NightLights“I want it all and I want it now,” written by Queen and released in the late 1980’s, sums up where we are today in the US. We relate everything to self. “What does it mean to me?” “What can I get out of it?”

We apply this mantra to our lives with gusto. This same philosophy applies to our approach to the environment and sustainability. “Yes, I want to be green, but it must not inconvenience me. It must not stop me from living the lifestyle I am striving for.”

Supporters of the environment and sustainable practices find themselves selling the financial benefits of “going green” over and above the obvious moral and global need to change the way we abuse the environment and those third world communities that slave to meet our consuming need for cheap imports. We have found that in order to save the environment, we needed to give it a face. The face we have chosen is the face of the individual consumer. This is an easier sell.

There are many real and compelling added benefits to “going green”. The savings for organisations can be enormous. The reduction of waste, streamlined work practices and supply chains, employee health and moral…. all these make for a compelling argument. The personal or organizational savings have become the “Green Story.” A green revolution is being staged, but the central characters are not the ice caps, the Amazon Forest and global warming. They are profit, corporate efficiencies, and immediate personal and family health benefits.

No wonder there is a growing green scepticism, a green fatigue. The message we are communicating is a self-serving message. Green means money. It is linked to profit and manipulation. Our very principles are being toyed with and not very subtly either. Yet this is the world that we live in: You are not gong to change people’s habits without first showing them a personal benefit.

So how do we counter this scepticism? What should we, as Green Advocates, be doing to ensure that the message gets through? Is it just a means to an end? Are we diluting the message through this cynical approach?

“Going green” should not be a means to an end. Rather, we should direct and formulate persuasive arguments to our audience that are based in integrity. By all means use the economic “hook”—but your audience must truly buy into a holistic sustainability and green practices paradigm.

This is especially relevant for organizations that have already chosen to adopt green practices. It does not matter what their motivation is, the role out of their green practices has to be well executed if it is to be believed by their customers/stakeholders. For that to happen, the organization has to be sincere and they need to communicate that sincerity. Here are a few checkpoints that an organization can look to implement when “going green”. To a lesser degree we could all do well following these principles.

  1. Be Transparent
  2. Define your green story
  3. Create an internal Green integrated communication plan
  4. Crete an external Green integrated communication plan.
  5. Implement your strategy in a phased approach
  6. Have measurable data that can account for the company’s sustainable efforts and green product claims
  7. Above all, do not lie or mislead.
    Here is a link to tcg’s Landmines to Avoid when Going Green one pager that maps this out in more detail.

    There is a tension between our necessity to educate through stealth and the absolute need to keep the green message intact. The messenger has to be squeaky clean or the message gets tainted too.