Tag Archives: Sustainable Energy

Sustaining Momentum

As I get ever so closer to vacation next week, my thoughts have started to migrate towards recharging and renewal.  In that spirit, I wanted to share some interesting pieces I’ve been reading this week that span across that spectrum.

* Martin LaMonica of CNet has a short but very in-depth series on the current state of electricity, the role technology is playing in changing our consumption and how we sustain our ever-growing electronic lifestyles.  He takes a look at both sides of the coin: home and generation.  Highly recommended and especially timely in Massachusetts where there is a growing debate on National Grid’s planned rate hikes.

* Working off of a piece by Matt Richtel in the New York Times that discusses how our brains are changing due to our (some would say over) exposure to computers, blogger Marc Gunther explores the idea further in his post earlier this week on Sustainability and Your Brain.  Marc makes an excellent point in conclusion:

“Being “always” on is ultimately unsustainable. More than that, the idea of resting and restoring (the earth, your workforce) are part of a sustainable business practice.”

As a society we are moving ever faster in the electronic/information revolution age.  It brings to the forefront a great deal of questions:

* How much is too much information?  And where will we get all the energy to sustain the information flow?

* How will we sort this information to make better and more sustainable business decisions?  There is a great recent TED conference session online about data visualization’s potential role here, fascinating and well spent 18 minutes with David McCandless.

* How can/will this information be used to avoid another BP-style disaster in the future?

We’re heading off to Cape Cod to enjoy some of the national seashore and reconnect.  I hope everyone has a chance to do something similar as we wind down the summer.

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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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Wind’s PR Problem

One of the most highly debated and readily available alternative resources has a PR problem.

  • It’s not clean coal. (Is that an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp?  For another time…)
  • It’s not nuclear.  (Although there is plenty to debate about  re: safety, cost, etc)
  • It’s not solar.  Heck, everyone WANTS more sun and its easy to understand the use/value.

Yes, its our unseen but highly present element the wind.

There is not shortage of investment or perceived benefit, and worldwide capacity keeps climbing despite the recession.  Yet despite the increase capacity and environmental benefits, wind has a significant PR problem.  The core issues are outlined very well by Marc Gunter in a recent post detailing his interview with National Grid’s Tom King.  In summary, costs outweigh perceived benefit.  And that end benefit has to do with regulators and customers.

Regulators are pushing various states like Pennsylvania to reduce energy consumption and demand.  The cost for alternative energy is higher than existing sources, so making up the costs will likely be in the form of increased end consumer costs.

End consumers are going to be none too pleased about increased energy costs in a recession, likely one of National Grid’s reasons for not signing with Cape Wind as of yet.

The missing ingredient is empowerment of consumers to understand their role in conserving energy.  If increased fees came with a consumer-driven reduction in overall usage, the cost could end up being negligible.  And consumers would feel better since they were 1) in control and 2) helping on their terms.

In order to move any significant projects forward, the wind industry needs to join with electric and smart grid providers to get the word out on consumer empowerment.

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Mr. Brooks, Mr. Jackson and the Sustainable Purchase Climate

Yesterday on the  Charlie Rose show, NYT columnist David Brooks spent an hour discussing where the country stands today.  The conversation focused largely on the nation’s emotional state, and how that is driving reactions to Obama administration policies.  You can see the piece here.

I won’t do a complete dive into the wide range of topics covered, however a few key things stood out to me.

* There is a feeling in large parts of the country that the administration is trying to do too much.

* Brooks senses this feeling is compounded by a thirst for Jacksonian government – aka Andrew Jackson’s approach to government.  At a very high level, this approach means putting decisions in the hands of the people, and at its core is driven by a deep distrust in the government’s ability to be effective.  A symptom of this feeling is the rise in the Tea Party movement.

* Brooks also feels that we are on par or ahead in most technology sectors with the world, save wind in Europe and possibly steel (as pointed out  by Rose.)

If Brooks is right, there is a significant need for sustainable marketers to tailor their approach.  There won’t be lack of innovation or choice.  Success  is going to come down to how you communicate the value prop to your prospective customers.  In this climate, marketers must:

* Balance the message mix.  Find the right inflection point between  “right thing to do/moral obligation” side (appealing more naturally to the coasts), and the “empowerment/cost savings” side (for the larger majority of the US.)

* Remember that adoption comes with customer identification.  People are chiefly motivated in this climate by a) cost and b) the feeling of “that makes sense for me.”  Green marketers mustn’t fall in love with their technology or its long-term benefits.

* Instead, hone in on the individual impact, ease of use and immediate short-term financial benefits to attract customers beyond the base.

People are in a “prove it to me ” mindset, be it with politics or purchases.  Marketers, take notice.

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The Individual and Sustainability

Inspired by sports legend Peter Gammons and his Boston Globe Diamond Notes column from the heyday of the Boston Red Sox, this is the first in a regular ongoing series of posts.  These posts will catalog quick impressions on how the individual consumer impact and influence on brand marketing and larger sustainable projects.

* Sears – Caught a new commercial from Sears this weekend during my regular Sunday Meet the Press viewing.  Focused on the RAD program responsible appliance disposal within EPA standards.  Sears uses the generation gap and “hip” language in the piece.  Interesting service, but not sure when “rad” was still part of the lexicon of youth.

* The consumer’s role in energy consumption is becoming higher profile.  Check out this short piece from the BBJ.  It’s you and I that will be more in control vs. the utilities, and they have a large enough financial interest to start really listening.

* High speed rails – Post-State of the Union President Obama was in Tampa talking about his plan.  I’ve seen an uptick in the coverage on these trains, like this piece from this month’s Wired.  I’m getting flashbacks to Singles and the lunch meeting between Campbell Scott and Tom Skerritt – “if we give them good coffee…”  Individual consumer choice will drive success or failure of these systems.  Having experienced European rail systems, I’m all for this as long as its affordable.

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