Part of our jobs down here on the 4th floor is to follow trends.
And one trend I've had my eye on for the last few years is
sustainability. It's an interesting space. One that continues to
evolve. And one that I think is critical not only for the well
being of the planet, but for the continued recovery and progress of
the global economy.
Remember a few years ago when everyone wanted to "go green?" For corporations, that meant establishing committees and donating time and money to green initiatives. The dirtier your business was, the more money you had to spend to offset bad PR. This strategy inevitably led to the unscrupulous practice of "greenwashing," deceptively using green marketing to promote the perception that your policies or products are environmentally friendly. And for consumers, "going green" meant paying a premium for products that were identical, if not inferior, to their non-green versions.
Then, in a perfect storm of technological innovation and economic recession, the state of sustainability was changed forever. Thanks to technology, human beings were connected more globally than ever before. The ubiquity of social media meant companies couldn't get away with "greenwashing" anymore. And from a consumer standpoint, people simply couldn't afford to pay a premium for green products and services.
Then, in true Darwinian fashion, sustainability began to evolve. It became smarter and leaner. Iconoculture summed it up perfectly: "After several years of rapid innovation and affordable, practical green products, going greener today means smart, simple, solutions that aren't trade-ups or tradeoffs." Today, brands who get it have made sustainability practical and approachable to their customers. They've become transparent in both operations and dialogue. And they've even begun to rethink their business models to consider the triple bottom line of people, planet and profits.
They acknowledge that they're not perfect and that they've learned, and are still learning, from their mistakes. But the best among them are honestly trying. And you've got to give them credit for that.
The idea that a company like TOMS Shoes can do good and make money at the same time is inspiring. Sustainability, to me, is now less about "going green," and more about "doing good." There's not a generation more attuned to "good" than Millennials. They love what TOMS stands for, they care how their chocolate was sourced, and their influence (and purchasing power) continues to grow. In the very near future, making a good product isn't going to be good enough. We should be challenging ourselves not just to be greener, but to be better. Making money and making the world a better place doesn't have to be mutually exclusive. The next generation of successful corporations, brands and entrepreneurs are going to be the ones who figure out a profitable, and sustainable, way to strike that balance.