Monthly Archives: January 2014

Greenpeace Detoxing the World One Brand at a Time

I recently read an article on Huffington Post about Greenpeace’s Detox campaign that was launched in 2011. The video below summarizes the campaign and it’s impact to date.

Greenpeace has identified that numerous clothing companies around the world are polluting the world’s water supply with hazardous waste that is used in the clothing production. What’s more disconcerting is that the perpetrators are large companies that are highly profitable and it is being done mostly in third-world countries, where clean drinking water is already hard to find. Some of the companies Greenpeace has identified are Levis, Zara, Gap and Victoria’s Secret, among others.

The Detox Campaign aims to expose the pollution that is being done by the fashion industry and to educate the general population about the actions of their favourite brands. In addition to creating awareness, Greenpeace hopes that the public will react and put pressure on these companies to stop polluting, and they succeeded. Various public protests have taken place and companies are beginning to take notice. As mentioned in the video, big brands such as Valentino and H&M have begun to substitute out hazardous chemicals and are working with their supply chain to make the necessary improvements. To date, there have been 19 companies that have committed to “detox” their clothing in response to the campaign. Although it has been a slow process, Greenpeace has made progress towards a world free from corporate pollution. The fashion-industry is just one player in the world of corporate pollution, but it is undoubtedly a very large piece to the puzzle, and one that will generate the most public response

My Opinion

I think that Greenpeace’s Detox campaign is very smart. Their ultimate goal is a world free from corporate pollution, and I think that this campaign takes a large step in the right direction. Some may say that is unfair to target one group of players within the corporate pollution world but I think that Greenpeace made the right choice to target the fashion industry. The fashion industry is undoubtedly one of the major perpetrators and it is an industry that garners a lot of attention and scrutiny from media and consumers alike. Going after this industry at the start was a smart move because it definitely shone a bright light into the world of corporate pollution and got people behind the Detox movement. The detox campaign may not solve the entire issue of corporate pollution, but it definitely addresses a large piece of the puzzle.

Although I think that Greenpeace’s campaign was good and was very strategic, I think that they could have definitely made some improvements. I think that publicly shaming and protesting the clothing companies that pollute was a great way to grab their attention and generate change. However, that was generally the extent to which Greenpeace went. They relied upon public pressure and corporate response to do the real work. Greenpeace wants the companies to commit to the Detox program, but it does not do anything to ensure the detoxing actually happens.  Similar to what Jason Clay of WWF explained in his TED Talk, I think it would be a much more effective campaign or movement, if Greenpeace played an active role in changing a clothing company’s operations. I think it would have been much more effective for Greenpeace and the clothing company if both sides worked together on the issue, rather than what’s currently happening. I assume that Greenpeace has a plethora of knowledge to improve the current processes of the fashion industry and they should share that knowledge with the companies. What’s currently happening is like a teacher telling a student that they did a math problem wrong, but then not teaching them how to correct the problem.

For me, this campaign is a good start, but I really think that Greenpeace needs to be more of a working partner, instead of just being a whistleblower. It would make the process much more successful for everyone involved, instead of creating animosity between Greenpeace and the companies they are shaming.

-AK

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Think Twice Before Buying Patagonia

“We ask our customers to think twice before you buy a jacket from us. Do you really need it, or are you just bored?” – Yvon Chouinard

It may seem odd that a consumer goods company is preaching anti-consumption behaviour, but for Patagonia it is a principle that hits to the core of their business.

In a 2013 interview at the Greenbiz Forum in San Francisco, Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard , had said that growth and the current way of thinking are big threats to achieving sustainability. The problem is that companies are always looking to grow and expand – to sell more. That has lead to society becoming full of consumers, instead of citizens. Our society operates in a Jevon’s Paradox, meaning companies have produced energy efficient products that provide cost savings, yet consumers view this as an opportunity to purchase more than before.

We live in an “Apple world” where it is easier to purchase a brand new product and create more waste instead of attempting to fix something. Chouinard argues that some companies intentionally design products that are easily broken and hard to fix because they just want people to buy more of their products.

In contrast, Patagonia is looking to slow growth with an anti-consumption advertising campaign and created The Common Threads Initiative. Patagonia is a company that has been operating sustainably since the 1980’s and calculates the potential environmental impact of all of their actions. They’re telling customers to ask themselves if they truly need another product before they buy and to become citizens of the world once again.

My Thoughts

I really think Patagonia hit a home run with this. I know it goes against everything a marketer is taught, but what really matters is that Patagonia is staying true to their corporate values. Although this is very risky and may have a negative impact on their sales in the short term, it shows consumers how much integrity the company has and how it genuinely cares about the environment. I also agree with what Mr. Chouinard was saying when he talked about Apple products and how too many products these days are designed to break, become obsolete or just be thrown away. This is why Patagonia’s approach is like a breath of fresh air.

I think this strengthens the brand and will make consumers hold the company in a higher regard. The anti-consumption campaign has created some shared value in a way. Rather than throwing money at a charity or conduct some other CSR initiative, Patagonia looked at the impact of their own operations. In my eyes anti-consumption is a win-win; Consumers will be coerced to buy less and save more money, while Patagonia maintains it’s environmental focus and has a strengthened brand image.

I found this very interesting because it made me think back to an example in my Sustainable Marketing class about an Innocent Smoothies “Chain of Good” campaign seen here.  Essentially, they are committing 10% of all sales to an unnamed charity that provides impoverished nations with means to succeed. This means they want people to consume more because that will lead to more charitable donations. How sustainable is that? In my opinion it is more of a marketing tactic aimed to increase sales, rather than a genuine initiative. After reading about what Patagonia was doing with the Innocent Smoothies example in the back of my mind, I really believe that Patagonia is doing a great job and deserves to be commended.

Job well done, Patagonia.

-AK

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