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The Trend Triad of Sustainability:

The top three green trends affecting branding.

Engagement Through Social Media: Along the lines of transparency is engagement of companies to their customers using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. Maybe the most powerful tools in the digital world, social media sites are the best way to get connected and stay connected to consumers. Half a billion people already use Facebook, and Twitter is growing at a rate of 1,000 percent a year. To disregard these sites, and not take advantage of the easily accessible opportunity to communicate green ideas, innovations, and programs, would be a major mistake by any company.

Custom Communication studied 287 of the worlds most sustainable companies, analyzing how they used Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube. What they found was that 60% are not using social media to convey their sustainability messages, even though 84% use social media for their regular PR and marketing purposes.

On the other end of the spectrum is GE with their Ecomagination challenge. Ecomagination is a program that allows anyone to go to their website and post ideas for how to make your home or even you whole town more sustainable. On the website (www.ecomagination.com) they also have a blog and Twitter feed that are updated very regularly, on top of those they have a Facebook page with a description and brief history of the challenge, as well as a link to the site. Every company should be taking notes from GE.

Higher Expectations: Expectations are coming from everywhere, the public, other companies, and mother earth. That might sound cheesy, but it isn’t like we have hundreds of years to fix all the eco problems. Time is running out and big companies need to act now. Every year more companies jump on the sustainability band wagon and actually start changing the world, but then there are those that say they are going to change, do a lot of advertising about it, but never actually do anything. We call this green-washing, and companies are now starting to be reprimanded for it. In December of 2010 Fiji Water was named in a class action lawsuit for falsely claiming that it’s water products were carbon-neutral.

It isn’t just consumers standing up to non-sustainable companies anymore. Walmart now has their sustainable product index, holding companies that sell their product in Walmart stores to a sustainable standard. This is a huge step forward in green thinking, companies watching companies, now that is a powerful branding tool.

More, More, More Transparency: The public craves it like a drug. TRUTH, that is all we ask, and the trend is growing. In this digital society no company can keep secrets anymore, especially with online publications like Wikileaks out there. Green-washing is on its way out and transparency is the only option left. No one wants to see another incident like BP being nominated for the Safety Award for Excellence just a week before it was responsible for the biggest oil spill in U.S. History. What we do want to see more of is things like Nike openly admitting to its failure to create promised youth programs. It may be negative press, but this is the kind of transparency is what the public and stockholders like to see, and in the long run it will help them greatly.

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