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Sustainability: Green business or just green marketing?

At Feedwork we help organisations, professionals and companies implement and use feedback professionally in their culture.

”It’s late in July and it is really cold outside in New York. Where the hell is GLOBAL WARMING??? We need some fast!”

”The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”

”We should be focused on magnificently clean and healthy air and not distracted by the expensive hoax that is global warming!” 

Any of this sound familiar? The world’s most powerful man, Donald Trump, has tweeted all of this about climate change and his lack of interest in green business in our world.

Not everyone agrees with Trump on the climate question 

Historians Oreskes and Conway don’t quite agree with Trump, and in their book The Collapse of Western Civilization, they describe the climate disaster as the most comprehensive disaster in the history of the world that we’ve discovered but chosen to ignore. In their book they say: ”the political and economic elites of the so-called advanced industrial societies – failed to act, and so brought about the collapse of Western civilization”.

With this scary future scenario in mind, it’s about time for us to put climate awareness on the agenda – in our private homes and in the worldwide industries.

Patagonia: Life on earth is under threat of extinction

As we all know, the fashion industry is one of the main sinners when we talk about pollution. This does not only include carbon emissions, but also pollution of water, air and soil. But does it have to be like this? Isn’t it possible to have a more climate-friendly fashion industry?

If you ask outdoor-brand Patagonia, the answer is yes. The first sentence of their mission statement sounds: “At Patagonia, we appreciate that all life on earth is under threat of extinction. We aim to use the resources we have—our business, our investments, our voice and our imaginations—to do something about it”.  At Patagonia, this isn’t just fancy words, but an actual foundation for action.

Worn wear: Better than new

When they design clothes at Patagonia, they aren’t affected by the newest trends from fashion weeks around the world. Their criteria are simply that the clothes must be functional, easy to repair, and durable. They don’t want to promote the single use culture but want their consumers to use and reuse their clothes for generations – even if this means they’ll sell less clothes in the long run.

To avoid the consumers discarding their clothes as soon as one stitch comes undone, Patagonia has released the concept Worn Wear. ”Why extend the life of gear? Because the best thing we can do for the planet is get more use out of stuff we already own, cutting down on consumption”. Patagonia point out that by keeping your clothes for an extra 9 months, the climate footprint of that piece can be brought down by 20-30%. That’s why you can hand in used clothes at their shops in exchange of a gift card, which they’ll then clean and repair before they sell it again.

How are other global companies making the world greener?

Patagonia is in many ways a frontrunner for the fashion industry if we want to make the world a greener place. Most companies have a very eloquent climate policy with goals and initiatives to decrease their carbon footprint, but what are they actually doing?

Disney will end their internal use of single use straws this year. This may not sound like a very big step, but in one year that adds up to 175 million plastic straws that will no longer be in production.

IKEA have more than 700.000 solar panels to produce energy for their stores and are expecting to run on 100% renewable energy by 2020.

Panasonic moved their headquarters into the city center in a LEED-certified building (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), to decrease the carbon footprint of their employees commuting to work.

LEGO invested one billion Danish kroner in research and development to find an alternative, sustainable material to replace plastic in their production.

Many things are happening, but are these just for show or is there a genuine interest in cutting down the carbon footprint of these companies?

It’s too expensive – let’s try greenwashing

Studies show that 80% of consumers are more willing to support companies that aim to be climate friendly. Companies know this, and what is their main goal? To maximize their profits. Therefore, some companies are marketing themselves as greener than they actually are – they don’t have a green production, but they do have green marketing. Many environmental organizations have become aware of this so-called “greenwashing” and in 2004 the car producer Ford felt this. Ford wanted to enhance their bad climate image by launching their new hybrid car Escape Hybrid SUV. With the slogan: ”Green vehicles. Cleaner factories. It’s the right road for our company and we’re well under way” Ford attempted to appear green, clean and climate friendly. The reality was somewhat different. The 20.000 hybrid cars Ford produced a year is only a tiny fraction of their total car production. For instance, they were still producing 80.000 cars in the Truck F-series, which were highly polluting, and their factories were still deemed one of the most polluting in the American car industry. In spite of this scandal, Ford had one success – they won the American environmental organizations’ prize for greenwashing of the year.

Feedback from customers and employees can be one way to know about your green strategies. Read more about how to use feedback here.

Stop washing and get working

There should be no doubt that it’s about time for climate to be put on the agenda. While some companies, like Patagonia, are doing the most to decrease their carbon footprint, many companies are still exploiting the green wave to strengthen their sales with a green PR rhetoric. As consumers, we know what to do: eat less red meat, walk or ride our bike to work, buy second-hand items etc. And many of us try our best to live a greener life. But if we really want to save the world, it’s about time that the companies get to it – if not, we may be facing The Collapse of Western Civilization.

If you think your workplace has a weak climate policy, you can read the following article on how to stand up for our climate and face the battle in a considerate way:

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