Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Q+A with John Rooks, founder and president of SOAP

From the March 2012 Bright-Minded Home column in Maine Home + Design:

SOAP, Sustainable Organization Advocacy Partners, helps companies, governments, and non-profits understand, improve, communicate, and own their impact to the world via environmental sustainability, social/cultural sciences, and business strategies. John is also the author More Than Promote: A Monkeywrencher’s Guide to Authentic Marketing. He spoke at TEDx Dirigo about something he called “the wink” of green marketing.

John Rooks
Photo by Jason Esposito, courtesy TEDx Dirigo
What is "the wink"?
It’s when a teenager invites a date upstairs "to listen to music." They both know the sub-text, but it’s a safer question than asking to go upstairs and make-out. The Green Marketing Wink is the same. Most brands promote how green they are through advertising. Kermit the Frog’s "It’s not easy being …" has been used on everything from Fords to pension funds, but it’s often only lip service. The product manufacturer gets to say, "We are green." Wink. The consumer gets a guilt-free purchase and winks back, but underneath, both know it’s simply giving permission to do commerce.

What can businesses do to practice more authentic sustainability?
There are bright spots in the "collaboration is the new competition" movement where companies are collaborating with competitors to reduce environmental impact. Nike, particularly, has done this well by working with other footwear companies on "pre-competition" problem solving, and open-sourcing much of its material impact data and product design tools.

SOAP advocates that companies complete an Authenticity Audit. It’s a scary concept, but one that helps align corporate culture, business goals, and sustainability to create the most effective path toward achieving business goals and sustainability at the same time.

Learn more at tedxdirigo.com and thesoapgroup.com and share your thoughts here.