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 🙂

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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.

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My last blog entry is not directly linked to our course on Sustainability Marketing, because I thought what follows is the most relevant thing I have to say tonight.

It all began with an Economist article a friend of mine shared on Facebook a few days ago. The article discussed a recent decision in the European Parliament regarding the EU’s emission trading scheme (ETS). I read the article with interest, but it was only when I browsed through the first few comments when the fun began 🙂

It started with a lengthy comment of a certain Mervyn Sullivan on why the IPCC is wrong about anthropogenic climate change. 17 minutes later an interesting discussion spun out of it when the Sense Seeker’s first response challenged the thread starter’s reasoning. Some others joined in, but in the end it became a heated debate between Rob S who pretty much followed Mervyn’s line and Sense Seeker who did not.

I usually like to reply to other people’s comments to news articles, mostly because I think their argumentation is complete nonsense (but still taken seriously by other readers) or when I discover false facts. But most of the time my interaction is limited to my local newspaper’s webpage, where there is a 400 character limit and the level of reasoning is mediocre at best.
But here, on the Economist page, many people actually had something to say that was worth to be considered, not just throwing in unfounded claims but backing it up with evidence!

This was intriguing to me, so I decided to help Sense Seeker against Rob’s mostly intelligent but unfortunately also misguided train of thought, so I thought. I started with a very lengthy comment of my own, taking up Rob’s arguments of how climate change is irrelevant and all action taken against it is just a big waste of money. The ensuing discussion went back and forth and I realised that I had never argued with somebody who was so well informed on the topic.

I am really enjoying the discussion we are having at the moment. Some of his arguments are actually pretty solid and I am having a hard time countering them. But this exactly provides me with something I lack: practice in discussing sustainability issues with well-informed critics. I consider making this world a more sustainable place my life goal, be it in business or maybe also politics. But without experience in discussing these particular issues, I won’t get far. So I will try to read more Economist articles and participate in the discussions thereon. Maybe I will be even able to convince some people of my ideas or at least broaden their horizons, while at the same time getting some food for thought myself! And this would actually be a reward in itself…

[“Does the world have to wait for our extinction?” –Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface Inc (1934 – 2011) ]

Doing business within the limits of the environment will be the new reality for organizations, as clearly emphasized in all blog posts in Creative Sustainability Marketing. This will mean adjusting, changing or even creating new business models from scratch. But why is this taking so long? Has the constant hype of sustainability numbed companies down to continuing with business as usual? Did someone forget to clean the window with the view onto the shared value-paved path to business success?

Sometimes, we just cannot see what we don’t expect to see –such as gorillas in the middle of basketball games. A famous experiment conducted by psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons aims to showcase our failure to notice “a fully-visible but unexpected entity when focusing attention on something else”. In this test dubbed the “Invisible Gorilla”, subjects were given a task to watch a video of people playing basketball and count the amount of passes one of the teams made. In the middle of the game, a gorilla walks past the players. Surprisingly, the majority of the subjects fail to notice the gorilla.  How is that they missed something thumping its chest right in front of their faces?

The conclusion of the test is that missing something so prominent depends not on the “limits of the eye, but on the limits of the mind”. Despite the inflated campaigning for triple bottom lines, progress in this field from the private sector seems to be as slow as the facial hair growth of teenage boys.

Creating wealth whilst staying within environmental limits is not only the right way to do business, but can potentially offer a competitive advantage (and one day, hopefully in the not-so-distant future, also become the actual status quo): today’s consumer actually thinks twice about where their banana or microwave comes from, not just if the price is right.

Translation: business can’t afford to ignore the impacts these buying practices have, for example, on producers. So weirdly enough, to maximise profit in the long-term, organizations needs genuinely to value more than just maximising profit.

[“If anybody can – everybody can”Ray Anderson]

In the end, sustainability marketing is still marketing -it’s just highlighting another benefit. Nonetheless, companies’ sustainability marketing can play a role in giving us that extra nudge and creating an environment that will make it easier for us to choose what is best for ourselves, for our society and for the little orb we prance around on.

I had a really interesting talk about sustainability this weekend. A friend of mine is a entrepreneur working as an optician. He has a few employees working under him and the business seems to be going pretty smoothly. So I decided to confront him about sustainability. The conversation happened somewhat like this:

Me: “Soooo…. Tell me about the sustainability plan of your company”

He: “Well I haven’t given it too much thought. It’s more of a responsibility of your generation” (Him being 10 years older than me..)

Me: “What do you mean by ´your generation´?”

He: “My generation was raised in the shadow of balance sheet. We only care about financial success.”

Me: “That’s exactly the problem! Why are you like that though?”

He: “I’ve taken one sustainability class in business school and it was ridiculous! All that environmental hippie-stuff really put me off.”

In our following conversation, it occurred to me that he actually knows a lot about sustainability issues. He could just as easily make it visible in his company if he would just want to. But the problem is, that he felt that sustainability agenda is something that’s not meant for normal people, only for environmental activists and companies that have sustainability as a competitive strategy.

This really got me thinking of the importance of education and communication about sustainability. Sustainability needs to be educated and communicated in a way that it sounds possible to make changes towards it. We need to take sustainability down from it’s throne and make it an everyday component of business activities. Like it was said in the class, businesses have the potential to make changes fast. That’s why there needs to be inside-out change for sustainability. Nevertheless, if sustainability becomes associated too much with environmental organizations or scientific apocalypse theories, it reduces it’s relevance to business operations and people cannot connect it to their everyday lives. We need to start focusing more on the baby steps, on the little things that make all the difference.

It’s not only about inside-out or outside-in change for sustainability, it’s both and even more. University education, media, NGO’s and companies are all interlinked in the sustainability consumption discussion.  We need to start talking a language that everyone can understand and relate to!

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Why does it take a shocking event, a tragedy, an attack to change things? You can justify your actions and thoughts to yourself, even without any rational reasons, until the situation hits you in the face. Then you are forced to rethink your principles and your view of life. This applies to business as well. When a company is accused by a NGO of being unsustainable, it cannot just stick to the old habits. It has to change or prepare to lose the business. But the change that is forced, that is motivated outside-in, is still more incremental than the change that springs from inside. Both people and businesses have to be mature and receptive enough for change, other wise it is not so effective or lasting.

Though outside-in pressure relatively often cures only the symptom, not the decease, it can lead the company to a situation where the it takes a more proactive role in the future. That way the change can be more comprehensive in the long run. So basically I’m saying, what we all know is true: real change comes from inside. It comes from you.

change

hahah quite corny 🙂

tuuli