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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Green, trees, and (construction) marketing

Seth Godin has taken a pot-shot of ill-conceived "Green" marketing campaigns -- that is, businesses claim to be 'Green' but are they walking the walk they are talking? "Green" of course is taking on increasing significance within the construction community as LEED certification and claims of environmentally sensitive and sustainable construction are now virtually essential elements of most marketing claims within the industry.

But turning action into substance, Seth rightly points out, requires quantification -- and you had better be sure of your numbers before speaking too loudly.

So, how have we handled the Green issue? We made arrangements with Tree Canada to plant a tree for every ad in every issue of our publications -- then we called our printer to find how much newsprint we consume to produce them. And we learned that the arrangement with Tree Canada will result in planting 70 trees for every 11 we consume. (I realize our suppliers may be cutting down mature trees for pulp; and the new plantings will be seedlings, but still think the ratio is reasonable).

We've taken this alliance with Tree Canada a few steps further. Chase made arrangements for us to be media sponsors for the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) Shifting into the Mainstream National Summit in Toronto June 11-12. And we called Tree Canada and they are joining with us at our booth to promote the Tree Canada initiative to the construction community.

These initiatives, from a business perspective, are surprisingly inexpensive -- they help our brand, and we can track enough actual advertising sales from the process to more than cover our costs here.

I agree with Seth that if you wish to make environmental claims, you should validate them with concrete numbers. Right after we made arrangements with Tree Canada, we validated them with our printers. And we therefore have the right to claim that we are the first Canadian print publishers who truly produce more trees than we consume.

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