J500 Media and the Environment

Is the messenger innocent? by lizhawks

As a full-time working mom of two toddlers who happens to also be getting a master’s degree, I am fueled by my daily coffee. Today, it was Starbucks. While waiting for the barista to announce, “Grande non-fat mocha for Liz,” my eyes scanned the counter and fell upon “Good Sheet.” This is a folded mini-newsprint communications piece that Starbucks started offering on a “take one” basis to its customers. “Good Sheet” is defined as “a series of graphical explorations of some of the major issues facing us this election season and beyond…[with a purpose to] help inform you and stimulate conversation as you head to the polls on November 4.”


Surely green means good in Starbucks’ evaluation,” I thought to myself while picking it up, perusing. And, there on the back cover I spotted it — a blurb about coffee farmers and climate stabilization. As a member of the CEP project’s agriculture group, the blurb’s focus on deforestation was particularly intriguing to me. It said, “Nearly 20% of the world’s carbon emissions come from deforestation – more than all cars, trucks, plans and trains combined. So Starbucks is working with Conservation International and coffee farmers to protect tropical forests surrounding coffee farms. For every acre of tropical forests protected, we can help keep up to 100 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.”


Sweet! My caffeine addiction is contributing to climate protection! But…wait a minute…Starbucks is telling me this on a printed piece of paper? This message about doing good and opposing deforestation? Huh? On a piece of paper? Yes, it’s made of 45-50% postconsumer waste paper, but why paper at all? Shouldn’t the CSR “message” and “messenger” be in alignment? Or is sharing the message success, no matter the medium?


–Liz Hawks

Good Magazine Blog

Pick up Good Sheet at your next caffeine rush and join in the green coffee talk. Image: GOOD magazine blog

Liz Hawks


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I’ve wondered about that very same issue. At my company, we’re beginning a green campaign, and although we do a lot of our communication online, we have a sales team that makes sales calls and works trade shows and needs something physical to leave with prospects. So, we’re beginning to use a printer that can print things on 100% recycled paper. Great! But now the holidays are upon us, and it’s time to send client gifts, which will need to be packaged… in recycled boxes? with recycled packing material? And should we not send them anything that might be thrown away and not be biodegradable? Being able to go the full nine yards of green is super, but it feels like there will always be something we can’t be perfect on. And then we run the risk of being called hypocrites when we’re really just trying like everyone else. Can anyone be perfectly green? Probably not. But if you’re a company tooting the green speak, how can you avoid the microscope?

Comment by hilarywright

I think in this case asking the questions should be considered a small victory. You’re right that none of us (particularly in corporate America!) can be perfectly green. But, can we effect change by at least inquiring? I think we can. We can be our own best microscopes and identify ways to make our green efforts even more compelling, thus perhaps accelerating our “going green” journey.

By the way, regarding the ever-stressful corporate holiday gift decision, last year, my company decided to give “pay it forward” gift cards, allowing clients to choose (via United Way) their organizations of choice to which they could give the gift card’s value. We received a great response, and at the same time felt great about our social responsibility effort rather than contributing more cards and gift baskets to our local landfills. Perhaps an idea to share with your company?


Comment by lizhawks

I wholly concur, Liz. Great arc in your post! This is the proverbial question: to hype, or not to hype. To hype is to risk scrutiny, which is why so much of this information is under the radar. But it is essential for consumers to be discriminating – that is one of the most compelling way to encourage companies to move towards more authentic messaging.

Comment by j500

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: