What Would David Brower Do?

One day, the clean economy, the collection of all companies organized with environmental and social sustainability at their core, will be a powerful engine of change – perhaps the most powerful of all. That moment hasn’t yet arrived. With our world at a tipping point, it’s time for sustainable business to move decisively to accelerate consumer adoption of sustainable and ethical products. This shift will drive change all the way down the supply chain, accelerating other companies’ push for responsible vendors, and creating a virtuous cycle of change.

David Brower was an environmentalist and Sierra Club leader who went on to found several other organizations, including Friends of the Earth, the League of Conservation Voters, and Earth Island Institute. He once said:

“Polite conservationists leave no mark save the scars upon the Earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground.”

Substitute “sustainable businesses” for “conservationists” and you have our point of view. That sense of vital urgency motivates us to open up the marketing toolkit in the service of ambitious, sustainable growth. It’s what we call “Marketing That Matters.”

Does that make us too aggressive? We think of it as ambitious for our world, our children, the new economy, and the entrepreneurs who are reinventing consumer business. We’ve watched environmental activists get aggressive and effective, stopping pipelines and shutting down coal-burning plants. Sustainable companies have to take a similarly strong, results-oriented approach to achieving their mission on a global scale, now, when it matters.

With our world at a tipping point, we must act decisively to accelerate consumer adoption of #sustainable and #ethical products. We're opening up the #marketing toolkit in service of this #growth. #MarketingThatMatters Click To Tweet

A newsletter I read recently mentioned that readers often write and ask what they can do to make a difference about climate change. The answer, predictably, was to call their elected representatives, get involved with NGOs, sign petitions, and take part in events. Too bad the newsletter writer overlooked an individual’s most powerful tool for change: the money they spend every day on food, clothing, energy, transportation, and so on. This is the investment each of us makes every day in either an unsustainable economy or a sustainable one.

As Rose Marcario, Patagonia’s CEO, says, “We’re living in a world where business is responsible for more than 60 percent of the pollution of our air and our water and our land, and yet they take very little responsibility….We need more citizens than consumers. They can make choices not to buy stuff: not to buy stuff you don’t need, not to buy a T-shirt that’s grown with conventional cotton.”* Our ability to convert consumer demand from dirty, legacy consumer products to their sustainable, better versions is crucial. That’s the task we, as social enterprises, have undertaken.

Every single consumer can choose to buy from companies that treat their environment and communities as ‘externalities’ (i.e., “not my problem”) or from conscious companies that are reinventing their businesses on a sustainable foundation. Although sustainable companies exist in the thousands, most consumers don’t know they exist, how to find them, or how to choose their products. Sustainable Business Partners was created to enable sustainable companies to reach those consumers more effectively, to cooperate for growth – and in that cooperation, to wield more power than they can individually.

The switch to sustainable products is inevitable. Ultimately, there won’t be a choice. But meanwhile, the planet is warming, rivers and oceans are dying, sweatshops are thriving, and farmers are impoverished at the bottom of the agricultural value chain. This urgency is what motivates us.

Ask yourself, What would David Brower do? It’s time to grow sustainable business as if it matters. Talk to us about Marketing That Matters.

The switch to #sustainable products is inevitable, but meanwhile things keep getting worse. The urgency to accelerate positive change is what motivates us. #MarketingThatMatters Click To Tweet

* B Magazine, 12/5/2016