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Interesting piece in Forbes about how various companies are “going green,” in the sense that they are working to reduce the impact of their various operations on the environment. “Whether ensuring sustainable agriculture and seafood production, reducing the use of synthetic chemicals in favor of plant-based alternatives or teaching children about endangered animals through its products, some major American companies are doing their part to protect the environment,” the magazine writes.

Examples cited include Adidas, Gap, H&M and Ikea, which “all support the Better Cotton Initiative. This group, which estimates that cotton consumes 11% of the world’s pesticides and 2.4% of arable land, encourages better cotton farming practices.

Office Depot is another example: it has a “green book” that helps customers find the most environmentally friendly products in the store.

And McDonald’s reportedly is using a scorecard to rate its various suppliers on their conservation efforts, and is taking business away from companies not living up to its standards.
KC's View:
Ironically, this story comes out just a week after a new study by Ipsos Reid said that 70 percent of Americans either “strongly” or “somewhat” agree with the statement that “green” advertising is just a marketing tactic, suggesting that there may be some cynicism in the marketplace about the whole notion of “going green.”

Environmentally friendly practices may be one of those things that companies have to be careful about promoting, because they need to avoid appearing self-serving. Even a whiff of self-aggrandizement, at last around this issue, may be enough to put consumers off.

It is one of the reasons that companies have to make a real and cultural commitment to the notion of being “green.” It can’t seem fake or ephemeral or like it is driven by marketing or political correctness. That’s why some companies – Whole Foods comes to mind – may have a built-in advantage here. And it’s why you have to admire Wal-Mart for making such an enormous commitment in this area – there really is no halfway to caring about the planet.

I actually think that this is one of the reasons that canvas bags in supermarkets work so well. They actually put the onus on the consumer, both enabling and challenging the shopper to take up the cause in a way that seems small but, when combined with the efforts of others, could actually have some impact.