ErbWire: Greening Markets

Back to Fall 2010,
Thought in Action at the Erb Institute

Lessons learned from Sherwin-Williams and Clorox

Sherwin-Williams and The Clorox Company are featured in two new green marketing case studies created by The Erb Institute and marketed  distributed by the William Davidson Institute.

The Erb Institute Associate Director Andrew Hoffman, Arie Jongejan, Erb ’10, and Michael Buday, Erb ’11, wrote the Sherman-Williams case study with the help of SNRE students Franklin Cater, Sarah Foulkes, Nagapooja Seeba, Om Prakesh and Dan Wilson.

Hoffman, Jongejan, Brian Moss, Erb ’12, Nathan Springer, Erb’ 11, and Jennifer Gough, Ashley Nowygrod and Craig Cammarata from SNRE authored The Clorox Company case study.

READ MORE:   Sherwin Williams and Clorox

Informing Green Markets conference generates lively debate

More than 85 representatives from business, government, nongovernmental organizations, and a dozen universities in the U.S. and Canada participated in the “Informing Green Markets: The Roles of Industry, NGOs and Government” conference held in June at the Ross School.  The Erb Institute sponsored the conference in cooperation with the Corporate Sustainability Initiative at Duke University and The Sustainability Consortium.

Discussions focused on the proliferation of products identified as “green,” what the green label means, the future of green markets and how green marketing might be shaped by government regulations, corporate claims of environmental responsibility, and evaluations by NGOs or other impartial organizations.

The Erb Institute Director Thomas Lyon, who organized the conference, will be in Washington, D.C., mid-September to talk at the Federal Trade Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency and lecture at Georgetown University about eco-labeling.

READ MORE: Informing Green Markets Conference

No “one size fits all” when choosing an NGO partner

In an article in GreenBiz.com, The Erb Institute Director Thomas Lyon says when a company is looking for a nongovernmental organization partner to help reduce the firm’s environmental footprint, the choice of the best NGO depends on the sector.  Some have more expertise in certain areas than others. The article highlights 10 NGOs.  Lyon writes extensively on the topic in his book Good Cop, Bad Cop: Environmental NGOs and Their Strategies.

READ the article: Green NGOs Businesses Should Know About

Visiting professorship boosts research on policy questions and corporate social responsibility

Jay Shimshack

Jay Shimshack has returned to Tulane University, where he is professor of environmental economics, after wrapping up a year as a visiting professor at The Erb Institute.  Collaborative projects Shimshack worked on while in Ann Arbor included research with The Erb Institute Director Thomas Lyon on corporate environmental behavior and environmental policy and on transparency policy, including bureaucratic discretion in federal environmental law and the impact of environmental information based on Newsweek’s green rankings.

Shimshack also worked with Erb post-doctoral scholar Markus Kitzmueller on an article about economic perspectives on corporate social responsibility.

READ MORE:   Jay Shimshack—recent visiting scholar

Image vs. substance:  Sustainability in China

Confucius

Chinese enthusiasm for sustainability at times doesn’t appear to be driven by green values, writes The Erb Institute Director Thomas Lyon in his July 16 blog in Fast Company.com.  Lyon shares insights from his spring trip to China, where he judged the China Entrepreneur Club’s annual China Green Company competition.

“In evaluating the companies that were up for Green Company awards, I found most of them really are doing exciting new things but, nevertheless, there is an ever-present concern with image — especially maintaining an image that will guarantee a good relationship with governments, at both the local and national levels,” he writes.

The doctrine of growth at all costs within the Chinese government and corporations continues to cause environmental harm, Lyon concludes.

READ MORE: From Confucius to Communism: How the Past is Shaping China’s Green Future

Firms that “greenwash” often have little to lose

Companies that are most likely to engage in “greenwashing”— the term that describes the practice of making false or exaggerated claims of sustainability or environmental friendliness to gain market share — often are the dirtiest, says The Erb Institute Director Thomas Lyon.  A company that already has a bad reputation has little to lose by greenwashing, he notes.

A clean company is less likely to brag, Lyon says, because “if you’re clean and people already think you’re a green company, you don’t need to bother touting it so much —and if touting it puts you at risk of being attacked, just shut up and let people think you’re clean.”

Clean companies with sound environmental management systems are in the best position to benefit from green marketing, he adds.

The Erb Institute External Advisory Board member Gwen Ruta shared her perspective about the sometimes-strained relationships between environmental activists and companies in a recent article in The Economist.  Ruta is director of corporate partnerships for the Environmental Defense Fund.

READ MORE: Business and NGOs: Reaching for a longer spoon (behind The Economist’s paywall)

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