The Evolution of Innovative Green Brands

The Evolution of Innovative Green Brands

As consumers, we define ourselves by the brands we keep. Like totem poles, they tell the story of who we are and where our allegiances lie.

It's disappointing to see those brands rest on their laurels. We believe in them, but they give us no new reasons to believe.

Examples are everywhere. Yearly car updates that are little more than new chrome. Detergents "improved" by the addition of a spout.

In times of plenty and prosperity, we seem content to accept this glacial progress. Like our brands, we're happy when nothing rocks the boat.

But in times of crisis, everything changes.

A few years back, the earth (or at least Al Gore) sent us a disturbing message. The world -- not to put too fine a point on it -- was going to hell in a handbasket.
It alarmed us. It threw us into a panic. And most significantly, it sent us scurrying to our trusted brands for reassurance.

We wanted them to say they had this climate change thing under control. And what did they tell us?

? ! ?

(In case you're wondering, that's the sound of deafening silence).

We felt betrayed. For some of us, it was enough to trigger switches to brands that shared our new number one priority, the environment.

Sadly, many of those dyed-in-the-wool green brands didn't have efficacy to back their ethics. Although their hearts were in the right place, they simply didn't perform. The shirts made us itchy, the shampoos didn't lather, and the deodorants didn't de-odor.

For us consumers, those were dark days indeed.

Confronted with this non-choice, many of us simply retreated and consumed less. We rediscovered the joys of family, friendship and non-branded companionship.

Then, Walmart happened.

Walmart, being the sensible world-dominating company it is, saw a new twist on green that other brands (both the traditional and uber ethical) had missed. In short, green equalled efficient, and efficient equalled money saving.

From lowering energy consumption to "encouraging" suppliers to cut down their packaging, Walmart introduced innovations in products, services and business models that truly broke new ground.

More than any other entity, Walmart convinced shell-shocked traditional brands that they had to get with this green innovation thing.

Today, we are starting to see the results.

Tide concentrated detergent and Clorox Green Works are early indicators that big consumer packaged goods companies are not only figuring out how to add a green lens to their innovation process, but marry that innovation with consumer demand. In short, they're building things that the newly-conscious consumer wants.

Is this a solution to our environmental problems? No. But is it a step in the right direction? Yes.

My experience has shown that quick victories embolden further, greater action. If Green Works' incredible success does anything at Clorox, it will be to get the C-Suite pursuing more green product innovations. That will, in all likelihood, come alongside greater efforts to run an ever more green organization. Even if profit is the motive (as it should be for every company), lessened environmental harm will be the by-product.

So that leaves us with the predictions. Harvard Business Review wrote that green innovation will be the only form of innovation that succeeds in the 21st century. We are at the early stages of the new industrial revolution. Look for much, much more green thinking on the shelves of your supermarket.

And look for many more consumers putting green products on their "totem poles."

Marc Stoiber is VP Green Innovation at Maddock Douglas. He can be reached at [email protected]

Images CC licensed by Flickr users goldberg, David 23 and Clean Wal-Mart.