Gareth's Blog

Recent Posts



green communications Archives - Terra Infirma

Browse All

13 April 2017

"You can't have Sustainability without X." You probably can...

rant"You can't have Sustainability without a whole new economic model."

"You can't have Sustainability without mindfulness."

"You can't have Sustainability without self care."

"You can't have Sustainability without a reconnection to the natural world."

"You can't have Sustainability without a global agreement."

I hear and read such statements of apparent fact all the time and my bullshit detector goes off immediately. Because, first of all they are simply wrong – maybe some of these X's would help, but none are a 100% prerequisite to Sustainability. And secondly, often the speaker is a purveyor of, say, mindfulness training, looking for a new audience – it's a bit selfish to put their own self-interest in the way of millions of other people's.

But most importantly of all, such restrictive statements either distract from the Sustainability agenda, create barriers that we don't need, or, in many cases, muddy the waters. If we want to bring the general public on board for a sustainable world, we need simple, clear, can-do messages. So let's think about our audiences rather than ourselves.

Rant over.



Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

22 March 2017

When you should sweat the little stuff on Sustainability

Great Dane HARLEQUIN and a chihuahua


Regular readers will know I'm a great proponent of the 80:20 Rule in Sustainability – I wrote a book about it (see below). The 80:20 Rule says that you should target the relatively small number of actions which deliver the vast majority of change.

At the Corporate Sustainability Mastermind Group earlier this month, we discussed the application and limitations of the 80:20 approach. These are the times you should worry about the 'little stuff':

  • Engaging employees: switching stuff off and waste minimisation generally won't take you that far down your path to zero carbon, but people easily understand it, so you can use these quick wins as an 'entry drug' to get your colleagues hooked on Sustainability before moving on to the hard stuff.
  • Avoiding cynicism: for the same reason, laypeople will get more upset about disposable coffee cups than the use of a persistent organic pollutant. So you need to make sure you are seen to be tackling those iconic issues even while you're doing the big stuff that no-one will ever notice.
  • Continual improvement: If you have a zero carbon or zero waste target, you've still got to do the 20% of results as well as the 80%. So while you should prioritise the critical 20% of actions, it's worth keeping the other stuff tapping along (maybe combined with the engagement above).

But, and this is a big but, these exceptions should never overwhelm the rule. When push comes to shove, if you need to make a tough choice, go for the one which will deliver the biggest results.


Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

13 February 2017

The one thing you must do in your Sustainability communications

Angry manager

My big theme this year is 'Sustainability conversations', and one thing that sets 'conversation' apart from 'communication' is you've got to listen as well as talk.

If you actively listen to those you are trying to communicate with, you will find the following benefits:

1. Your audience will trust what you are trying to say if you show that you care about what they think;

2. You will be able to respond to your audience's hopes, fears and uncertainties and the audience will get a deeper understanding as a result;

3. If the audience feels it is 'in the loop', individuals are more likely to embrace new ways of working;

4. You will learn how to adjust your language, tone and imagery to appeal to your wider audience (I don't guess what the culture is like when I'm using Green Jujitsu, I tend to ask them);

5. You will discover the barriers your audience see to more sustainable behaviour and be able to remove them.

The last one is not to be underestimated – some of my biggest 'wins' with clients have come from listening to what frontline employees say. Fixing such problems is often at low or no cost and tilts the playing field permanently towards more sustainable behaviour for all.

As the old saying goes, you've got two ears and one mouth and you should use them proportionately!



Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

8 November 2016

Review: Leonardo DiCaprio's Before the Flood

This brand new climate change documentary  by Leonardo DiCaprio has been released just before the US goes to the polls to pick a new president (you can watch the whole thing above). While Donald Trump only makes a fleeting appearance, spouting inanities as always, I can't help but think the timing is far from coincidental.

The name 'Before The Flood' is taken from the central panel of a Hieronymus Bosch triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights, a print of which hung over DiCaprio's 'crib' as a child (not sure I'd pick Bosch to decorate my kids' rooms but, hey...). In that central panel, the seven deadly sins start to corrupt humankind before the inevitable final panel of doom.

The movie follows DiCaprio as he travels the world talking to local activists, climate scientists and major figures such as Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and the Pope. Here are the key moments that stuck with me: Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

25 August 2016

Virtue Signalling: an insidious form of greenwash

I've always hated those pious "Save the planet: don't print this e-mail" statements in people's e-mail signature blocks. Why? Because it is blatant 'virtue signalling' – making the author sound virtuous without the inconvenience of actually doing anything virtuous themselves, in this case admonishing others for something they would probably never do.

Fortunately those e-mail mini-sermons are less common these days, unfortunately they seem to be being replaced by equally vacuous tweets instead. This one caught my eye last week:

Note that the instruction is aimed at the reader, not the author. How many people do you think will see this flicker past on their twitter stream and sit up and say "Oh, I'd never thought of that!"? The "saving a shoe is saving the earth" hashtag is particularly amusing in its vapidity.

Now, if they had linked to a document explaining what elements of a shoe can be repaired and how, that would be useful to the reader and would be making a minor contribution to sustainability. But as it is, this is a particularly irritating form of greenwash.


Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

15 August 2016

Stealth Sustainability?


As a British cycling fan, I've been throughly enjoying the team's continuing success in the Olympic velodrome. One of the remarkable characters is sprinter Jason Kenny, who has just picked up his 5th gold and is likely to get a 6th tomorrow, yet he could knock on my door the day after and I'd assume he was delivering a parcel. Kenny deliberately keeps a low profile, winning little between Olympics, before turning up every four years and destroying the field. Fellow 5-gold legend Sir Steve Redgrave is currently using his haul of medals to flog breakfast cereal – not sure I'll see Kenny plastered across the aisles anytime soon.

It got me thinking about those companies who lead on Sustainability and make a big fuss about it and those who prefer to operate under the radar. Which is best?

Going public raises the stakes. Like a sports celebrity your every move will be scrutinised and assessed, sometimes fairly, sometimes not. This can be a powerful driver for continued change, and an inspiration to others, but it can lead to a focus on superficial, media friendly actions which are easily digested by the public. Body Shop is one company which bragged of its environmental principles and spent many years fighting off allegations of greenwash by investigative journalists.

For the last year I've been working with carpet tile giant Interface. The company has long been my choice for most sustainable large business in the world, yet they rarely trouble green business league tables compiled in the media (which may reflect the arbitrariness of the latter more than anything else). But it surprises me how many sustainability practitioners I meet who are only vaguely aware of Interface and its quite incredible Mission Zero programme. In many ways they are the Jason Kenny of Sustainability – delivering world class results while flying under the radar.

Which is best? Consumer-facing and/or high profile companies should probably lean towards the razzmatazz not least because many of their competitors will be doing so. But they will have to appreciate 'tall poppy syndrome' – the media will be watching them like hawks.

For lower profile or more specialist businesses, they are unlikely to get much high profile coverage simply because of the way the media works, and should focus on telling their story directly to the stakeholders who matter such as customers, potential employees and regulators.

I was going to say 'horses for courses', but, given my opening metaphor, 'bikes for parcours' may be more appropriate!


Photo © U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

Tags: ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

13 June 2016

How good are you, really?

business angel

Cracking column by Eva Wiseman in yesterday's Observer on the trials of trying to live ethically – self-coruscating about the blind eye she turns to ethical issues we don't really want to confront, as we all do.

It reminded me of one of my favourite books, How to Be Good by Nick Hornby. It concerns a middle-class left-leaning doctor, whose feckless, selfish husband suddenly flips into a paragon of selfless virtue. He insists on giving away any unnecessary possessions to those less fortunate, and lets random homeless people live in their house. She knows she should welcome his values, but hates the privation and fears for her family. It's not the world's greatest novel, but I just love the premise.

As a local elected politician for the last 12 years, I've learnt not to try and portray myself as ethically superior to my political rivals as no-one is perfect and I'll eventually stumble. And I am always instantly suspicious of those who do claim the moral high ground as they're often the very ones who turn out to be crooked.

Which brings us to business. If you are going to portray your organisation as 'ethical', you'd better expect the press to go over your affairs with a fine tooth comb and you won't be able to control the stories that emerge, whether fair or otherwise.

In my opinion, the best strategy is 'show, don't tell' – demonstrating good behaviour in practice with with no overarching claim to sainthood. After all, people believe what they see more than what they read.


Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

22 April 2016

Shakespeare, Storytelling & Sustainability

william-shakespeare-portrait11It's old Billy S's 400th death anniversary tomorrow - I'm sure you could hardly have missed the fuss. It's quite extraordinary how the bard has stood head and shoulders above his peers over the centuries, with no-one coming close to his reputation.

And it all comes down to one word: Storytelling.

We love stories, whether it is the rise and inevitable fall of Macbeth or the latest on Miley Cyrus' love life, our appetite for a good tale is insatiable. This is why I always recommend using storytelling as a vehicle for communicating sustainability, as it is an intrinsically engaging medium.

One of my favourites is the story of an engineer working at one of my clients. He was given a lift by his son in the latter's new car and was fascinated at how the engine would switch off when the vehicle was stationary and spring back to life as soon as it was time to move off. At work, the production line was designed to be set up and calibrated at the start of a particular product's production and if anything was switched off, the whole set up had to start again. He applied the thinking of the start/stop technology to that production line so machines could power down automatically while waiting for the next batch, yet spring to life when it came along. This saved huge amounts of energy.

That story had permeated the business and the engineer had become a minor celebrity amongst his peers – much to his embarrassment, he was a modest man who just liked solving problems.

So next time you want to communicate sustainability, try framing it in the context of a story – how individuals overcame adversity or had a flash of genius which made something amazing happen. It will spread the word much faster and deeper than any set of statistics.


Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

4 April 2016

Sustainability & Freedom

bike at big waters

Last Tuesday, I got on my bike for the first time since I dislocated my finger in early January (it's been a very long haul), and toured some of the nature reserves of Newcastle with Mrs K before dropping down onto the Tyne and heading back home. Apart from a short break to sit outside a pub in the sun with a local beer. "The Freedom!" I thought "The Freedom!"

It's a weird one, because this was one of the most sustainable days out I could imagine, yet sustainability and freedom are often seen as polar opposites. Both the right and left of the political spectrum are more than happy to argue they are incompatible.

But think about the freedoms of sustainability: the freedom to enjoy clean air, beaches and rivers, the freedom to get clean energy without being in hock to various oppressive regimes around the world, freedom to sell your own energy to the grid, freedom to cycle or walk wherever you want, freedom from extreme weather or rising sea levels. I'd prefer any of these to the freedom to sit in a car in a traffic jam on a hot day.

The point I'm trying to make is that to cope with all the information we have to process, we narrow our thinking to certain frames. If we frame sustainability as anathema to freedom, then people will switch off. If we frame sustainability as a form of freedom, people will take note.

Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

18 March 2016

Sustainability Strategy: how deep do you dive?

U.S. Navy Diver (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin B. Gray, U.S. Navy/Released)

I've got sustainability strategy coming out of my ears at this minute. A Green Academy webinar, a Corporate Sustainability Mastermind Group meeting and a live client project and we're only half way through the month!

The biggest challenge is getting the level of detail right. Some people will want to give it a quick overview, like a snorkeller swimming over a reef. Other specialists will want to dive deep into the whys and wherefores, the assumptions and caveats and who is responsible for what.

Our approach is to look at the document like a stepped beach – you start in the shallows, and as you progress through the pages, the complexity increases by another step until you are deep in the detail. This means the reader can make the decision of how far they want to go. My diving analogy breaks down for the back cover which should include a call to action to remind the reader what the strategy means to them.


Tags: ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

1 February 2016

Leveraging Human Interest for Sustainability


I saw a quote from the old Kirk Douglas movie Ace in the Hole in the Sunday papers and it really resonated with me, so I looked up the wider exchange. Grizzled reporter Charles Tatum (Douglas) is lecturing the young photographer Herbie Cook (Bob Arthur) about the realities of the newspaper world.

Cook: Like the faces of those folks you see outside a coal mine with maybe 84 men trapped inside.
Tatum: One man's better than 84. Didn't they teach you that?
Cook: Teach me what?
Tatum: Human interest. You pick up the paper, you read about 84 men or 284, or a million men, like in a Chinese famine. You read it, but it doesn't stay with you. One man's different, you want to know all about him. That's human interest.

This is true – look at any big newspaper story, such as the current refugee crisis, and there will inevitably be a focus down to an individual case. This isn't by accident – telling the story of one individual amongst the bigger picture brings it down to a level we can relate to on a more emotional level. As Tatum points out, you can connect to one person, but not 84.

Have a look at your sustainability communications. Are you talking purely in terms of statistics and the big picture, or are you embedding human interest stories to give your audience something to relate to? The best stories show someone just like the audience – typically a fellow colleague – doing something different to deliver on sustainability.

One person's better than 84.



Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

29 January 2016

Where does greenwash end?


Interesting CSRChat on Twitter last night, featuring David Gelles who writes on Business & Sustainability for the New York Times. He mentioned that he thought it was relatively easy to get good press out of sustainability stories. I flipped it around and suggested it was equally easy for journalists to find fault with the same stories and accuse them of greenwash.

The word greenwash is said to have been coined in 1986 by environmentalist Jay Westervelt complaining about those "we only launder towels left on the floor signs" found in hotels – which I actually find a bit harsh as that always struck me as a neat quick win. Westervelt's argument was the true motivation here is profit – making the same argument as Aneel Karnani made last year that true Corporate Social Responsibility should harm the business concerned in economic terms.

This is crazy. If a company managed to make a huge leap forward in sustainability, for example a breakthrough in biofuel from algae which slashed the carbon emissions of the airline industry with negligible land use impacts (unlikely I know, but go with me), making a fortune as a result, would it be greenwash to call it a green business? Clearly not.

On the other hand we need a sceptical press to cut through corporate spin and expose the reality behind many green claims – or the bigger picture from which they may distract. Anita Roddick may have dismissed Joe Entine, who popularised the term greenwash in his exposé of less than green behaviour at Body Shop, as a weird obsessive, but she tightened up the company's transparency and reporting as a result of his investigations.

As I get older, I have learnt that no thing and no body is ever 100% good or 100% bad, no matter what the media or Twitter hashtags say. As the sustainability field matures, practitioners and commentators need to become more realistic than the activist movement from whence we emerged. They survive on a diet of outrage, justified or otherwise, which can do more harm than good, we need to work in shades of green.

And my advice to any business announcing an achievement? Frame it as "We are very proud of this, but it is just one step on a longer journey." But don't be put off doing well by doing good.


Tags: ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

15 January 2016

In the other guys' shoes...

castThis is the first thing I've typed using fingers of my right hand for over a week. Last Friday morning, while out running, I slipped on some black ice, hit the deck hard and dislocated my little finger on my right hand - and cut up the one on my left for good measure. A hospital visit and a cast later, and suddenly, for the first time in my life, I had a disability. A temporary one of course, but my week flapping at things ineffectively with my left hand, having to wear elasticated trousers and slip on shoes and taking up to four times as long to perform a simple task like having a shower, gave me a quick, but immersive insight into the world of the less able.

The old quote "you don't understand someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes" springs to mind. And this dictum of course applies to us sustainability practitioners as much as anyone else. The majority of green messaging I see is all about the transmitter, not the receiver. No wonder it falls on deaf ears.

My Green Jujitsu approach flips this around and tries to find the overlap between the interests of the audience and sustainability, and starts the engagement there. That's the whole point of the 'lightbulb moment' in the animation:

Anyway, I've now got just a small splint on my right hand which opens up the wonderful world of laces, zips, buttons, pens etc again, but still puts restrictions on exercise, cycling and driving. That sound you hear is a partial sigh of relief from the rest of my family.


Tags: ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

2 November 2015

3D Storytelling for Sustainability


Two days of motorway driving just to spend a day queuing for rides at a theme park – my weekend couldn't have been designed more around my pet hates. The theme park was Legoland and, even though my expectations weren't that high, I was still disappointed. There were very few 'Wow!' moments and everything was aimed at kids.

You may be surprised at my surprise at that last bit, but if you think of last year's Lego Movie, it worked on different levels – the kids loved the crash bang wallops and the slapstick, the adults got all the quest-movie parodies and jokes about overpriced coffees. Just a soupçon of that wit sprinkled across Legoland would have lifted it from over-priced banality to something everybody could enjoy, not just the kids (especially those who were paying for it!).

Much 'green communication' is similarly one-dimensional – it assumes that everybody is interested in rather bland hand-wringing. People who aren't interested ignore it, people who are interested don't get anything extra out of it (they already switch the lights off) and people who may be suspicious of greenwash don't get the proof they need to allay their fears.

So how about designing you communications to handle 3 dimensions of interest from your target audience?

  1. Interest in green issues – ranging from tree-hugger to eco-sceptic;
  2. Learning – how does this apply to me, from simple efforts to step changes such as eco-design;
  3. Depth – ranging from punchy slogans to detailed data.

This can be done on websites and reports – you start at the shallow end and gets deeper and more involved as you explore further.

The wider the audience you appeal to, the more successful you will be – sustainability doesn't benefit from the pester power that Legoland does!


Tags: ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

30 September 2015

Why don't people 'get' climate change? Because we're only human...

George_Monbiot_(cropped)I like George Monbiot – he's decent, principled and thorough – but I often disagree with the tenor of his arguments. Today he complained that there was more TV news coverage in 2014 of the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann than the whole range of environmental issues.

This doesn't really surprise me.

As animals we are programmed to react to immediate risks to our family. What happened to Madeleine McCann taps into our deepest fears. As a parent, the idea of losing a kid to a stranger while taking a minuscule risk – eating on the same premises while the kids sleep in a locked room (which I've been known to do) – haunts me. And never knowing their fate... it makes me shiver.

By contrast, climate change is a creeping, gradual, sometimes distant threat. We can look at graphs of plunging Arctic sea ice, but they don't hit that primal chord in the same way because we can't relate to the risk. Boris Johnson famously questioned how the world could be warming when he could see snow outside his window – a silly argument on an intellectual level, but it illustrates the mountain to climb.

[BTW, in 2014 'Maddie' hit the headlines for a particular reason (which both Monbiot and the study he quotes fail to mention) – the Portuguese Police and Scotland Yard started digging wasteland up in the hunt for the young girl. There was a very real chance the mystery would be solved at long last. Studying 2012 or 2013 might give a more realistic comparison.]

What I'm trying to get at here is people aren't stupid as the title of Monbiot's article – "There may be flowing water on Mars. But is there intelligent life on Earth?" – implies. But they are human, and if we are failing to communicate the risks of climate change, then maybe, just maybe it's our fault, not theirs.


Photograph by Adrian Arbib, used under Creative Commons License.

Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

14 September 2015

Being right isn't enough

Angry managerYou'd have to have the heart of Katie Hopkins not to be moved by the refugee crisis – a humanitarian disaster unfolding in front of our eyes. The reasons for this huge movement of people are many and some commentators have linked the mass movement of people to the impacts of climate change.

To me, this is wrong. Not wrong as in factually incorrect, but the wrong argument to make at the wrong time. It comes across as opportunistic bandwagon jumping when emotions are high – and will make the general public, the people we need to win over, less likely to hear the warnings on climate, not more – "There they go again..."

One of the reasons I don't join pressure groups is this kind of one-eyed hectoring. It frustrates me when I hear it from all parts of the environmental movement from cycling lobbyists to anti-fracking militants (for the record I'm very pro-cycling and moderately anti-fracking). It's fine if campaigners just want to feel good about themselves, but if they really want to make a difference, they need to be much better attuned to the public mood.


Tags: , , , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane one response

15 May 2015

We can't bore our way to sustainability


A couple of weeks ago, I was at one of those parties where you kind of know a lot of people, but don't know anybody really well. I wandered over to the group I knew the best, where I found a woman holding forth on politics. At the end of her lengthy and self-assured monologue, she declared "And that's what we all want, isn't it?"

There was a frosty pause. Everybody looked at their feet. She stared at each person in turn – I'm not sure whether she was waiting for affirmation or daring anybody to disagree. Somebody changed the subject. The chill passed.

Another example. I follow an academic on Twitter who is making increasingly catastrophic predictions of the impacts of climate change. There's a passive-aggressive slant to his pronouncements, one saying "I've been telling the public this for years, but nobody is listening." Funny that.

The worse thing you can do in any attempt to persuade people is to assume you are right, they are wrong and a stern lecture will put them right. People will change the subject. Unfortunately far too much green communications and engagement starts from this position.

My Green Jujitsu approach flips this through 180°. It says 'put yourself in your audience's shoes. Understand their hopes, fears, aspirations and habits. Find the overlap between that and sustainability and start there.

Or to put it bluntly, don't be a bore.



Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

1 May 2015

Is climate change like the Titanic?

I was interviewed about attitudes to climate change by my friend, colleague and fellow Belfast-born Anna-Lisa Mills yesterday. We got into a lengthy debate about the balance between risk and opportunity - I like to favour the opportunity, Anna-Lisa feels that we need to communicate the urgency to act now.

To that end she has produced this rather wonderful video likening our attitude to the scientific evidence with the ill-fated journey of our home city's most famous export, the Titanic. If you are going to communicate risks, this is the way to do it.


Tags: ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

18 March 2015

How not to communicate climate change by the Guardian

Alan_Rusbridger_by_Alessio_Jacona_-_International_Journalism_Festival_2014The Guardian is undoubtedly the UK's best newspaper for covering environmental issues, so it was no surprise when outgoing Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger made climate change his swan song. Unfortunately I can't help thinking the results of this well-meaning effort represent everything that's wrong with our attempts to communicate climate change.

My first gripe is format: lengthy essays stretching over several pages of dense print. I have only skimmed these myself – and I'm very interested in this stuff! How is anybody with a passing interest meant to dip in? How does it speak to those disengaged? Where are the graphics for goodness sake?

My second problem is the attitude. The series started with a couple of lengthy extracts from Naomi Klein's new book on climate change. Klein admits herself that she has only come to climate lately, having made her name as an anti-capitalist. And of course, her prescription is that it is capitalism to blame for climate change, and that those of us trying to fix the problem without smashing the system are deluded. In other words, it's all the 1%'s fault and the 99% are helpless. Might as well give up, then.

Problem is, Klein is wrong – state socialism has proved just as able as capitalism when it comes to destroying the planet – check out Russia or China's record. And, with carbon emissions stalling last year, it is clear that we can make a real difference without some (impossible) wholesale restructuring of society. I am one of many, including radicals like Jonathan Porritt, who believe we can actually make capitalism work for the planet – bringing competition, innovation and economies of scale to cutting carbon.

The paper did redeem itself with some punchy, provocative pieces by Mark Lynas and Jonathan Freedland arguing we need to de-politicise climate change and get on with tackling it, and not sit navel gazing, but these were in the main paper and not part of the climate specials.

The Beeb showed how climate change communication can be done with Climate Change by Numbers on BBC4. The programme hit the most complex and controversial topics – uncertainty, modelling, predictions, dealing with data gaps – head-on using some very clear, snazzy graphics and great analogies. For example, they demonstrated how attribution models work by analysing the success factors in Premiership football teams, building a model and showing how, if you take any Club's wage bill out of the model, then the correlation between model and reality fail. Likewise, if you take anthropogenic carbon emissions out of climate models, then the models and reality diverge sharply. OK, it was taking on a different debate to the Guardian, but it was arguably a more difficult one, yet they made it engaging and fascinating.

The time for preaching to the choir is over. Climate change is not just an issue for the left-leaning middle-class intelligentsia. We must reach out across the political spectrum, to all tribes in society, and inspire people to engage and to help make change happen. And that's going to require a rethink on how we try to communicate the message.


Photo by Alessio Jacona and used under the Creative Commons License.


Tags: , , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

7 January 2015

Cut the Green Crap!

Scissors icon glossy green round buttonThere's far too much green crap around.

I'm not talking about the clean energy subsidies that PM David Cameron was (allegedly) referring to using these words. No, I'm talking about the real green crap that actually holds sustainability back:

  • Pointless 'green' giveaways - recycled plastic pencils that break your pencil sharpener, desk thermometers that get binned, bars of fair-trade chocolate that get eaten and forgotten. What's the point?
  • Green Champions - most networks of green champions I see are dysfunctional and a huge amount of energy is being spent desperately trying to keep the network going. Give responsibility to people with authority instead - and use the time freed up to do something useful.
  • Gimmicks like putting sweets on people's computer keyboards if they switch off their computer overnight. I'm forever surprised that organisations will pay consultants good money to spout nonsense like this.
  • Supplier questionnaires - many suppliers spend so much time responding to different customer's questionnaires, they don't have time to actually improve their performance - and then find the data provided rarely has any influence in contract decisions.
  • Awareness posters - when was the last time you saw a poster and changed your life significantly? I'm guessing never.
  • Regurgitating idiotic received wisdom - if you need to buy a drink, bottled water will almost certainly have a lower ecological footprint than all of the alternatives except thirst. Not all biodiesels are evil. Carbon offsetting is not immoral - no-one dies.
  • Talking woo-hoo eco-bollocks like 'eco-centric world views', 'endosymbiotic thrivability' or 'spiritual animistic reverence'. Just don't. No-one will listen anyway.
  • Hitching sustainability to the latest fad. "You can't have sustainability without mindfulness" someone told me recently. You know what? You can.

If you make one sustainability resolution this year, how about to cut the green crap?


Tags: , , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

Free monthly bulletin:

Learn how to help your business go green from the comfort of your desk..

View events

By Gareth Kane

Everything you need to know to integrate sustainability into the DNA of your business.

Submit button

By Gareth Kane

A highly accessible, practical guide to those who want to introduce sustainability into their business or organization quickly and effectively.

Submit button

By Gareth Kane

The smart way to engage effectively with employees

View events