Category Archives: Sustainability Marketing

Hockey Brands Need to be More Sustainable

Recently in class we’ve talked a lot about a product’s lifecycle and how companies can improve their sustainability from production to the end of a product’s life. Being a huge hockey fan and having worked in a hockey store in the past, I realized how unsustainable hockey companies are – and I got fired up. (here comes the rant)

Technology has improved so much that almost every year brands such as Bauer, Reebok/CCM and Easton release new and improved products that make the previous year’s products look archaic.  From a brand perspective this is just great because consumers will always want the latest and greatest gear that is supposed to take them to the “show”. Nowadays, hockey brands are able to command outrageous prices because of their technological advancements – its commonplace to see new skates priced at $1000 and hockey sticks priced over $300. But what is more staggering is that these premium products are not durable enough to withstand the rigorous hockey season, which prompts consumers to keep buying more.

Take a hockey stick for example. People will pay upwards of $300 for an insanely light hockey stick made from a combination of fibre glass, carbon and graphite that offers high performance to the user. But as I mentioned earlier, these sticks are not nearly durable enough and snap like toothpicks. Watch any NHL game and you’ll see at least 3 or 4 sticks break within the 60 minute game. The Los Angeles Kings estimate that they break an average of 1000 sticks a season and they’ve realized how much waste they are creating. To help minimize their impact they’ve recently partnered up with Hat Trick BBQ to repurpose their sticks into grill tools, seen here

Drawing from my experience working in a hockey shop, once these sticks break they are useless and go straight into the trash and then the landfills. Furthermore, its not like the sticks are made with compostable materials – the fibre glass and graphite can be very damaging to the environment. Currently there is nothing being by done by the companies to minimize waste from post-consumer use. We all know that a company’s responsibility doesn’t end with a product’s purchase and something needs to be done.

Even though I don’t have the technical background and scientific knowledge about the composition of hockey sticks I propose a couple solutions:

If hockey sticks can be recycled:

1. Some sort of recycling program where broken sticks can be taken back to retailers and then collected by the manufacturer to be recycled and made into new sticks

2. Consumers can ship broken sticks back to the manufacturer in return for some sort of rebate on their next stick purchase.

If hockey sticks cannot be recycled:

The manufacturers could still collect broken sticks via the above recommendations but repurpose the broken sticks, like Hat Trick BBQ,  to make different products such as furniture, household decor, tools, kitchen/grill utensils, and so on… the possibilities are endless.

In fact, many of the products that I just mentioned are already being made, but by smaller mom and pop companies. In my opinion this is a much more viable option for the hockey companies because it creates new revenue streams for them and help divert sticks from the landfills.

Here are some examples of some repurposed hockey sticks:

Hat Trick BBQ

I’ve looked into the corporate sites of each of the big 3 hockey brands and none of them mention anything about sustainability. Most likely this is because the typical hockey player or fan do not really care about the environment and how their gear impacts it. However, its rapidly becoming a norm for companies to make some effort to reducing their environmental impact, and I expect that sports equipment companies will follow suit.

It’s time for the hockey equipment manufacturers such as Bauer, Reebok/CCM and Easton to look at how unsustainable their operations are and do their part to reduce the waste being sent to the landfills as a result of their products.

 

-AK

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A&W Canada is leading the charge for sustainability in Fast Food

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As I was trying to find something to blog about this week, I got hungry and decided to head to A&W for a burger. To my surprise, once I got my order and sat down to eat the topic of this blog post was literally in the palm of my hand.

Like the title of this blog says, I think that A&W Canada is leading the way to sustainability for the fast food industry. When I looked down at my burger and fries I noticed something different with the packaging. They weren’t in the typical cardboard boxes that you would expect to find at McDonald’s or Burger King. Instead they were packaged in smaller sleeve-like packaging that was also compostable and contain at least 70% recycled material.

In addition to their packaging, there is also the A&W Pure Beef Guarantee, which means that they only use 100% pure beef that’s free from hormones, steroids and preservatives. In order to ensure that this standard is always met, A&W is very selective with their value chain partners and only select cattle from ranches and their local partners that are ethical, have sustainable practices and follow stringent standards. I’m sure we’ve all seen their commercial by now, and if you haven’t I’ve posted it below. To learn all about A&W’s Better Beef, click here.

A&W does a lot more to reduce their environmental impact and you can read more on their website here.

I found A&W’s beef policy to be quite intriguing and very relevant to what’s been in the news lately regarding McDonalds’ quest for sustainable beef. For years fast food companies have been pumping out tons of burgers with meat that consumers have never been quite sure about. Consumers know that in general fast food is not good for you, yet the main ingredient in a burger, the beef, has slid under the radar in terms of quality control. We never really know what’s in the burger that we’re eating or how many chemicals, additives and antibiotics have been added or fed to the cows.  That’s why A&W’s transparency with their beef is like a breath of fresh air. Not to mention, I definitely see A&W’s Better Beef as a point of differentiation and an opportunity to gain more consumer goodwill and market share in the fast food industry. I definitely see it as one reason why McDonalds launched their search for sustainable beef in January 2014.

According to a Mother Jones article, McDonalds and the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) have recently released a draft definition for sustainable beef. An interesting note that was mentioned in the article is that the GRSB is actually more of a meat industry group, rather than an environmental organization as there are only 2 representatives from environmental groups in the roundtable. The article is very critical of the GRSB’s findings and calls out the report for being very vague, speaking in very general terms and avoiding metrics that would help measure sustainability. One quote that really stood out to me from this article is that a spokesperson for the GRSB said that “I don’t know if there’s any justification for banning antibiotics in feed.” Currently 4/5 of all antibiotics in the US go to livestock operations, including those of McDonalds, and it has been scientifically linked that the use of antibiotics increases the frequency of antibiotic-resistant bugs moving from animals to humans.

The point of this is that unlike their competitors, A&W doesn’t need to hear from a roundtable of experts to decide on what is sustainable or not. They are using their heads to identify right from wrong, and taking the initiative to be transparent with their customers. Even though I may not have all the information I really commend A&W for their sustainability efforts and their initiative to provide customers with better beef. It’s still fast food and not necessarily good for you, but at least its better.

What do you think?

-AK

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Amazon Prime Air – A highly sustainable delivery system

Last class we focused on Distribution and how it is related to sustainability. The goal of most businesses is to reduce the ecological footprint of their distribution networks and simultaneously create huge cost savings. For most companies this means switching from Air to Sea, Road to Rail, sharing truck space with other companies, using more efficient vehicles, relocating warehouses and so on. However, Amazon is taking the idea of a sustainable distribution network to another level by revealing their R+D baby called Prime Air.

Amazon Prime Air is a system which utilizes drones to deliver packages from a warehouse to a person’s home or business. This “last mile home” delivery system eliminates the need for delivery trucks and significantly reduces carbon emissions in a highly efficient way. The main consumer benefit that Amazon says Prime Air will provide is product delivery in 30 minutes or less, which is absolutely unheard of. Want to see how it would work?

 

I’ve always been curious to learn about ordering online and it’s impact on sustainability. Sure ordering online is much more convenient, faster and cheaper than going to the store but what about it’s environmental costs? Ordering online means that maybe one or two items would have to be packed up, shipped, put onto a delivery truck and delivered to your house. If you extrapolate that to a city, thats hundreds or thousands of products that are being individually delivered to people’s doorsteps. Even if you use a route optimizer, I can imagine that this door to door delivery system is very inefficient and uses an insane amount of fuel. I’ve always thought that this process has a much higher impact on the environment than filling up a truck with like items only to have one or two stops at larger stores. But I also know that you must consider the impact of people driving to and from stores, the store’s carbon footprint, etc. So from my limited knowledge, I am not sure if I am able to say if one method is better than the other. However, I can say that Amazon’s Prime Air is definitely better than the status quo.

Using the drones will revolutionize delivery systems because there is no need for any trucks, cars, bikes or any other vehicle and it will take a fraction of the time to deliver. it will significantly reduce Amazon’s environmental footprint because they are eliminating carbon emissions on “the last mile” which is arguably the most inefficient and consumes the most fuel on a per product level, when compared to long distance shipping.

While the Prime Air still needs to undergo thorough testing, address security concerns and adhere to soon to be announced FAA regulations, I think that this is a ground breaking innovation and will change the game from a consumer convenience standpoint, as well as a corporate sustainability one.

Amazon expects Prime Air to be operational sometime in 2015.

What are your thoughts?

 

-AK

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Is This Meal Sustainable?

“Is this sustainable?”

Along with calories and ingredients that’s the question that could be asked by restaurant patrons when ordering food.

With concepts like locally sourced and Farm to Table and certifications such as organic and Ocean Wise, it is becoming a common trend for consumers to be informed about how their food is grown/raised and sourced. Especially in Vancouver it seems as if more and more consumers are demanding this kind of information and restaurants are beginning to be more transparent about their ingredients. A lot of sustainability initiatives are focused around electricity, heat, oil and water consumption but not much attention has been paid towards food.

According to this Greenbiz article the United States Healthful Food Council (USFHC) is launching a program that will increase transparency and provide greater information to consumers about the food they’re eating. The Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) Program “uses third party audits to certify the nutrition and sustainability of foods served at restaurants, as well as caterers and other food service operations.” The REAL Certification uses audits to assess menus and gives out points based on nutrition and sustainable practices. Their goal with the program is to be the LEED certification of the food industry. Businesses with the certification signifies that the food is wholesome, authentic, nutritious and sustainable. Some of the things that the audits will look at are the amount of fruits and vegetables on a menu, preparation methods, portion size, and use of local and organic ingredients.

The program has finished it’s pilot stage and is now being launched in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

While I don’t know the extent of the program’s success rate or if the American public will accept something like this, I really think this is a step in the right direction. Especially for the US where its no secret that their eating habits are not the greatest in the world, I think the REAL program would be great. One of the greatest drivers of sustainability is corporate transparency, and this program makes the restaurant industry much more transparent. Hopefully the program will create more informed consumers who will be able to make smarter decisions when going out to eat. It will also raise more awareness for sustainable growing, sourcing and eating habits. From a business perspective this certification can be a really good thing for business. It will create a point of differentiation from competitors and will allow a business with the REAL Certification to charge a price premium. As the healthy eating and sustainability trends continue to gain momentum and widespread adoption, having the REAL Certification will help a restaurant reap the rewards. I think that this could be  similar to the success that HP enjoyed by adhering to the strictest manufacturing laws in the world before their competitors were forced to by law. It’s innovative, proactive and could be very successful for consumers and businesses alike.

On a more local note, I am unaware of anything so widespread being available in Canada. There are many certifications that operate separately, such as Ocean Wise etc., but nothing that operates as an all-encompassing food sustainability certification. Being in Vancouver, the Ocean Wise certification is very common and almost expected on every restaurant menu and I think that the time is right for something more robust. Its my (biased) opinion that a program such as REAL will probably have a higher chance of adoption and success in Canada instead of the US, and should be seriously considered for implementation.

-AK

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LiquiGlide-ing Our Way to Sustainability

I was recently introduced to a revolutionary product called LiquiGlide, which was created by MIT students in 2012, by my classmates in Sustainability Marketing and I was blown away. LiquiGlide is a product that can be applied to any surface and makes it hydrophobic, or permanently wet. That means that all liquids will be forced to move away from the surface which has the LiquiGlide coating. Right now, the product is mainly aimed for use in consumer goods but the company is definitely looking into expanding the product’s use to the industrial sector.

So you might be asking “what is so special about this product that would blow you away?” Take the example of a ketchup bottle. How many times have you been close to the end of the bottle and struggled to squeeze, shake, or tap out the last drops, only to realize that your efforts are futile. There is no way you’ll be able to get 100% of the ketchup out of the bottle.

Those days will soon be over. See below and prepare to have your mind blown.

Fore more videos about LiquiGlide’s application check out the videos on their website: http://www.liquiglide.com/videos/ 

The product can be tailored to suit their client’s products and they can also control the speed at which the liquids move, so don’t worry about pouring all your ketchup out on the first time. You can see how easily LiquiGlide can be applied to numerous industries and different products and make a significant impact to producers and consumers.

According to BizJournal, we can expect LiquiGlide to be used in packaging for ketchup, toothpaste and yogurt in 2015. Beyond the world of consumer packaged goods, think about how useful LiquiGlide will be for industrial companies and products – imagine having pipes that never clogged or a windshield that instantly repelled water.

Not only is it really, really cool, but it’s also something that’s very sustainable and will save everyone more money.

With LiquiGlide on the bottle of any condiment, lotion, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. you’ll be able to use every last drop of the product. That means that none of the product, yes 0%, will be wasted, or at least left inside the bottle and sent to landfills. Our society is so focused on sustainability these days – minimizing our waste and maximizing the usefulness of a product- that LiquiGlide seems to have been created at the perfect time and consumers will love it. Without a doubt it will save money for consumers, but maybe more importantly it will change things on the production side.

Producers and manufacturers may be reluctant to implement LiquiGlide initially because it is an added cost that will either have to be passed to consumers or absorbed by the company. But if they can get past the initial cost barrier, they will see that it’s better for the entire planet if something like this is adopted. This product will slow down our use of resources because consumers won’t be purchasing as often, which also means manufacturers won’t be making as much. It may also increase a company’s “greenness” in the eyes of a consumer if they choose to use LiquiGlide, because they are opting to use a product that actually benefits consumers more.  Hopefully in the future manufacturers won’t even have a choice to implement this product or not; it will be mandatory!

I think that LiquiGlide is a game changer, not just in consumer goods but in all aspects of our lives. Soon LiquiGlide will be in/on/around products that will make our society more efficient and more sustainable. It just makes sense.

-AK

Super Bowl XLVIII Goes Green (and It has nothing to do with legalized marijuana)

Super Bowl XLVIII was held in New York this past weekend and the grass, the Seattle Seahawks, or the numerous marijuana jokes were not the only things that were green about it. Unbeknownst to the large majority, there was a sustainability focus at Met Life Stadium during America’s biggest sports weekends that is typically characterized by rampant consumption.  According to an article by Matt Brass, the consumption aspect to the Super Bowl is not changing but the NFL is undertaking actions to try and soften it’s environmental impact.

It is estimated that Americans will eat “1.23 billion chicken wings, drink 325 million gallons of beer and eat 3.8 million pounds of popcorn.” Yes, you read that right, 3.8 million POUNDS of popcorn.

So now you’re asking what the NFL did in terms of sustainability. No, they didn’t magically replace billions of chicken, replenish the earth’s water supply or plant corn crops, but they took baby steps to minimize the Super Bowl’s environmental footprint, at least in the stadium.

  1. The Super Bowl was held at Met Life Stadium – the league’s greenest venue. Met Life’s sustainability resume can be seen here.
  2. All of the cooking oil used will be converted to bio-diesel
  3. Polystyrene foam containers were eliminated from use
  4. Recycling and composting at every opportunity

Again, these are baby steps that were undertaken by America’s most popular sport organization that has little pressure from competition or consumers to do so. Considering the above scenario, the NFL should be commended on taking the initiative to start addressing environmental concerns.

What I also noticed about the green initiatives at the Super Bowl was that the NFL did not market or publicize what was happening, at least not up here in Canada. Nevertheless, after reading about this I started thinking back to class concepts about the Green Marketing Strategy that the NFL employed.

Green Marketing Strategy Matrix – Ginsberg and Bloom

From reading “Choosing the Right Green Marketing Strategy” by Jill Meredith Ginsberg and Paul N. Bloom, it seems that the NFL is employing a Lean Green strategy. According the the article a company with a lean green strategy “tries to be good corporate citizens, but they are not focused on publicizing or marketing their green initiatives. Instead, they are interested in reducing costs and improving efficiencies through pro-environmental activities,thereby creating a lower-cost competitive advantage, not a green one.”

It is also worth noting that the typical NFL fan may not care a whole lot about sustainability and “going green.” If the NFL made a public announcement, they risk alienating some of their fans and changing their brand perceptions. Furthermore, bringing attention to minor sustainability initiatives may open up the NFL to more criticism about what they aren’t  doing rather than the positive things they are doing. 

But this could all change in the future and sustainability could spread to every team in the league. As Americans become more in-tune with sustainability, you may see the NFL, and other sports organizations,  promote their green initiatives more heavily. However, at the moment the NFL is just taking small steps – but those small steps will eventually get the company further up the sustainability mountain.

-AK

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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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