Monthly Archives: May 2010

Caveat Emptor – The Cloud is Not Green

If you are an enterprise there are a number of ways you can go about getting sustainable credibility and avoid “greenwashing” and the backlash that companies like BP have been receiving.

* Put your money where your…. – Cut back on your waste and CO2 emissions and forget the cap a trade. Real dollars spent because it is the right thing is credible and measurable.

* Support local sustainable businesses through employee programs. Have the cafeteria use produce from a local CSA. Insist on sourcing supplies from within a 50 mile radius. Its tangible, again its real and you get the benefit of improving your employee’s lives and the local economy. Who knows, maybe you can even leverage it to negotiate a lower health care premium.

These are just two ideas amongst a large variety that are immediate and have real impact. One idea I’ve seen floated around is the idea that going to a cloud technology strategy is “going green.” I’m here to tell you that’s likely not the case. And if you see brands trying to claim that, its in my opinion the tech version of polluters buying carbon credits and saying its ok.

Let’s think about it – everything is going digital and on a worldwide scale.  New device adoption is growing, and new launches like the iPad are just adding to the data growth.  This data has to live somewhere, and the energy and data center space required to manage this growth has a cost.

So organizations think “I’ll just go the cloud, reduce my footprint and electric bill and I’m green.”  Not so fast…Jason Mark does a nice job here detailing the folly of that idea, and the most startling statistic he highlights is this:  “In just 10 years, internet technologies could be eating up more than 50 percent of the electricity we now use in the United States.”

I was talking to a large enterprise prospect last week and they hold sustainability as one of the key internal programs, which is commendable and I was thrilled to see.  However, as we explored it as a possible PR strategy, we collectively realized that in order to claim sustainability as a core cultural differentiators, we had to showcase implemented programs that were measured and maintained over a period of time.  We had to be accountable, and that didn’t mean shuffling responsibility to partners or customers.

I applauded them, and I encourage other brands to hold themselves to the same standard.  Cloud Computing is an IT revolution and well worth the effort, but let’s avoid calling it green….

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BP – What’s Next?

With BP taking a well deserved hit on the Gulf oil situation, I won’t recount all of the missteps that have them facing a long-term PR nightmare.  For that you can read here the NYT’s summary here and PR social media pundit Todd Defren here.   (disclaimer: Todd’s my boss, but don’t hold that against him…he’s a savvy guy)

My initial take away is caveat emptor on green marketing – especially for big brands.  This is a clarion call for GE, Cisco, Intel – any multi-national that has been pushing a “green” agenda these past few years is on notice.  I experienced something similar in years working in the IT security space – don’t call anyone out, and be careful what you claim since its more than likely something will happen that shines an unfavorable light on YOU in the future.

So, where does BP go from here, and what can other brands learn from this?

* Be prepared – BP has committed over $125 million annually the past few years on its beyond petroleum branding effort.  All that effort is now wasted since they were left

* Get online and stay online – Like it or not, brand reputation has moved from mass media to online.  BP has been discussing and taking responsibility for issues like the Alabama lawsuit payouts on TV, however why aren’t they responding online to stories like this?  BP needs to expand their communication channels to include all media, not just broadcast and their own web site.

* Don’t deflect – There’s some evidence to suggest oil spills “naturally” into the gulf on a regular basis.  Nobody will care.  BP can’t become defensive in the least.  They put themselves out in the public as a sustainable company, and they need to own their role in this situation and any future situations.

* Continue what they started – BP’s main page is almost fully dedicated to the spill recovery effort, as it should be.  BP has to own that this is now part of their legacy and culture, and can’t move this from their public efforts any time soon.  Establishing a commission on underwater drilling safety with community engagement before any future projects, funneling some of their billions of profit into a foundation for local wildlife – just a few thoughts on long-term commitments BP now needs to consider and execute upon.  It can’t be a quick-fix program that runs out of funding or sunsets in a few years.  This is part of their culture now and they need to embrace it.

As the culture moves to becoming more conscious regarding sustainable living, brands should absolutely embrace this as part of their culture.  The trick is having a plan, understanding your exposure and backing up what you claim.  BP is facing an uphill climb in large part because they had no clear plan…is your brand set up for the same fate?

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Water – The Next Electricity?

Timing is everything.  I was talking about different sustainable markets last Wednesday, and a colleague said this eerily prescient statement:

“Water is the next electricity”

Fast forward to this past Saturday, and the Massachusetts water main break that left 31 cities and towns without clean water.  Immediate boil water requests from the governor.  Runs on water at all local grocery stores, including a rumored fight at the CVS in Charlestown over a few Fiji bottles only minutes after I lucked into one of the last cases of water available there.

It’s been interesting to see how social media  has given a voice to this issue locally.  On Twitter the hash tag #aquapocalypse has sprung up, even being picked up by local radio station WBUR. (see below)

A very unscientific review of Twitter for 10 minutes had everything from praise for local stores like Viga Eatery reducing its price to accommodate thirsty patrons to a flood of customers at the Fresh Pond area Dunkin’ Donuts since Cambridge has its own water supply and was the only local area people knew available to get their morning caffeine fix. 

WBUR centered its whole mid-day lineup around the news:

WBUR What if you drank the water? Your questions answered, live at 1: http://bit.ly/9Ukaim #waterchat #aquapocalypse about 1 hour ago via Tweetie

WBUR Today at 1: Live Web chat with BU toxicologist & water expert. We take your questions (tag: #waterchat) http://bit.ly/9Ukaim #aquapocalypse about 2 hours ago via TweetDeck

WBUR Is the water boil order a major disruption to your business operation? WBUR’s @CurtNickisch would like to hear from you. about 3 hours ago via TweetDeck

Just as we need electricity for day-to-day connected living, this situation has reminded us that water is vital and underappreciated.  It will be interesting to see what effect this has on local and national legislative efforts to support water conservation.

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