While I appreciate and respect the intent of NBC’s “ Green is Universal” program, it has been causing significant backlash as viewers question the eco-authenticity of the commitment.  Most people don’t know that NBC’s parent company, General Electric, is one of the nation’s most committed corporate environmental leaders.  NBC and its affiliates should have considered how to better communicate their own environmental practices and the most credible venues to educate the masses. 

For those of you who haven’t turned on the TV this week, The Today Show’s “End of the Earth” series has sent its anchors across the globe so viewers can see first-hand the impacts of global warming. They are also providing tips for individuals and families to reduce their own environmental footprint. Great content, call-to-action and compelling visuals.  Unfortunately, the fact that they purchased carbon offsets to offset the emissions from their travel never broke through to the viewers and many eyebrows have been raised regarding how environmentally friendly the programming was.

Meanwhile, NBC’s Sunday Night Football studio show “went dark” during half-time to raise awareness and promote conservation.  The sports anchors undermined the intention to encourage people to turn off their lights by laughing and waving around flashlights and glowsticks.  Also, all the flood lights were on during Faith Hill’s half-time show. 

During Bravo's season premiere of The Real Housewives of Orange County , eco-friendly pop-ups were featured throughout the show to educate viewers on how to live with less bling and with more green in their lives.  Is anyone sensing the irony?

Most companies are in the process of developing strategies to make their brand and products more “green.” They are being forced to answer tough questions regarding their footprint by a growing number of stakeholders. Green has gone beyond being trendy and become mainstream.

Cone has some tips that we would like you to consider before you jump in with a potentially weak message or execution of your green strategy:

  1. Determine your operational goals and strategies.
  2. Focus on what's critical to your industry. If you're a manufacturer of electronics, it may be the energy use of your product over its lifetime.  If you make toothbrushes, it may be use of recycled materials and recyclability of the product.  Sophisticated stakeholders will see through you if you focus on the wrong thing.
  3. Be transparent about definitions, certifications and standards.  The increasingly large number of programs being developed can be confusing to the consumer.  Be sure to pick a respected standard to make your environmental claims, or one that is clearly explained in your communications.  You may otherwise be accused of green washing.
  4. Communicate meaningful information to different stakeholders.  You can provide more technical info to NGOs but may have to provide more educational versions of information to consumers.
  5. Ensure that the rest of your house is clean and walk the talk. 

In short, I believe NBC’s efforts have done much more good than harm. It takes many entities to create a movement and change behavior.  Just remember that your stakeholders are becoming more sophisticated and have higher expectations.  Companies with credible business practices and thoughtful communications will be most effective in truly changing the world.


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