by Marc Soiber
January, 16, 2012 - Green innovation is a hot
topic in the US. Ideologues for the status quo (many of them in
Congress) believe it will cost industry money, and leave us lagging
behind foreign competitors who don't have to jump through
That's why I read Roland Hwang's update from Detroit Auto
Week with great interest. According to Mr. Hwang, committing to
Obama's 54.5 mpg by 2025 program will "earn as much as $300 billion
for the U.S. auto industry, put $200 billion back into the pockets
of consumers while securing a global leadership for Detroit in
advanced auto innovations for the 21st century."
What caught my eye was Mr. Hwang's final point - eco-innovation
today will set up a culture of innovation that could propel Detroit
to leadership in the 21st century.
I've observed this 'culture of eco-innovation' take root in case
study after case study. Whether it's Interface or GE, companies that encourage new green
thinking tend to see ripples that create success stories far beyond
their original goals.
(Interface and GE will both be present
2012 - March 14-16, 2012 in Vancouver)
Corporate Or Grass Roots Ripple?
The key to creating positive ripples is to engage stakeholders,
employees and supply chain partners. This can happen intentionally,
When Wal-Mart started down the road to sustainability, one of
the first programs implemented was Personal Sustainability Pledges for
employees. Staffers could commit to riding their bike, quitting
smoking - anything that would boost their own well-being and help
the planet. The program rippled as employees pledged to do more and
more, encouraged by their own success and sense of
On the other hand, ripples can happen unintentionally, as Kurt
Gerdes of LaFarge told me.
As part of LaFarge's sustainability and social progress program, the
company supports a network of community events.
At one of these events - the Longview Art and World Music
Festival - the company tried out a 'zero garbage' program.
There were no garbage bins onsite. Instead, Festival goers found an
array of recycling bins, complete with student experts who ensured
the trash ended up in the proper recycling stream. Any remaining
waste was kept out of landfill by being diverted to LaFarge, where
it was mixed into concrete.
The initiative didn't provoke grumbling from concert goers. In
fact, it made the local news, and became a celebrated feature of
To the surprise of LaFarge, it also created
a ripple, as people began bringing their trash
from home to recycle onsite.
Creating Your Own Ripple
Every corporate sustainability champion wants their program to
ripple. Here are a few tips that can help make it happen.
- Make it easy - People want to do good. But don't
expect them to map their carbon footprint on a spreadsheet. Simple
actions boost the chances of uptake.
- Create a story - Every ripple starts with a
story. Create a two-liner that your target can tell their friends.
If it captures the imagination, it will create action.
- Reward - People don't expect trophies, but they'd
like to be recognized for their actions. Find a way to thank them.
Chances are, public acknowledgement will entice even more people to
- Think outside the jar - Asking people to stop
littering is sooo done. Asking them to create zero garbage captures
the imagination. Find a new way to frame the actions if you want
Marc Stoiber is
a creative director, writer, innovator and green brand specialist.
He consults with clients across North America. He also speaks and
blogs extensively on trends that will influence the destiny of
today's brands.This story first appeared in Sustainable Brands January 16,