Thursday, May 13, 2010

From Greenwash to Great.  A Practical Guide to Green Marketing (without the Greenwash)

What has the power to destroy brand reputation, undermine a movement, alienate customers and estrange a loyal workforce? A greenwashed ad. Far as sustainability marketing has come in the last decade, the Greenwash Monster is still lurking, and it’s time we got rid of it once and for all. In partnership with our Advisory Board, OgilvyEarth put together this best practices guidebook to steer brands through the challenging terrain of sustainability marketing. The rewards that await  – enhanced reputation, inspired customers and invigorated employees - make all the effort worthwhile.

Communicating Corporate Responsibility comes from another Ogilvy appendage, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, and is based on a workshop led by Professor David Grayson at Business in Society's annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) event in Brussels. Grayson is the Doughty Professor of Corporate Responsibility and Director of the Doughty Centre at the Cranfield School of Management UK.

But don't let the professorial nature of this sway you. It's a very readable document (download - PDF), filled with insight and inspiration. One favorite part focused on a keen interest of mine: corporate storytelling — specifically, the role of storytelling in communicating about company sustainability commitment and performance. It describes the "story spiral," in which you seed stories in the marketplace, turn stakeholders into storytellers on your behalf, and amplify the stories you hear and help others to do so, too. There's also a concise section on aligning corporate responsibility with company values, and another on how all this translates in a digital, social media world. Much of it is Communications 101, though seen through a CSR lens.
An excerpt:
Keeping communications consistent as well as relevant to the business is one of the best ways to ensure credibility. But increasingly, credibility is derived not only from authentic and relevant actions, and the communications around those, but also from the day-to-day actions that make or break a company's image and reputation. Successful brands are built over time as a product or service delivers against its brand promise. Trust is also built over time, and credibility is one of its most valuable by-products. You only have to look at companies that have suffered a breakdown in trust due to failures in product safety, labour rights, ethical sourcing or responsible marketing to understand that credible communications are key to restoring and retaining public confidence.