Posted At: December 10, 2008 5:46 PM
by Whitney Taylor
The PR world is changing at the speed of light, and with these new changes come new priorities. Now, in addition to writing news releases, organizing press conferences, creating innovative PR campaigns, blogging, “tweeting” on Twitter, dealing with crisis management and maintaining brand image, add something else to the to-do list (as if it was not long enough, already). PR practitioners, put on a pot of 100 percent organic Fair Trade coffee and take some notes with your eco-friendly pen made of 65 percent corn — it’s time to go green.
Every PR client has its reasons for going green. Some choose to respect the environment by necessity, some for the sake of being trendy and, for others, it has always been an integral part of their corporate culture. Regardless of the reason, many PR professionals are now being presented with the daunting task of not only maintaining a reputable brand image, but an eco-friendly one, as well.
General Electric has led the world with ground-breaking ideas. From Thomas Edison’s (GE’s founder) invention of the light bulb to the development of the first X-ray machine, GE has been considered a leader in inventions and technological breakthroughs. However, in recent years, environmentalists would argue otherwise, which led to the creation of GE’s multi-million dollar PR campaign, “Ecomagination.”
This eco-friendly campaign largely stemmed from what Forbes magazine describes as GE’s largest sin: “legally dumping 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls into the Hudson River over several decades, until these chemicals were banned in 1977.”
According to GE’s Ecomagination Web site, GE’s goals are to now “meet customer demand for more energy-efficient products” and “invest in innovative solutions to environmental challenges.” These goals, among many, include the cleanup of the Hudson River, the creation of a line of Ecomagination products for the home and the development of eco-friendly products focusing upon water, transportation, lighting and energy. Since 2006, GE has sold more than $12 billion of Ecomagination products with a goal to reach $25 billion in revenue by 2010.
On “Target” with the trends
The mass retailer Target has invested millions of dollars to create the latest trends at an affordable price. In the past, this has included teaming up with top designers, such as Isaac Mizrahi and Cynthia Rowley, to create low-cost designs for less. It comes as no surprise that Target jumped on the green bandwagon, as well, by partnering up with eco-fashion designer Rogan Gregory to create an eco-collection of environmentally friendly pieces made from organic cotton. In addition, Target has teamed up with Together.com, which works with big businesses and the government to help solve climate change, to create green products for the home that will reduce one’s carbon footprint.
The “Whole” package
While many companies have developed green campaigns to refine brand image or attract additional target audiences, some companies were founded with environmentally friendly goals from the start.
Whole Foods, the world’s leader in natural and organic foods and America’s first national certified organic grocer, made a “commitment to sustainable agriculture” from the get-go by selling food only in its purest state and pledging to employ people passionate about food and the planet. Whole Foods sells local farmers’ produce, sets food quality standards and educates its customers about food safety and trends through Web site features, podcasts and blogs.
And although Whole Foods is maintaining a “natural” image, it is doing so at a high price. While many companies, such as Target and GE, feature a certain line of products or just one eco-friendly collection, everything in Whole Foods stores is completely natural and in its most pure state. Instead of it being a green PR campaign, it’s a way of life.
However, while its desire for excellence is impressive, Whole Foods’ PR battles lie in trying to attract customers to spend in its stores, especially during an economic crisis. According to The New York Times, Whole Foods’ stock has dropped more than 70 percent since its peak in 2006. While Whole Foods promotes green lifestyles with ease, the real PR challenge is convincing customers that Whole Foods is both eco-friendly and economically friendly.
Despite tough economic times, customers, companies and PR practitioners alike are recognizing the advantages to going green. Eco-friendly PR campaigns are more than just promoting shampoo bars made from yucca root or reducing carbon emissions. They are about educating the public about protecting the environment and promoting healthier lifestyles. Eco-friendly views challenge PR professionals daily and have become not only brand image boosters, but, in many cases, a requirement.