In the aftermath of the Japanese nuclear disaster, "green" is back in mainstream business planning. Renewable energy is not just an investment, it is a culture that can attract, retain and inspire the best of the Digital Natives at the same time that it is well-suited to meeting the needs of the billions of poor not now served by capitalism. Social business is a new kind of capitalism, one that sees profit in scalability—earn less per client but have billions of clients. In this context, "zero waste" is a triple profit, a point made by Paul Palmer in Getting to Zero Waste (2005).
Such memes are not covered well in most events and meetings, in part because greenwashing—a form of lip service—has been the most common approach to serving both green and social. Now that the general public is becoming more aware of global vulnerabilities and the local costs of harmful ways, a great deal of value could be offered to a full spectrum of clients by ensuring that these topics are deeply embedded in meeting and event agendas, covered in implementable ways.
In The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (2011), Jacquelyn Ottman provides a superior guide, reflecting more than 25 years of experience.
I was surprised, in going over this book, to read that the "triple bottom line," which I have always thought of as profit, ecological caution and social benefit, is now better known as people,profit and planet. I like that. The New Rules appears to be the first book to combine both a complete overview of consumers, the media, the marketplace and the urgency of sustainability with a "how to" approach useful to anyone desiring to change their business culture and think through what needs to change. Transparency, truth and trust matter to me, and this book communicates those values on every page.
The second book this month is from Jay Conrad Levinson and Shel Horowitz, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet (2010). Unlike The New Rules, this is not a guide for what to do as much as it is a summary of what is being done by others. It is a formula book that's a fast survey, which should provoke a few useful changes on how you do business. The authors are serious professionals, and while guerrilla marketing has been Levinson's forte since the 1980s (he's published dozens of books on the subject), in many ways this particular book is where the authors catch up on all that is happening in social media and integrate it with their traditional experience.
For those completely new to social media and the concepts of sustainable business, Guerrilla Marketing might be more suitable than The New Rules as a first book. Both titles fall short in the area of "true cost" accounting, a topic essential to understanding the triple bottom line. "True cost" refers to a combination of actual costs of all water and other resources used to create and sell a product or deliver a service; of all actual costs to the public, the earth and the future; and finally, the human cost of both sweatshop labor used to produce what is being sold and of putting small family businesses out of business.
Lastly, Muhammad Yunus' latest, Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity's Most Pressing Needs (2011), is a fine example to help illuminate changes in the global business climate.
Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his pioneering work with micro-loans, and from there he has moved on to pioneer core business offerings for the world's five billion poor. Traditional capitalism focused on the one billion rich, whose refrigerators are big, expensive and powered by electricity. A "refrigerator" for someone in great poverty in Africa costs US$2 and consists of two ceramic jars with an air gap buried in the ground to keep meat fresh for five days.
Building Social Business matters for three big reasons: first, poverty is the primary cause of environmental degradation and the spread of infectious disease; second, we are beginning to understand that elevating the poor is the best way to leverage the one thing we have an infinite supply of, human brainpower; and third, the mobile phone endemic. Embracing the poor and treating them as partners is profitable for all.
Of all the books here, I believe Building Social Business is the most significant because it provides a deep look at how capitalism can change its own culture in order to expand exponentially and not only create profit on a larger scale, but do good on a larger scale.
Meetings and events striving to be of great value can render an enormous service by accelerating the introduction of these ideas and practices into every corner of the commercial and non-profit worlds. One+
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