archives: Sarri

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 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.

 Sustainability is green, right? Hands holding a tiny globe or seedlings growing from a tiny amount of soil on the palm of the hand are the first images that come to mind when thinking about sustainability.  It means grass and trees, circles and round things such as apples that are reminiscent of the earth´s shape. Sustainability is sprouting things. Its arrows in a circular formation and a green frog sitting on a leaf. On a more technological level it becomes windmills and solar panels.  Often it is wheat growing on a field, bright sunflowers, clear skies and raindrops on a leaf of grass. It is a picture of children happily laughing and running on a field. It´s a woman sitting on a green field working on her laptop on a crystal clear day. And many, many times, it includes hands.

We know all these images of sustainability.  Googling sustainability and hitting the images button you get exactly that. Everything is green.  Interestingly, you still get a few pictures of the good old light bulb symbolizing innovation and invention, it may take a while before we think of  LED-lights lighting up at the a-ha!-moment.  But the spiraling energy saving lamps are making their way into our collective subconscious, slowly but surely.

It is hard to think how else might you transmit sustainability in images. When VR wanted to emphasize their services as a sustainable alternative they simply changed their traditional red corporate color to green. Simple as that. A little bit of paint and voila!

I wish we had a wider palette of sustainability imagery.  True, the worn items and even a little bit shabby things with peeling paint are sustainably trendy in the vintage circles. Recycling is making even less than perfect things acceptable.  That is nice. I just wish that the color palette would be a little bit wider. And maybe include some muted colors. Because sustainability is not always just simple brightness, happiness and bliss. Definitely communicating sustainability is not. If something, it is a dense and a little bit scary jungle, where you very easily loose your way and sight of the horizon as you listen to the eerie sounds of strange birds in the treetops somewhere above, invisible if the mist of tropical humidity.  You need a machete to make your way, but are afraid to use it – in case you accidently cut the lifeline of some precious and nearly extinct rare plant, which might carry the possibility of saving the human kind with its ancient genes. Communicating sustainability, it´s a job for coolheaded and educated Indiana Joneses.


It was less than two years ago that Primula, the Finnish Bakery Product Company decided to to change their business model and look for sustainable competitive advantage by building a zero carbon footprint bakery. The balance sheet and the state of the company were solid and the financiers agreed that the new strategy aiming at the lowest possible environmental impact was an excellent idea. However, due to the unfortunate and unexpected changes in the consumption patterns of bread, which lead to a marked drop in the demand, the company went bankrupt soon after.

  I was reminded of this story in our last lecture where we pondered on the need of the company ideology to be in alignment with the surrounding society. If the consumption patterns hadn´t changed, the investment could have paid off.  IF. The company did end up  having a zero carbon footprint by going out of business, but that was not exactly what they aimed for. I think Primula is a good reminder that sometimes doing good for the environment can turn out to be very bad for the company. It seems that the early adopter´s don´t always catch the worm of financial benefits. Hmfp!

I was pondering what could sustainability communications convenient for the students and staff at a university look like. Maybe something like they do at Harvard:

The university has its own sustainability office responsible for coordinating the sustainability issues, events and programs. On the web-pages there is a separate section devoted to sustainably data. These impact pages give nicely visualized metrics on waste reduction, recycling, water and energy use etc., and there are also infographics and other videos, and easy-to-digest instructions for students for what they can do to be more sustainable. The instructions deal with some myths while giving a list of actions to take. Also the impacts of the suggested actions are included, in the immediate Harvard scale. For instance on the topic of putting computers to sleep & turning them off, (Action 2) following information is given:

– A computer on standby uses approximately 90% less energy than an active or a logged off computer, and a computer that’s turned off uses still less!
-If you’re worried about the amount of time it takes to boot up a computer in the morning, then place it on standby- it takes only a few seconds to wake up, and saves almost as much energy.

-computers are designed to handle 40,000 on-off cycles before failure, so turning them on and off is not bad for them.Screen savers do not save energy. Certain graphics-intensive screen savers can cause the computer to burn twice as much energy and may prevent a computer from entering sleep mode.

-If every student, faculty, and staff member ran their computer 24/7 for a year without sleep mode or powering off, it would result in 16.3 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Turning those computers off or into a low power standby state for 1/2 of that time could save us: $1.3 MILLION in utility bills and 8.2 MILLION pounds of CO. That’s like taking 700 cars off the road!

If you are left wondering about the calculations you can request more information on the data sources and the assumptions behind for the calculations. That at least looks like transparency and also adds to make the information more convincing.

In addition, the pages are clear, information is easy to find and the usual colors are changed to green to make the messages of sustainability stand out from the rest of the web-pages. I especially like the fact that there is no trace of guilt in the communication, just encouragement to act more sustainably. For instance the Green Tip of the Month page has downloadable pdf-posters with flyers for ideas that can easily be implemented in the university buildings, classrooms, dorms, offices, or lab or even at home. The pages are really trying to make the change towards more sustainable behavior easy while giving proof that even the small steps count. Looking at the pages I think it is easy to think “why not” and turn off your laptop more often than before.

What a good way for marketing the university, as well.

I tried to to find research about the overall effects of coffee drinking and whether it would be more sustainable to give up drinking coffee altogether or just consume fair trade coffee. I did not succeed in my quest. There were studies comparing the impact of drinking coffee to tea and the effects of different ways of cultivating coffee. Examples were given on how to improve one´s sustainability, for instance if you switch to tea from coffee your negative impact is halved. But there was no information on the possible beneficial effects of coffee  and tea cultivation for the local people.  I was left wondering if it would have a negative social impact for the farmers to  consuming caffeinated drinks altogether. Would the farmers lose their jobs? Would I be taking the bread off their table by attempting to minimize my carbot footprint? How can different aspects of sustainability be compared against each other? Or can they?

Suomen Kuvalehti has made revealing graphics about where the ingredients for a frozen pizza made in Finland, in Pudasjärvi actually come from. The only ingredient in the pizza bought in Pasila that does not have double digits for its travelling distance to the factory is the water.  The flour used in the pizza has traveled merely 70 km, so also it can be considered local. All the other ingredients have much longer trips behind them. For instance the cheese comes from Britain (1900 km), onions from Poland (1900 km) and pineapples from Costa Rica (9900 km). A simple frozen pizza is a truly magnificent product of global collaboration and well-functioning logistics network.  I cannot help but wonder what might be the pizza´s carbon footprint compared to a pizza made at home from scratch, possibly using Finnish onions and locally produced cheese etc. Do economies of scale have a significant effect in the production stage of the pizza? Hm…

Unfortunately the article is Finnish, but the awesome kilometres of the ingredients in the graphic are worth taking a look at.