What sets Timberland's 2015 sustainability goals apart from other standard CSR templates? Authenticity put into action through direct, ongoing conversations with stakeholders, says Mark Newton, Timberland's CSR chief. "People can go [as] granular as they want or stay as generalist as they'd like. ... We are not starting conversations by discussing one of our pillars or metrics but focusing on stories that matter and then getting to the things that are underneath those stories," he says.
The best way to create powerful messaging is to embrace chaos, presenting imperfect "living case stud[ies]" of sustainability efforts rather than controlled PR campaigns, writes Melanie Janin. While some bosses will be resistant to the idea, sharing your team's sustainability process can boost your company's exposure, encourage stakeholder participation and lead to learning lessons from those who have faced similar challenges.
Sustainability ratings programs need to be brought into line with the needs and expectations of corporate users, argues a CSR Hub editorial. That means less focus on where a company ranks, more data from more companies, and, correspondingly, more feedback. "Each time new ratings come out, there should be opportunities to celebrate success and study any weaknesses that have been revealed," the editorial argues.
Consumers can be accurate in perceiving which brands are truly green, says sustainability expert Annie Longsworth of Cohn & Wolfe. A survey found consumers and experts agreed on companies such as Seventh Generation, Whole Foods and Burt's Bees, which are seen as green and genuinely eco-conscious, Longsworth said. Others, such as Apple, benefit from a "halo effect" where a strong design ethos convinces customers that the company must also be eco-friendly.
Starbucks officials were surprised to find that nitrous oxide emissions from the company's whipped-cream canisters had a greater climate impact than all of its roasting plants combined. That shows the importance of looking for hidden flaws in your emissions-busting strategy and the potential for big gains from relatively small changes, says Jim Hanna, director of environmental impact at Starbucks. "Until two years ago, we had no focus on nitrous oxide, and now we are really focusing on changing the way we provide that great-tasting whipped cream [so] that [it] doesn't impact the climate," he said.