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July 2008 - Terra Infirma


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30 July 2008

Book Review: The Green Marketing Manifesto

I don't think a book has left me so polarised in opinion as The Green Marketing Manifesto by John Grant.

First off, Grant really knows his stuff - and has left me with some strong ideas like his cool, succinct definition:

"Green Marketing is about making green stuff seem normal, not about making normal stuff seem green"

and the Five I's of Green Marketing:

  • Intuitive, 
  • Integrative (sustainability, technology, commerce), 
  • Innovative, 
  • Inviting (not hair shirt), 
  • Informed. 

The book is crammed with practical examples and genuine make-you-think moments, such as the dissection of BP's Beyond Petroleum blunder (they were doing very well environmentally for an oil company, but then decided to make a proclamation they could never live up to).

Unfortunately, instead of developing the 5Is, Grant presents a 3x3 grid of concepts versus green-ness and then for each of the squares, he presents two different strategies - 18 in all. This complexity would be OK in a text book, but Grant can never decide whether he is writing an academic treatise, a how-to, or a polemic. There are a number of factual errors (eg Jedi wasn't adopted as an official religion after the 2001 census) and in my opinion Grant bestows green blogs with too much influence - OK, Treehugger.com is important in Green circles, but the average Joe in the street won't have heard of it, let alone have read its criticisms of Anya Hindmarsh's I am not a plastic bag, er, bag. Towards the end, he gets sidetracked into inventing examples of more innovative products/services, but fails to describe how these innovations would be sold to the consumer. The surplus of exclamation marks suggests the book needs a good edit! And the cover (plain card with a drab green hand stencilled text) goes against his own advice by being more hairshirt than inviting.

I would have much rather he stuck with the 5I's and showed how they could/have been applied to a series of green products and services. Instead we have a very clever book which has got rather too caught up in its own cleverness.

Despite all these criticisms, I still really enjoyed most of it, learnt loads, and would recommend it as there is nothing else better out there. Let's just hope that the second edition is simpler, better edited and that the facts have been checked.

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Posted by Gareth Kane one response

28 July 2008

Weekly Tip #24: Be careful with the B2B market

This is the latest of a series of tips extracted from the forthcoming Green Business Bible e-book:

Don't overestimate the demand for green products in businesses - buyers are risk adverse and may see green=shoddy. Focus first on business benefits such as reduced costs.

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25 July 2008

Lies, damn lies, but where do they get those statistics?

I was at an event the other week where a keynote speaker put up a picture of an ancient Landrover and said "This is my car. I'm eco-friendly as the emissions from vehicle production are much higher than those in use, so keeping it on the road is the right thing to do!"

"Rubbish" thought I (or words to that effect). But I gave him the benefit of the doubt and looked up some published stats, and as you can see the use phase comes to 80% and the manufacture 18%.

Toyota Gasoline Vehicle CO2 Emissions:

Driving 72%
Fuel production 8%
Vehicle production 6%
Material production 12%
Others 2%

But everybody knows this - who on earth told him the opposite?

Another one...

In May's ENDS Report, a Rosi Fieldson is quoted as saying "The more technologies that are put into a home, the higher the embodied carbon [ie that required to produce materials, components and build the house] becomes. Currently embodied energy is 15% of energy used over the building's life time .... In a zero carbon home this would rise to 80-90%."

Well either Dr Fieldson has been misquoted or she needs to go back to primary school to sort out her maths. It's a percentage! If you cut one part of the pie, the percentage taken by the other must go up because the two parts must add up to 100!

Strictly speaking the embodied energy of a zero carbon home should be 100% of lifetime energy, because the usage (non-renewable) energy is 0%. But it doesn't tell you whether the amount of embodied energy goes up or down...

I think I'm going to go and lie down in a darkened room...

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23 July 2008

Do you want to be Lean, Mean & Green?

We've had so much interest in our new Lean, Mean & Green programme, we've produced a one page A4 flyer to give you an opportunity to judge whether it is for you.

The Lean, Mean & Green Flyer can be seen here.

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21 July 2008

Weekly Tip #23: Look around (and steal other people's ideas!)

This is the latest of a series of tips extracted from the forthcoming Green Business Bible e-book*:

When looking for innovative environmental solutions, look at how businesses in completely different sectors use technology. You may find an approach that no-one has ever applied to your line of business. Most 'innovation' is from this kind of cross-fertilisation - James Dyson got the idea of putting a cyclone in a vacuum cleaner from the air purification system in a saw mill.

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18 July 2008

Bits & Pieces

There's all sorts of news at Terra Infirma...

1. We've set up the 'Green Business Club' on the business networking site Ecademy for those who see environmental performance as a competitive advantage.

2. The long trailed e-book "The Green Business Bible" is in the very last stages of completeness (cover design, final proofing) and will be launched by the end of the month. Low Carbon Agenda subscribers will be eligible for a substantial discount, so make sure you are signed up - it's free and officially "awesome".

3. We're in negotiation with a number of very prestigious organisations for new 'Lean, Mean & Green' programmes - the effective way of improving your environmental performance.

4. We're getting a make-over in the design and branding front - although it'll be a couple of months before you see the results.

And, it's the start of the holiday period, so if you're off somewhere nice, have a good'un!

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16 July 2008

Surely Harvard Can Do Better Than This?

There's no such thing as an environmental expert, no matter what the media (or my CV...) says. The topic is too broad, deep and fast evolving for one person to know everything there is to know. But I keep ahead of the game by gaining experience on the ground, learning from others at events and reading periodicals and books.

A month or so ago I picked up the "Harvard Business Review On Green Business Strategy" and I've finally got around to reading it. Extracted from the HBR journal and published in 2007, I thought this would give me an insight into the latest business school thinking... how wrong I was. Only two articles of the eight were published after 2000 and one of these is a rather bland piece on green building.

OK, so there was a revolution in Green Business thinking in 1996-1999, but surely one of the most prestigious journals on business could come up with eight recent provocative or insightful pieces on this massive business challenge?

I'm still reading it as a bit of revision never hurt anyone, but I am distinctly underwhelmed.

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14 July 2008

Weekly Tip #22: How many of your staff know how a thermostat works?

This is the latest of a series of tips extracted from the forthcoming Green Business Bible e-book*:

If you're reading this, you probably know that a room thermostat sets the target temperature for a room and that turning it up doesn't heat the room any quicker. But do your staff know this? I bet they don't - teach 'em!

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11 July 2008

Take a fresh look at what you do

I live in a delightful river valley, 20 minutes walk from the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne. A couple of times a week, I pull on my trainers and run 2.5 miles up the river through the famous Jesmond Dene and 2.5 miles back again in a big long loop. The paths undulate up and down the sides of the river gorge and over the years I've learnt the pattern of the climbs and downhills and adjust my running to suit well before each change.

Once in a blue moon, I run my route the other way - same path, different direction. It never fails to surprise me, even shock me, how different the valley looks. Small features become huge rocky outcrops and vice versa, and whole new routes and vista open up. These were invisible when plodding the same routine week after week. The other shock is how much more uncomfortable the run is - the climbs come in a different rhythm and the downhills often steeper, putting pressure on the old quad muscles.

Its the same in most businesses - waste occurs but it is the norm, people either don't see it or don't want to to rock the boat, but would rather get on with their routine (the 'day job'). Change is uncomfortable, but essential to survive, and you have to get out of your comfort zone to see it. So once in a while, get out of the routine, be disruptive, ask people what they think and, most importantly, try to look at your business with fresh eyes.

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9 July 2008

The unrecognised recycling sector

On Monday I gave a seminar on carbon footprinting and carbon management (using the Terra Infirma brainstorming tool) at the Association of Charity Shops Annual Conference in Keele. I learnt a lot, as I always do in this trade (I've worked with everyone from multi-national pharmaceutical companies through to a crazy golf course - you pick up all sorts of weird factoids). The sector is a huge, professionally run, and very competitive retail operation, a huge chunk of the reuse industry and a huge source of materials for recyclers. This was not lost on the three recycling companies who sponsored the event.

The seminar went to plan and was well received - despite some shock when we spent half the time actually doing some work. Solutions we generated included checking tyre pressure of vehicles, better use of steamers, buying translucent kettles and even screwing down the thermostat dials. The big contentious issue is open/closed door. As with all shops, open door = more sales but massive energy loss. We didn't resolve this one, but if anyone can think of a solution, post it in the comments.

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7 July 2008

Weekly Tip #21: Use the Terra Infirma Brainstorming Tool

This is the latest of a series of tips extracted from the forthcoming Green Business Bible e-book*:

If you want to do effective brainstorming, then use the Terra Infirma Brainstorming Tool. You can see it in the latest edition of the Low Carbon Agenda along with instructions. It is set up for Carbon Emissions, but substitute 'Waste' or a more specific problem eg 'Product Loss in Goods Out' and it's hot to trot for any environmental issue. You can also use it for other applications, even frying an egg.

* It really is very nearly ready. Honest!

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4 July 2008

Heath Robinson would love to be an energy auditor

Outside my office window, a team of builders is working on an eco-house. They are running a petrol generator to produce power for an electric cement mixer. That little system is converting chemical energy into rotary energy into electrical energy into rotary energy. That's at least two conversions (and losses) that don't need to be there.

Years ago I walked into a meeting room where the radiator and air-conditioning unit (installed one above the other) were blazing away - one producing hot air from hot water from gas (and electricity to pump it) and the other trying to cancel that out with cool air from electricity from gas/coal/nuclear. I switched both off and the temperature was just fine.

I've been in food companies where the cool rooms were next to the ovens. I've seen many examples of air compressors sucking their own heat into their 'cool' air intake. Stories abound of air conditioning intakes being downwind of hot air vents. The list goes on...

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2 July 2008

A good time to go green

Things have settled down here a little at Terra Infirma Towers after the most busy (and it has to be said lucrative) month in our history. I've said before that with companies feeling the pinch from falling orders and soaring oil prices, this is not a bad time to be offering cost-cutting services. The great thing about cutting material resource use, as opposed to human resources (hate that term), is that it doesn't cut your capacity to deliver products and/or services so as the economy recovers you're not floundering behind.

Of course companies can go beyond simply reducing environmental costs and start exploiting environmental business opportunities. Now you might think that this is a risky time to do so, but both the Guardian and the Times are reporting a surge in green investment and I hear the same from contacts in the banking industry.

Just don't think you can stick a green label on a duff product and expect it to succeed. Plenty have tried and failed. And I keep meeting more of them.

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