The Role of “Radical Transparency” in Sustainability
Posted by Luke on August 4, 2010
I’ve written a lot about how everyone defines sustainability differently. Jeffrey Hollender, the Chief Inspired Protagonist of Seventh Generation, addressed this topic at the World Innovation Forum in June. “You can’t judge your own level of sustainability or responsibility, you can only be judged by others,” Hollender said. To demonstrate this, Seventh Generation published a list on their website of everything that was bad about their products. They felt that being completely transparent was the best way to make improvements over the long run. They saw this transparency pay off because it caused their customers to ask Seventh Generation’s competitors for their respective lists, of which they didn’t have.
Although at Eco-Products we haven’t yet published a list of what is bad about our products, it’s probably in our near future. We have attempted to take a similar approach to Seventh Generation in being transparent, and we are investing more than we ever have in understanding the entire environmental impact of our products from cradle to grave. We acknowledge that we aren’t perfect. After all, “perfect” sustainability is subjective and is a never-ending journey. However, we are diligent about lessening our impact and being transparent with our customers along the way. In fact, we created a new position at our company called a Sustainability Maven to continuously assess how our decisions impact the environment. And we are investing in many other ways to better communicate our impact to our customers. The key question that every business person has to ask, “Do customers care and will they put their money behind it?” Based on my experience in the natural products industry, my response is an absolute “Yes.”