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The business case for going green

earth-dayThe theme of this Earth Day is Green Cities, which is fitting now that more than half the world’s population are urban dwellers. The focus is on buildings, energy, and transportation and how those key components of urban infrastructure can be transformed to make our cities into more efficient and vibrant places to live and work.

Business has an important role to play in the greening of cities, and smart businesses recognize the opportunity that Earth Day provides to get the word out about the things they’re doing, hopefully all year long. Businesses are being held to a higher standard of responsibility for how they source materials, transport goods and treat workers, not just by environmental organizations, but increasingly by consumers and shareholders too.

Here’s who we saw getting some attention on social media leading up to Earth Day:

Computing devices – Apple: They’ve kept a low profile on Earth Day for the past 8 years, and Greenpeace has been on their case. This year, with former EPA Secretary Lisa Jackson at the helm of their environmental program, Apple has something to say. People are talking about it, too.

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Entertainment – Disney: No surprise that Disney is a fave of blogging moms. Many posted about the Disneynature Bears reusable shopping bag being given away in retail stores – a great tie-in to the Earth Month-appropriate movie by the same name. Both are a nod to their desire to be seen as an earth-friendly company.

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Public sector – US National Parks: It’s great to see that some of the most amazing places to appreciate the natural world got in on the Earth Day act by offering free admission the weekend prior to Earth Day. It should be pointed out that some of those national parks can even be found in the (green) cities that are the focus of this Earth Day.

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Food & Beverage – Caribou Coffee: It sounded like a great deal – buy a reusable mug and get free coffee all month – but it backfired on Caribou. They overpromised and left a lot of customers disappointed. There’s a lesson in business integrity here, not just for Earth Day.

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Retail – the primary consumer touchpoint – is on the face of many of these promotions, but the principles need to permeate the entire organization. If they don’t, businesses will lose the confidence of their stakeholders and have a very hard time gaining it back.

Finally, don’t forget to check out the delightful Google doodle today. Let’s hope “don’t be evil” extends beyond the customer to the way this tech behemoth considers these creatures, too.

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