Voices of Challenge
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Question: How do we incent consumers to take meaningful, positive action on the issue of climate change?
Companies love to talk about how they've achieved cost savings through energy-efficiency programs (rightfully so!), but consumers may be getting an unfortunate mixed message. While quick to acknowledge cost savings to show their energy management efforts are working, companies are much slower to extend any kind of savings to consumers who want to reward them for using less energy (and emitting less CO2). Instead, the conventional corporate wisdom is to ask consumers to pay more for products and services with green attributes rather than explicitly share the return on investment in climate action. An obvious “climate” discount or rebate could connect climate action to lower costs and change the marketplace.
Question: Can one label adequately compare products' sustainability?
In my humble opinion, not yet. Labels represent a quick “seal of approval” that a product meets standard for quality, labor or environmental integrity. Until recently they have tended to focus on only one or two attributes. A product may contain recycled material, but the process to recycle may produce a highly toxic pollutant. Consumers are conflicted and confused…the good news is that there is a movement here at Staples and other companies toward full life cycle accounting where all of the most material impacts are tracked and measured. We look forward to the day when that product labeling will easily convey comparative scores for consumers to compare cradle to cradle impacts.
Question: Which NGOs and local community partners have an effective track record of helping companies scale their efforts to improve the lives of factory workers?
Companies have realized that complying with labor legislation alone is not enough to foster productivity and achieve sustainability. They have redirected strategies and managerial initiatives towards approaches that improve living conditions of workers and their families. In developing countries like the Dominican Republic, several NGOs like CIPAF are working with different free zone businesses to conduct research that aims to improve workers’ quality of life and to increase productivity. The transition from “research” to “action” is difficult, since changing cultural and thinking takes time, money, effort, and will. One local example of a company focusing on actionable change is Knights Apparel, which is working with residents of the Villa Altagracia community to increase wages and transform the community’s economy.
Quogue Wildlife Refuge
Question: How can companies scale engagement efforts to maximize the impact to their communities?
Companies can scale their engagement efforts to maximize impact by spending time planning and coordinating with the receiving organization prior to the event. QWR never had a grand scale community service project before the 2008 Retail Boot Camp Community Service Event with Timberland. Due to the planning and 300 hours of work, we were incredibly productive. The projects accomplished included widening the trails, shingling the Entrance Booth, Painting the Red Barn, wood chipping & landscaping the Animal Cages and Butterfly Garden. It would have taken the small staff of three people many months to complete that amount of work.