Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Manufacturers See “Green” Benefits, American Consumers See “Idol”

(Editor’s Note: Rotor Clip blog contributors, Don Thoms-Cappello and John Hardee, have very different views of the environmental agenda as it applies to business.

Don TC thinks consumers should be urging companies to do more to push the “green” agenda.

John Hardee thinks the movement is nothing more than a misguided series of government mandates.

Read the next two blog entries as our verbal pundits square off on the subject. Be sure to weigh in with your comments as well.)

A recent study by IFS North America polled manufacturing professionals about what specifically is driving their companies to explore options in the green industry, the majority of them listed “management directive” first and foremost.  After that, “social responsibility”.  Third on the list?  “Customer demand”, with 50% saying customers were generating interest and advocacy.
At the same time, Fox’s American Idol finale generated a 6.2 on the Nielsen Rating scale, which means that 95% of its 18-48 adult viewers have continued to faithfully stay tuned to the show. 
So despite all the hubbub and hoopla about the green movement being grassroots, the majority of management, at least in this study, believe interest for green initiatives is primarily generated in-house…. and more Americans are consistent in their television watching than they are in advocating the green movement.
Now why is this bugging me?  Half of manufacturing officials in this kind of poll saying they feel outside pressure from their customer base is nothing to sneeze at.  Half is solid.
Half, however, is not a mandate.  Half will not move the business world into action right now.  Half won’t win you a music contract off a reality show, either.
With a stumbling recovery, a bloated unemployment rate and a US government hampered by tough decisions like “how to break the 14th amendment in a way that scores political points”, the last interest group left that has any hope of changing the American manufacturing landscape quickly in an environmentally conscious way is the consumer base.
And to be honest, they’re (we’re) missing a golden opportunity right now.  Studies like this prove there is a business community out there that is truly open to exploring the clean tech landscape.  Most execs look at the numbers and know green conversion in their products, services and operations are going to save money in the long run.  The problem, as always, is that when every dollar is so directly tied to a business’s actions, the safer choice is always to lean towards status quo.  Not to mention, the bigger the company, the harder it is to change at all.  Consequently, big innovations need to be prodded and pushed by the outside world more than anything.  Business needs to see bags of letters dropped on the boardroom table, a la Mister Smith Goes to Washington, in order to rally every department (and scare shareholders into going along with the inevitable price fluctuations when a company changes course.)
Hell, with the “innernet” you don’t even have to write a letter anymore (although I’m of the conviction it makes more of an impression than ever these days.)  All I’m saying, Consumer Joe Shmoe (and I mean “shmoe” with the utmost respect) is that you literally have the keys to a prosperous future for our country at your fingertips.  Instead of using them to vote for that kid on the TV with the golden pipes, how about using them to push for the future to get here faster?  Call your favorite auto company and ask how they’re currently planning to top the Prius or the Volt.  Go to your local business center and ask the guys in the big building what they’re doing to convert to a carbon-neutral operation, and if they’re using other local companies to do so.  If you want to play hardball, call your local congressman (or the intern who will most likely answer) and let them know your vote is heavily influenced by tax incentives to local manufacturing companies who adopt and incorporate energy alternatives. 
An active customer breeds a smarter business.  Trust me, Simon Caldwell would agree.
(And yes, I’m aware he’s not on the show anymore.)
 (….And no, I will not watch Glee with you afterwards.  If I want to relive high school, I’ll dust off my copy of Beastie Boys’ Ill Communications and hit up the fro-yo stand at the mall, thank you very much…) 
Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company, Inc.

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