Friday, May 11, 2007

Greener Barbie Doll at CRO Conference (by Jarvis Cromwell)

A few of us attended the CRO Conference in New York this week. This new organization dedicated to best practices in corporate responsibility already has 15% of the Fortune 500 signed up and it’s growing fast.

The meeting offered plenty of performance take-aways that organizations of every stripe can learn from. Here are a few that we’re chewing on back here in the Garage:

1) Some of the smartest companies are driving their sustainability practices from the outside in, with the customer firmly in sight. (Peter Drucker would have been proud.) Mattel, for example, is not only implementing a more sustainable packaging strategy for “Barbie”, they have eased a big customer frustration: having to cut, pry, twist and pull Barbie out of her well-bolted, plastic shrine. See a fun CNBC clip on Mattel’s strategy here.

2) Not one, but two Fortune 500 CEOs advised that when addressing sustainability issues an important starting point is to deal with the facts -- both the convenient and the inconvenient. Then focus on continuous improvement, not instant perfection. Funny how if you strip away the hype and just “get after it”, profits and greater good can come of it.

3) OK, full disclosure, this was a green crowd, but there was thoughtful consensus that it’s a myth that green practices are the enemy of profit. On the most basic level, what company wouldn’t want to reduce costs through less fuel, less water? And did we mention that Mattel’s stock price has been on a tear over the past year?

4) Long-term solutions to many sustainability issues are not going to yield short-term gains. That’s a problem, and a big topic. And it relates to what we refer to here in the Garage as The Math Problem. More on that another day.

5) Climate change will be profoundly important in accelerating both business growth and new wealth. Of course for some, the grim reaper of economics, “creative destruction,” will be in play. What companies are headed for a rough patch? The panel of experts – all consultants trying hard not to offend – demurred. Oh, wait a minute. The word “Detroit” slipped out. And it was predicted that water-intensive agriculture is going to die faster than anybody currently expects.

As fellow Trustmeister Paul Allen has just gotten back from the Galapagos Islands, we can’t help but paraphrase the famous Darwin insight here: “It’s not the strongest that survive, but those that are best able to adapt.” You can read his dispatch shortly.

Finally, one of the biggest points for trustmeisters that came out of the conference: If you don’t know what it is you need to do to have your reputation aligned with your publics, you’re courting real trouble.

Enjoy the weekend.

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