Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Burt's Bleach?

I read a few months ago about a Washington Post-connected green fashion magazine called Sprig. The editor in chief, Jeannie Pyun, gave what I thought was memorable comment: "We're targeting this to the 95% of people who want to be 5% green, not the 5% of people who want to be 95% green." Those were obviously off the cuff numbers, but I don't think the "95% of people" number is unrealistic IF 95% of people have easy ways to turn a bit green.

Regardless, however, we can't focus entirely on those 95% of people. We have to pay close attention to that deep dark green minority as well. We need to see them as a resource. They are the innovators and early adopters, and we should look to them for leadership.

Colin Beavan, the No Impact Man, is one of them. His blog is important. And he's a motivated guy that has turned his life into fascinating work, work (life) that should inspire the rest of us.

A couple of days ago, a post of his discussed Clorox's acquisition of Burt's Bees, and, as his posts do, it got me thinking.

It's unquestionably worth worrying when a beautiful little green company gets bought by a 500 lb. gorilla. A transaction like that makes it dangerously possible that the beauty disappears real quick.

However, I think there's validity to the argument that Burt's Bees COULD make Clorox and and its whole brand family better. As the green/sustainable/responsible business movement continues to grow, Clorox must see that people want to support companies like Burt's Bees. One of the reasons for Burt's Bees impressive growth has to be that we customers think it's very cool that they can make excellent products and be clean and responsible at the same time.

So imagine a situation in which Clorox studies Burt's Bees, figures out what Burt's Bees is doing right, sets some emulation milestones for themselves, publishes the milestones, hits them, and then celebrates publicly their achievements.

My guess is that a good portion of those 95% of people that want to be 5% green will be looking specifically for Clorox next time they dump coffee down the front of their white shirt.

PS: The NYT article on Burt's Bees and Clorox is worth reading. The history of Burt's Bees is pretty wild.


Martha Blake said...

ok fine. so i didn't post my first comment but i got you this time.

a. i second the ps on the burts article. and btw - who knew the company was work $913mil.

b. while i don't necessarily stand by the numbers, we did some research when i was at the old job on what green is (corp social responsiblity vs. using enviro friendly materials vs. having enviro friendly production/ practices etc.) and people's perceptions of companies that are green etc. ( the green research has been done a few years in a row now - i don't remember the more recent results but in the first years - people were most likely to perceive a company as "green" if just their logo had green in it or their name "sounded" like a green company.

bysusuru said...

on the selling out or making a difference with a larger audience topic:

adam werbach, big time environmentalist, started working for/with wal-mart which is now on a big greening campaign but has plenty of other and previous offenses. begs the question, is working with the big bad companies being a traitor, or is it getting the message out to the masses?

Jake de Grazia said...

Here's the whole link:

Man I want to believe that Werbach's motives are pure. Awesome sustainability consultants getting inside big companies and proposing changes that both reduce negative impacts and make money would be such a good thing.

I guess one question is whether those consultants can stay pure and motivated living inside those machines.

Sustainability consulting. I'd love to know more about that. Just talked to the sustainability consultant for the Radisson hotel in Edinburgh the other day. A phone battery incident prevented us from getting deep into her ideological thoughts about consultancy, however.

Maybe after I talk to her next I'll post about it...

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