Let Them Know You’re Green

Sep 03, 2008 9:04 PM  By

Do your customers know what you’re doing for the environment? At the ACMA Forum in Washington, D.C. in June, many of us in attendance were floored when we realized how little we had done to communicate our green efforts.

The message came to us from none other than the Postmaster General himself, who asked for a show of hands from those who had taken a variety of “green” initiatives, such as decreasing paper weight, using soy inks, etc. Most hands in the room went up. But when he asked who had actually used their catalogs to communicate that fact with their customers, only a few went up. Clearly, the multichannel industry needs to do more to trumpet what it’s doing for the environment.

This isn’t just a feel-good idea. Our industry continues to be targeted by critics who are very good at publicity and lobbying campaigns of their own, manifested in things like pushing for a Do-Not-Mail list, and efforts to severely limit the catalog industry in its use of paper. This could have dire consequences for our industry, yet we are doing very little to counter it by generating positive publicity.

One forum participant who did speak up was Jim Feinson, president of Gardener’s Supply, who talked about what it really means to be “green.” Gardener’s Supply is a great example of a company that is not only making an effort, but letting everybody know about it. The catalog features a large box on the back page promoting the company’s “8% for Gardening” campaign. It also prominently features the recycling logo, with an accompanying “Printed on Recycled Paper” statement. That’s all it really takes to get the message out there, yet very few of us are doing it.

Of course, Gardener’s Supply does much more. Customers who follow the reference to “learn more at www.gardeners.com” discover that the company has a long history of promoting earth-friendly practices, beginning with the statement: “At Gardener’s Supply, we believe that gardening can bring about positive change in people’s lives, in our communities and in the environment. We donate 8% of our company profits to programs and organizations that are using gardening to improve the world. It’s a commitment we’ve adhered to since our first day of business back in 1983.”

The site goes on to describe a wide variety of efforts, including a “Garden Crusader Awards” program, and efforts to make the company’s facilities energy-efficient and to be environmentally responsible in the sourcing and use of materials and supplies, and to sell products that are environmentally friendly. The company is also involved in its local Vermont community, as well as in initiatives nationwide: Gardener’s Supply also provides major gifts to non-profit organizations throughout the country that are working on gardening, sustainable agriculture, the environment and hunger-related causes.

No matter what form our green initiatives take, we all need to follow this example and use our catalogs to get the message out there. It comes down to this: You are doing great things. Why don’t you tell people?

Curt Barry is president of F. Curtis Barry & Company (www.fcbco.com), a multichannel operations and fulfillment consulting firm with expertise in multichannel systems, warehouse, call center, inventory, and benchmarking.