Monthly Archives: March 2011

Sustainability Gap – Which One?

Summaries of Various Surveys and Articles:
the Gaps in “Sustainability” and “Green”

The words “green” and “sustainability” are being used interchangeably, although most professionals prefer using sustainability.

Americans Misunderstand Environmental Marketing Messages
Green Gap Survey, Cone LLC and The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, 2008.

The 2008 Green Gap Survey presents the findings of an online survey conducted Feb. 21-22, 2008 by Opinion Research Corporation among 1,080 adults.

A green gap appears between consumers and manufacturers. When 39 percent of Americans buy products they perceive to be “environmentally friendly,” 48 percent of Americans erroneously think that buying a product marked “green” has a positive impact on the environment.

Despite the false understanding of labeling, marketing and a false trust in manufacturers, 59 percent of Americans want the government to produce “green” guidelines.

Closing the Green Storage Gap (IT Data Centers)
By Greg Schultz, August 28, 2008

The “green” gap for the data hosting industry is a cost. Reaching maximum energy efficiency requires a continual rebuilding and re-equipping facilities to keep up with the latest power saving technology. The recapitalization cycle for data centers is years behind technology advancement cycle.

“Green Gap Redux: Green Words Gone Wrong”
EcoPinion Survey, by EcoAlign October 14, 2009 as reported by Business Wire

Over the past two years (2007 – 2009) consumer’s understanding of the terms used by the energy industry decreased. For one example, less than one third of consumers could differentiate between energy conservation and energy efficiency.

Another “gap” appeared when one third of Americans believe the environment will benefit from smart grid investments while they think government, residents and utilities would benefit the least.
The survey company suggests the energy industry not use technical terms with the public such as “demand response” and “peak pricing.”

The 2009 IBM Corporate Social Responsibility Study

IBM’s definition of sustainability: “…businesses are now… optimizing their operations to improve environmental and social outcomes… to improve overall performance.”

IBM’s survey of 224 business leaders summarized:
– “… results indicate that operational information needs to be more timely, supply chain information…too insular and more customer information is needed.”
– Many businesses are “missing the information necessary to operate as a sustainable enterprise. Outperforming organizations, though, have proven to be far better at collecting the right data.”

IBM marks a path forward: Organizations need to
1) identify their information gaps, ensuring data is relevant, timely
2) understand customers’ CSR concerns
3) assess leading practices and participate in industry coalitions.”

How Companies Manage Sustainability: McKinsey Global Survey Results
“McKinsey & Company, February 2010

More than 50 percent of executives place the importance of sustainability in the areas of new product development, reputation building, and overall corporate strategy. However, only 6 percent of CEOs place sustainability it in their top three priorities. Less than 30 percent of companies actively pursue sustainability.

One reason given for the lack of focus is due to no clear understanding of sustainability. Without “best practice” guidelines little measuring, testing, and reporting is being done.

Of those 6 percent of CEOs that place sustainability in their top three priorities, sustainability is embedded in the management all areas of activities and tracking sustainability indicators, such as energy, waste, water, materials, and labor standards for suppliers and customers.

Great Allegheny Passage Sustainability Business Network (GAP-SBN): Building the Green Economy in Southwestern Pennsylvania
By Stephanie Campbell, Oct. 14, 2010, Published by Inside Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania

In this article the author reviews the work of the GAP-SBN in its effort to build a “green” business corridor in the nine towns located on the Allegheny Trail from Pennsylvania to Maryland.

The Trail Town Outreach Corps (TTOC), manages the network, performs a sustainability assessment for each business member to assess its “green” business status. The audits include the physical structures as well as behavior of owners and staff, (and tenants).

Recommendations are provided by TTOC in the form of a “Sustainability Statement.” Businesses then complete an “Implementation Plan” and make a formal agreement to follow the plan.

How Going Green Affects Consumer Buying
By Micheal Erickson, August 20, 2010

This article highlights survey results of consumer buying related to the “green” evolution and report consumers should be wary of a the avalanche of “green” products.

A report by a BBMG (Branding and Integrated Marketing) reveals another gap when 50 percent of U.S. consumers are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products, but 66 percent report cost is their primary factor in their buying.

In the Hansa study, 61 percent report that businesses have social responsibility beyond providing just goods and services. The BBMG study reports that 71 percent avoid buying from companies “whose practices they disagree with.”

The reports agree the gap between consumer understanding of “green” products and services and the truth behind the “green” claims result in “green-washing.” Companies should work toward providing truthful, verifiable information and encourage customers to share the information.

MAP CHANGE 2010 – A Sustainability Brand May Study

The first MapChange study in 2008 showed certain brands considered sustainable were not, while other brands considered not sustainable, actually were. MapChange 2010 compared the top brands within 10 sectors.

This is a must see. The scatter-grams of brands in nearly all 10 sectors show that public opinion is upside down (inversely related) to the truth of brand sustainability.

These results demonstrated the importance of companies to accurately share their sustainability accomplishments with their customers.

Gap Between Sustainability Leaders, Laggers
by Tilde Herrera, Feb. 10, 2011, Published on GreenBiz.com

Companies, generally, fall into two groups: those focusing sustainability activities on risk management and efficiency, and those taking a strategy enabling “long term growth and creating a range of tangible advantages.”

Embracers tend to be large and resource intensive and believe sustainability offers competitive advantages. “Sustainability is driven from the top, bottom and integrated across the company.”

In a comment to the article, Dave Meyer, of SEEDS Global Alliance writes: “As leading organizations implement more efficient, less resource intensive and wasteful practices, they quickly realize direct and indirect financial and brand benefits. They ’embrace’ this new paradigm as part of organizational ‘core values’ as successes rack up…its like a snowball effect. This tends to widen the chasm between the leaders and followers, who in turn have to spend much more to play catch up.”

Empire State Building

Johnson Controls, a manufacturer and contractor to the upgrading of the Empire State Building, outlines a multi-million dollar success story with three years of ROI and annual energy savings of $4.4 million. This project is being touted as being a template for upgrading large buildings.

Green Energy Advisor / Advisee Survey
American Institute of Architects (AIA), Portland, OR

The AIA publishes a survey in their effort to build an resources data base of both expert energy advisors and advisees. Refer to the survey for a comprehensive list of areas of focus.