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|Funny Business: Green Biz : International edition : Tuesday, 11 December 2018 20:19 ST : a service of The Public Press|
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Funny Business -- This Green Biz
by Linda Pinkham
by Linda Pinkham
The official definition of sustainability, drafted in 1987, more or less states that it is "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs."
That's a very broad and vague definition that is open to much interpretation and encompasses many facets. Green business practices range from sourcing healthy foods and fostering healthy lifestyles to providing living wages and engaging in fair employment practices; adopting policies that range from limiting pollution to consciously recycling materials, reducing waste, and shrinking a business' carbon footprint.
Not many businesses or individuals are able to meet all of the facets of being green, and the ones that I find are phenomenal. What counts in my book are people who are making a sincere effort in any sort of green direction at all. If everybody does what they can, even if it's just a little, we all benefit. Collectively, those smallest efforts create a better business climate for green products and services. Higher demand generates more green businesses opening their doors to meet the needs of new customers.
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However, I think that the biggest benefit from having more green businesses is having a healthier place to live and work -- within a robust local green economy. Having a strong green business sector has more to do with fostering a higher quality of life than it has to do with making money.
Disorganization as an Asset
The most extraordinary fact about the green business sector is that, for the most part, it is very low key, grassroots, and disorganized. We need to recognize the difference in working within a green economy as opposed to "business as usual." While green businesses must make pragmatic choices that are financially sensible, they really operate very differently within the marketplace.
The concepts taught in traditional business schools come from a corporate marketing-strategy playbook that is not necessarily applicable to green businesses. Green businesses, by their nature, are not all about corporate monetary strategies or they wouldn't be green in the first place!
Top-Down Vs. Bottoms-Up
Green businesses are grassroots by nature, low to the ground, and driven by their owners' passions. Their marketing messages must necessarily operate in the reverse of the usual corporate paradigm. Instead of thinking "Top-Down," they need to think from the "Bottom-Up," which is not even remotely related to "bottoms up" at a three-martini business luncheon. The marketing messages in our kinds of businesses are percolating up from the roots of the green movement, originating with consumer demand.
In traditional business environments, corporations are accustomed to crafting a unified marketing message that emerges from the top. In that business environment, a marketing "weasel" drafts a perfect sales strategy and implements a marketing campaign that "blitzes" the entire marketplace, with the goal of capturing their market share.
For example, look at all of the Red Bull-types of energy drinks. I, and a great many other people, made it clear through our college degrees without them. Then someone came up with an idea for this new beverage, convinced people they couldn't survive without it, and now there is a broad selection for highly addicted imbibers to choose from. I know a guy who drinks six of them before his first coffee break in the morning.
Confusion Is Blitz
The green movement is extremely confusing to large corporations because they are on the other end of the marketing message than they are accustomed to, with consumers telling them what they want instead of the other way around. And since the movement is grassroots and disorganized, the message is not unified in a way that big businesses can easily assimilate. It's been amusing to watch corporate giants like Wal-Mart and Safeway try to meet the demands, while not understanding the real message at all.
Motivations for "thinking green" run the gamut from personal morals, customer demands, national/state trends, to marketing angles. The motivations that come across as sincere have to do with the desire to do the right thing. That's why Wal-Mart and Safeway can't get ahead in the green scene because it all appears to be a marketing angle.
Wal-Mart can sell organic cotton PJs, but without providing living wages and equal employment opportunities, they are going to fail. Many of Safeway's organic foods are being purchased abroad without taking into account fair-trade practices, so they aren't perceived as being "green" in spite of their efforts.
Being green is actually about engaging in social activism -- positive, direct actions that are designed to change well ensconced doctrines and policies. The businesses that advertise in Green Living are activists. They operate their own businesses with the goal of changing the world, and they support the underlying mission of Green Living, which is to build a community of like-minded individuals and foster a robust green economy -- from the ground up.
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