Archive for the sustainability Category

Target publishes its Bangladesh Factory details

Posted in advertising, business, ethics, fashion, Marketing, packaging, sustainability with tags , on August 14, 2014 by marketingheart

Many moons have passed since April 2013 when the Rana Plaza building containing three clothing factories collapsed in Bangladesh taking with it the lives of over 1100 workers, and injuring countless more – locals say the building housed around 6,000 workers. Following the collapse, activists were able to enter the ruins and discovered labels from brands including Primark and Mango, indicating that they were sourcing from the factories. Rana Plaza also produced for a host of well known brand names including Benetton, JC Penney, C&A and Wal-Mart. This collapse followed the Tazreen factory fire in the same district that killed 112 workers five months ago, and the Spectrum Factory collapse of 2005 which caused the death of at least 64 workers. Pro-labor advocates blamed the disasters not just on a lack of regulations, but on a pattern of  violent suppression of workers’ organizing efforts. Although the US imposed trade sanctions on Bangladesh to pressure them to clean up their act, progress has been disappointing. Similarly the fight to get retailers to compensate victims is perhaps predictably mired with only a third of the $40 million total needed to compensate survivors and families of the dead for lost income and medical expenses  having been contributed 12 months after the event according to the Clean Clothes Campaign.

Half the brands associated with the building’s collapse have yet to put any money at all towards compensation — at least, not publicly.

Notwithstanding that, the disaster effectively pressured retailers to be more discriminating about their supply chain, and happily the latest to publicise the results of the clean-up is Target Australia which has just published its factory list. Kudos. Oxfam Australia’s corporate accountability and fair trade adviser, Daisy Gardener, said Kmart and Woolworths had aslo joined, “in being open and accountable about exactly where its clothes are made”.

Changing consumer attitudes towards fast fashion is another thing altogether.


Corporations need to act to meet green demand

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics, sustainability with tags on June 20, 2014 by marketingheart

Do consumers really care about conscious capitalism when it comes to buying decisions, enough to pay more for products and services that come from companies that engage in actions that further some social good?

It’s a much studied issue, as inherent in the answers are factors affecting investment decisions by companies looking to ensure they get a return from any cost associated with being more sustainable. Some companies (Patagonia for example) have been prepared to invest in sustainability because it’s core to their beliefs. Others won’t do it till somebody ‘shows them the money’.

Well perhaps that time has been reached according to a new Nielsen study which found that more than half (55%) of global respondents are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact—an increase from 50% in 2012 and 45% in 2011. Furthermore more than half  (52%) say they have purchased at least one product or service in the past six months from a socially responsible company.

“At the moment of truth—in store, online and elsewhere—consumers are making a choice and a choice that is heavily influenced by brands with a social purpose,” said Amy Fenton, global leader of public development and sustainability, Nielsen.


I’ve been tracking this issue through a range of studies for some years, so I know these new results are part of an observable pattern. But the questions remain – how much more will people pay, and when will corporations accelerate their sustainable investments sufficiently to significantly reduce or even reverse environmental destruction on a global scale?

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Global Corporate Social Responsibility Report.

Coca Cola brand Mt Franklin cops a mountain of criticism for opposing recycling initiaitive. Social media overdrive response.

Posted in business, Marketing, advertising, ethics, sustainability with tags , , , , , on February 18, 2013 by marketingheart

Often things look a bit, erm, off kilter in the remote wilds of the Northen Territory, but this time it’s the city slickers not making any sense. OK a quick summary of where we’re at with this:  The Northern Territory recently established a 10 cent recycle refund on bottles and cans, an approach which has been helpful in other States in reducing pollution. Sounds like a bonza Coca Cola though its bottled water brand Mt Franklin, says not.

In what might prove to be an ill considered response, Coca Cola through Mount Franklin is opting to sue the Northern Territory government for establishing this “cash for cans” scheme. NT Chief Minister, Terry Mills, said the Government would fight the legal challenge in the interests of consumers, the recycling industry and the Territory as a whole.

“Today Coca-Cola has followed through with a threat it has made since the Container Deposit Scheme was first introduced in the Northern Territory – I have instructed our lawyers to prepare immediately to fight this challenge in Court,” Mr Mills said. “ Territory families now utilise it daily as a means of reward-based recycling…More than 35.5 million containers have been processed through the scheme since 3 January 2012”.

Let’s let the venerable Crikey lay it all out in their usually tongue deep in cheek style:

You get the idea…unsurprisingly Coca Cola’s action has not exactly endeared it to those of us who actually prefer their planet a little less strewn with plastic waste. And there a quite a lot who feel that way…over 11,000 so far according to a social media campaign being run through the platform. Witness the response on the Facebook site of Coca Cola’s bottled water brand Mt Franklin – it’s quite something…when I logged on about three hours ago there were hundreds of messages criticizing the company for its stance…so many that I simply could scroll through them all. I looked for an official response posting, or indeed any posting from the corporation, but either there was none, or it was completely overwhelmed.

Boy those angry consumers can get busy. But so can the corporates. When I logged onto the Facebook site just a few hour later, all the old messages had gone!  Those poor poor people at Mt Franklin’s social media agency must be wearing themselves ragged trying to stay ahead of the necessary deletions….they’d been busy adding happy positive posts about anything but recycling, however the new posts were again being swamped by new protest posts. Watching this fascinating power struggle unfold in real time made me wonder how the drones in the social media agency will sleep tonight knowing they have been actively quelling the validly concerned voices of their clients customers…much in the spirit of any totalitarian response to free speech.

What irony given that Mt Franklin created an admirably thinner plastic for its bottles (the lightest 600mL water bottle produced in Australia) which, in keeping with it’s ‘pure, green(washed)’ brand values is heavily featured in its site and on youtube. Exactly what’s so threatening about the NT’s recycling program that Coca Cola would do so much damage to one of its brands remains somewhat obscure.

The West called to account by Bolivia at the UN Climate Change Conference

Posted in politics, sustainability with tags , on December 9, 2012 by marketingheart

Carbon emissions from various global regions d...

Carbon emissions from various global regions during the period 1800–2000 AD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An amazingly courageous and clear-sighted act of leadership came from the most unexpected quarter in Qatar the other day. Jose Antonio Zamora Gutierrez, Bolivia’s Minister of Environment and Water stood up and told it like it is. Amongst other gems:

“The causes of the climate crisis are directly related to the accumulation and concentration of wealth in few countries and in small social groups, excessive and wasteful mass consumption, under the belief that having more is living better”.

“A wasteful, consumerist, exclusionary, greedy civilization generating wealth in some hands and poverty everywhere, has produced pollution and climate crisis”.

“Let’s be careful of the intentions of some developed parties to make us feel resigned in front of this terrible reality, and admit the inertia and inaction of those countries that are historically responsible of global warming, sending us a message that is better to have a “pragmatic” attitude, which of course will condemn to cook planet and the extinction of the humanity.”

“The withdrawal of some developed countries of the Kyoto protocol and avoiding of their commitments is an attack on the Mother Earth and to life.The problem of climate crisis will not be solved with political declarations, but with specific commitments. We will not pay the climate debt of developed countries to developing countries. They, developed countries, must fulfill their responsibility.”

The full speech is reproduced here.

The advertiser that tells us not to buy anything – a message to click frenzy marketers

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics, sustainability with tags , , , , on November 23, 2012 by marketingheart

Would you spend media dollars just to tell people NOT to buy your product?  Well, let me ask you the question a different way…has a strategist ever told you that to stand out and be noticed by customers you need to be different? And – be honest now – how earth-shatteringly different did the resulting strategy really make you? Shades of grey? Thought so.
No such subtleties for Patagonia, that most rare of things – a conviction driven brand. During the peak US retail events Black Friday and Cyber Monday ( which inspired Australia’s flawed Click Frenzy event), Patagonia took advantage of the consumerist environment not to push its wares, but to ask shoppers to give some thought about their purchasing behaviours.  Here’s the ad.

On it’s site Patagonia explained (and it’s worth reproducing at length):  “Cyber Monday, and the culture of consumption it reflects, puts the economy of natural systems that support all life firmly in the red. We’re now using the resources of one-and-a-half planets on our one and only planet.Because Patagonia wants to be in business for a good long time – and leave a world inhabitable for our kids – we want to do the opposite of every other business today. We ask you to buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime on this jacket or anything else.


The environmental cost of everything we make is astonishing. Consider the R2® Jacket shown, one of our best sellers. To make it required 135 liters of water, enough to meet the daily needs (three glasses a day) of 45 people. Its journey from its origin as 60% recycled polyester to our Reno warehouse generated nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, 24 times the weight of the finished product. This jacket left behind, on its way to Reno, two-thirds its weight in waste. And this is a 60% recycled polyester jacket, knit and sewn to a high standard; it is exceptionally durable, so you won’t have to replace it as often. And when it comes to the end of its useful life we’ll take it back to recycle into a product of equal value. Don’t buy what you don’t need. Think twice before you buy anything. Go to, take the Common Threads Initiative pledge”.

Be careful what you believe: leak exposes Australian climate sceptic, secret payments discovered

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics, sustainability with tags , , on February 18, 2012 by marketingheart

It’s very hard to know what and who to believe. Recently a friend forwarded me a Youtube link under the subject heading:

Listen up Julia Gillard.
The BEST Rational Discussion EVER on Climate Change Reality.

The clip is a TV interview with a nice bearded professor called Bob Carter, the kind who wears leather patches on his elbows, going to lengths to appear balanced and non-extreme before basically denying that science is concerned about climate change.

The Professor – a geologist and marine researcher (ie NOT a climate scientist)  who spoke at protests against the carbon price last year alongside the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, and writes columns for News Ltd newspapers – sounded pretty convincing but sparked my radar when he claimed “nobody knows what scientists think” (at 7:30 in the video). Well it just so happens that a few months ago I looked into a range of highly credible and exhaustive reviews  of the scientific literature on climate change which show that the vast majority of scientists are immensely concerned about the subject.

This ‘scientist’s’ statement seem odd enough to me that I checked out his sponsoring organisation, The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. And surprise surprise, Wikipedia makes it pretty clear that this oh-so-reasonable professor represents an outfit that sits not in the middle of the debate – as he claimed – but pretty way out in climate denial land. Not only that, they are very active in attempting to undermine climate science, influence the media and bully government policy. For example:

  • In July 2006, the Coalition called on the New Zealand government to institute a Royal Commission on climate change because it claimed the public were “being given incomplete, inaccurate and biased information about the effects of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere” when “global warming caused by man-made emissions of greenhouse gases…cannot be substantiated”. The Government refused on the grounds that the majority of climate scientists in the world agree that there is no longer any doubt that climate is changing due to human activity.
  • In March 2008, the New Zealand Listener reported that the Coalition was lobbying journalists to cover their questioning of climate change science in order to create an illusion of greater disagreement over the science than actually exists.
  • In July 2008, the Coalition issued a press release that stated that the premise that “the globe is warming” was “a lie”. The release also described the Royal Society of New Zealand statement on climate change as “an orchestrated litany of lies”.
  • In November 2009 they issued a “news alert” which made the NZ warming trend go away by treating measurements from different sites as if they came from the same site.
  •  In August 2010, the Coalition announced it had commenced legal action against the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, asking the High Court to invalidate its official temperature record, to prevent it using the temperature record when advising Government.

I emailed the friend who sent me the link to let him know he was inadvertently distributing lies. And that’s where I left it. Until today….

Boom! There on page 10 of the news section of the Sydney Morning Herald….Professor Bob Carter, our ‘oh-so-reasonable’ interviewee, has been shown to be on the payroll of the Heartland Foundation,  a wealthy Chicago based ‘think tank’ which has a mission of discrediting climate science. Recently, at least. Back in the In the 1990s, the group worked withPhilip Morris to question the science linking secondhand smoke to health risks, and to lobby against government public health reforms.

This bombshell was the result of a leak of Heartlands financial and strategy documents. Amongst other revelations, including a project to undermine science lessons for US schoolchildren, are details of our friend Bob’s status as the happy recipient of a monthly payment of $US1667 as part of a program to pay “high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist [anthropogenic global warming] message”.

Whilst the authenticity of the leaked strategy documents is being disputed by Heartland, the budget papers are not being challenged. So how does Bob explain himself? Well suddenly he doesn’t appear quite so avuncular: he did not deny receiving payments but would not confirm if the think tank expected anything in return for its money, spluttering “That suggestion is silly and offensive – a kindergarten level argument. Institutions or organisations simply pay for services rendered – in the same way that an architect is paid for their work, so are scientists. What they may make any payment to me for, I’m not discussing with anybody outside of my family.”

My, my Professor. Given what we know about Heartland, you might like to expand on the nature of your “services rendered”? And when you mentioned in your interview “the organisation that supports me”, why did you NOT include Heartland?

Who actually provides the cash that supports the good professor’s worthy efforts, and several others in similar roles? Heartland’s funding comes from individual donors (like the WalMart family), as well as manufacturing and resources businesses (Exxon Mobil had close ties in the past), and also drug companies (GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Eli Lilley). One anonymous donor has given a staggering $US8.6 million to the think tank since 2007. Altogether, more than $US20 million had been spent funding and co-ordinating the activities of climate sceptics and bloggers since 2007, the documents suggest.

And what’s next in Heartland’s plans? For this year, a campaign to convince people that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for gas is safe and beneficial. Nice.

I’m glad to say that my radar worked on this occasion!! But there’s a salient lesson here: beware peddlers of our destruction disguised as your concerned friend. Just because they’re on TV, just because they’re a university professor, just because they claim they are middle ground…doesn’t mean they’re not immoral, ethically compromised, greedy shonks.

I leave it to Carter’s employer, James Cook University, to ask this disingenuous and dangerous man some very pointed questions about his extra curricular activities, and to consider his role in a place of higher learning.


The leaks:

Who they pay:

Sources for other information about the NZ Climate Science Coalition and Heartland:

·  ^ Mc Shane, Owen (2006-05-01). “Scientists Group to Refute Global Warming Claims”. Press Release: Centre for Resource Management Studies. Retrieved 2010-06-12. “A group of leading New Zealand climate scientists has announced today the formation of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, aimed at refuting what it believes are unfounded claims about anthropogenic (man-made)global warming.”

·  ^ “Call for Royal Commission on Climate Change” (Press release). New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. 2006-07-26. Retrieved 2010-08-17.

·  ^ Parker, David (2006-07-26). “Royal Commission on Climate Change rejected”. New Zealand Government Press Release.

·  ^ Dave Hansford (2008-03-22). “Some like it hot”. New Zealand Listener (Vol 213 No 3541). “Lobbyists from the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition have lately got stories in the business pages of national media, with articles liberally quoting Owen McShane and Bryan Leyland, questioning the reality of climate change.”

·  ^ Gray, Vincent (2008-07-15). “Comments on the recent statement by the climate committee of the Royal Society of New Zealand”. New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. Retrieved 2010-01-10.

·  ^ NZPA (2010-08-15). “Niwa sued over data accuracy”. Stuff (Fairfax New Zealand Ltd). Retrieved 2010-08-15.

·  ^ “Niwa challenged over accuracy of data”. New Zealand Herald (APN Holdings NZ Ltd). 2010-08-15. Retrieved 2010-08-21.

Connor, Steve (March 3, 2008). “Tobacco and oil pay for climate conference”. The Independent. Retrieved September 2, 2010. “The first international conference designed to question the scientific consensus on climate change is being sponsored by a right-wing American think-tank which receives money from the oil industry.”

Shoppers abandon ethical beliefs when it counts

Posted in food, government, Marketing, advertising, ethics, sustainability with tags , on December 2, 2011 by marketingheart

When Andrew Charlton wrote in this month’s Quarterly Essay “The world is split between those who want to save the planet and those who want to save themselves” he made a powerful point, but maybe it’s not quite that simple.

I’ve blogged before about Australia’s poor uptake of FairTrade products. Having said that, significant improvements have been reported. However, a new piece of research by a Victoria University branding specialist indicates consumers’ unwillingness to follow ethical convictions through to the extent they actually make a difference. Senior lecturer in marketing Maxwell Winchester surveyed 8,000 shoppers (in the UK) finding that they were more likely to buy larger national brands than fairtrade when both were available.

“A majority of consumers will confess to having strong ethical attitudes and practices including boycotting, but the reality of their actual behaviour was shown to be otherwise,” Winchester said. “Consumers are not taking their ethical concerns to the checkout.”

Of course if more big brands go Fair Trade – so the choice doesn’t need to be made. But unless consumers vote for FairTrade products with their wallets it’s not going to happen…a case of chicken and free range egg?

PS it should be noted that Fair Trade itself has received its share of criticism over the years for being ineffective in its aims to improve the welfare of third world agricultural workers and rural societies. The debate continues…