trash bin heirarchy

Well, Sustainable Brands 08 is over, and it was a great conference, (Click here for a list of sessions covered by Green Briefs), but as I digested all of the learning, I noticed a green marketing communication tactic that may be a ticking bomb. I call it ‘The Congreentulatory Statistic’. It goes like this.

In an example of logistical brilliance, UPS discovered that by eliminating left-hand turns from their route planning, they were able to save a significant amount of fuel. The statistic presented, as of 12/2007, was actually 3 Million gallons.

DOW Chemical, not to be outdone, claims they have reduced their solid waste production by 1.6 Billion pounds – enough to fill 415 athletic fields one meter deep!

Wow! Isn’t that GREAT! Millions of gallons of petrochemicals unburned! Hundreds of football-fields devoid of DOW’s discharge, whatever that may consist of. Back slapping all around, team! I feel positively green and fuzzy all over!!

But then a traitorous part of my mind goes to work. If UPS burns 3 million gallons of fuel just sitting in left turn bays, just how much of the stuff do their trucks cook through screaming through sidestreets? And how many athletic fields are filled one meter deep by DOW’s tasty solid waste every year? These must be staggering figures. Suddenly, for me, these hardworking corporate citizens have lost their green luster.

OK, I may be a bit greenier and possibly more cynical than the target market for the average Congreentulatory Statistic. For now. But it won’t be long before more and more people are doing the math on the other side of those equations.

So think about how you communicate your sustainability milestones. Be humble. Let people know you are always trying to do better. And remember: Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three rights do make a left. Just ask any UPS driver.

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