Tuesday, October 26, 2010

HOW-TO: Locating "The Beginning"

First things first:  Many thanks to each of you for your good will and best wishes since the launch of this blog.  I’m glad you’re enjoying these initial posts and especially appreciate your many comments and questions.  Based on your feedback, I’ve been working on a scheme for future postings that will guide my inexorable “stream of consciousness,” and [with any luck] be useful to all of you as readers.

It’s simple. In the coming weeks, posts will fall into any one of three categories:  “How-tos,” “Insights” and “News of Note” – with at least one “How-to” per week. After a few weeks, it would be great if you’d let me know what you think.  Deal?  Deal.

And now, for our inaugural “How-to.”

Where’s the Beginning?
Sometimes, it’s not about starting from The Beginning; it’s actually about locating The Beginning.

The overwhelming majority of questions I receive from readers, clients, and colleagues deal with “Where do I begin marketing in an eco-friendly way?” Some folks want to start with the easiest, some want to start with getting permission, some are concerned with cost, and others want to be sure they’re going to do the most impactful thing.

Whether you're looking for easy, impactful or inexpensive, the first step in transitioning to a sustainable business model -- whether you’re talking about your Marketing department or your whole organization -- is to first determine where you stand on the “Green Bell Curve.”   You may call it a self-assessment, a pre-test, or a diagnostic, but the fact is that if you don’t know where you are, how do you know what path will best lead you to your destination?

In practical terms, this means surveying when, where, and how you are currently using energy and resources. Starting within the Marketing group you will need to collect information, organize it, tabulate it and analyze it.

To give you some guidelines, the following is a list of areas to examine:
  • Paper use/paper waste
  • Frequency and nature of travel (both commuting and off site)
  • Energy use (heating and a/c, lighting, equipment)
  • Purchasing (local vendors vs. long distance shipping; eco-conscious vendors vs. conventional)
  • Waste materials (how it is disposed of and/or recycled)
  • Office equipment (Is it standalone or multi-functional? Is it certified as energy efficient?)
  • Printing practices (Paper stock content? Soy ink? Is hard-copy really necessary?)
  • Mailing practices (How much can be sent electronically instead?  Bike messengers vs. Overnight vs. Cabs/delivery drivers?)
  • Swag/Promos
  • Events
  • Packaging (Too big?  PVC content? Recycled materials content?)
  • Distribution Methods for product
Over a period of at least two weeks, take notes, take measurements, record your findings and extrapolate your data out to reflect a year of use and consumption.  Use this data when you’re ready to make a presentation to your team and your organization’s decision makers.

I don’t recommend going this alone, but it is do-able.  If you have a team, recruit them to handle several areas apiece. Remember: The more involvement you generate among others in this phase, the more likely their participation and buy-in when it comes time to implement changes.  If your colleagues in other disciplines are predisposed to working smarter, share these areas with them then get together regularly to compare and consolidate your findings.  Information is the currency of progress, and ownership is the key to buy-in.

In my next posting I’ll outline a few easy tips in measurement, as well as smart criteria to strengthen your business case for transitioning to sustainable policies and procedures.