Ask Mr. Green
How can I sell Green to my team when they think it means sacrificing performance?
What a great question! You put your finger on the biggest Green challenge. We all want to do the right thing, but very few of us can do so if it means giving up our company's goals. Let's face it: few bosses will reward you for doing less with more.
Green's False Start
Let's get some perspective. Remember the "cleantech" bubble in 2006 through 2008? Going Green was a hot ticket, and companies were clamoring to get on the bandwagon.
So was the tech industry. According to PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, entrepreneurs responded to Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina, plus news about global warming, by launching thousands of "cleantech" companies. Investors bought in with $50 billion.
And then it all went sideways. Global stock markets crashed and the economic shockwave drove many of those eager young companies into bankruptcy. The solar manufacturing industry, for example, lost 40 firms in 2012 alone.
Green all but vanished from the show floor too. Did you notice how fringy Green seemed when companies shifted into survival mode?
What Went Wrong?
Green's problem goes back to marketing fundamentals. You asked why anyone would make a sacrifice. I don't mean sacrificing to spend a little extra on something really desirable. I mean choosing poor performance over good performance for the sake of the greater good. We simply don't shop that way.
But the "cleantech" bubble was based more on solving environmental problems than on marketing fundamentals. Entrepreneurs offered Green solutions to problems we didn't know we had. Some offered relatively weak alternatives to reliable products.
What's Going Right?
But there's a silver lining. It's no accident that Elon Musk launched his electric-car company with a high-performance sports car. Road & Track reviewed Tesla's second product, the Model S sedan, by saying, "Beautiful, well-crafted, cool, and seriously fast, the Model S isn't just the most important car of the year. It's the most important car America has made in an entire lifetime."
That's the kind of praise marketers are looking for! Musk knows that you sell Green products by making them more desirable than the non-Green competition.
It's true in our industry, too. Great Green choices are such no-brainers that you take them for granted.
That's why organizers don't print show kits anymore. It's why fewer exhibitors distribute printed literature. It's why we send graphics art files across the country instead of crates.
Recycled soda bottles make for vibrant banners, so you see them everywhere. Web meetings save time and money, so you attend them. It's basic business. Better products and services catch on, and Green options are no exceptions. Solid, cost-effective, convenient performance is easy to sell. Let's start there.
Tom Bowman, president of Bowman Change, Inc., helps businesses prosper in a clean economy. Tom chairs the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association's Sustainable Exhibits Leadership Committee and is author of the critically acclaimed The Green Edge. He has won numerous awards for developing and implementing successful green business practices at Bowman Design Group, a firm he founded in 1988. firstname.lastname@example.org