The years 2009 and 2010 separated the wheat from the chaff. Clients who had never been really committed to sustainability saw their budgets evaporate when the recession came into full force, whereas those who saw their future in green maintained or even increased budgets.
In 2011, there seems to be a lot less talking and a lot more doing. This is in part due to backlash and consumer skepticism following a wave of greenwashed communication campaigns.
Recent research by Ethicity in France revealed that consumer sensitivity to world environmental issues actually decreased in 2011 for the first time since the survey began five years ago. Yet their purchase of local products has grown.
Consumers are tired of being nagged at or lied to. They just want to get on with their lives and if companies can propose viable solutions to their needs that are more ethical or greener and are also good value, they are buying.
So brands like Total, Audi and Jeep have stopped blabbering via massive advertising campaigns about how incredibly green and responsible they are, and instead are investing their money in energy, waste and CO2 reduction projects. And while it is true that sustainable development directors still often don’t have the big budgets, their influence appears to be growing. Innovation projects are increasingly integrating sustainable thinking and processes. KPMG/The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2010 survey of 378 senior executives worldwide showed 61 percent of contributors agreeing that the benefits of investing in eco-friendly practices outweigh the costs. This figure hit 72 percent where organizations boasted annual revenues of $5bn-plus. More encouraging still: 44 percent of executives perceived sustainability to be a major source of new product development.
Perhaps the fact that a growing number of general managers are seeing their bonuses tied to their sustainable scorecards is helping to drive green initiatives forward. Or maybe alarm bells from the regulatory and sourcing departments are finally being heard. Or just maybe…companies have finally realized that sustainable innovation is truly a springboard to brand growth and longevity.
I would have to say that the tipping point has at least started to tip. The process will be slow and anything but steady. But the question is no longer whether sustainability will weave its way into the daily fabric of our professional lives. It is how.
Image CC licensed by Flickr user Guillaume Cattiaux.