The fallacy of “Gone Green”

Over and over again, I see marketing announcements by companies that claim that they’ve “gone green!”

How did they do it? They’ve made their business “a little less bad.” If they make cars, they increased fuel efficiency by 20%, so now their SUV is green. (At 19 miles per gallon, that is a laugher). They’ve replaced the ink in their labels with soy, so now they are green. (Again, why haven’t they replaced virgin paper in packaging or eliminated air shipping of the product?)

Here’s my point – you never reach the state of being green, you green up your business as part of a long term plan of creating a sustainable business. You must treat it like product quality – a never ending process of continual improvement. To treat it as a one-and-done dooms other, sometimes more important, innovations from having urgency.

As the authors of Cradle To Cradle like to say, “being less bad is not good enough!” At some point, you reduce the damage you do to the planet all you can, then its time to focus on being good. How do you do that? Influence others to follow your lead and innovate how they run their business.

If we consider going green a one step process, we are setting a poor example for others. What if I ran two miles and lifted weights for one hour, then proudly proclaimed that “I’m in shape!” You’d laugh at my naïve approach to physical fitness. Getting in shape takes time and must be maintained consistently. The same goes for sustainable business practices. The best way to announce your innovations is by saying that your product or services is simply “eco-improved”. That’s much more realistic.