In these days the UN are discussing the environment and sustainable development. If it weren’t for the images of Greta Thunberg crossing the ocean by sailboat, perhaps this summit would go unnoticed. Once again, the attention that an event succeeds in capturing is thanks to marketing. Inflated information is bypassed, creating stories and characters that make us either passionate or irritated.
Looking beyond the macroeconomic considerations, enterprises are increasingly committed to the sustainability of their products. From clothing and accessories made with recycled materials to organic foods & beverages, the theme of respecting the environment has become the new wave to ride to gather consumer interest in our products. One month ago 200 CEOs of large, American companies had their turn, gathering at the Business Roundtable Association where they signed a document that commits them to guide their respective companies for the good of the customers and the environment (Johnson & Johnson in the lead!). These statements suggest that the philosophy of the economist Milton Friedman – according to whom the social responsibility of companies is only to increase their profits – has been definitively shelved.
Even in Europe consultancy companies have arisen that certify the social and environmental impact of a company, even issuing a stamped certificate that the company can show its consumers; like Nativa in Italy. There is also a measurement tool called the Benefit Impact Assessment that allows you to assess the social and environmental impact of a company.
This begs the question: is it a true turning point or is it just window-dressing? Are we once again faced with the usual opportunistic marketing that uses any argument to sell more or is there really more attention being paid to the environment around us?
I’m afraid it’s mostly opportunistic. I write about this subject too because I know that it has now become a sensitive topic and, perhaps, it can give me more visibility. But, wanting to see the glass half full, it is also the first time since the industrial revolution that companies tackle this problem. It is, therefore, up to all of us consumers to reward those who are serious about it. It’s certainly not an easy task because identifying the one who is the most sincere means making an effort to read up and be well documented and not just be influenced by a well-executed marketing plan.