Brand giants go green

15 November 2010

NEW YORK: Major brand owners such as Nike, Toyota and Procter & Gamble are focusing on green innovation, both to enhance consumer perceptions and drive growth.

Sportswear giant Nike has recently outlined plans to "innovate towards a better world", firstly by designing goods containing fewer rare raw materials.

The company's "Reuse a show" initiative also asked customers to return old footwear, which was then utilised in creating basketball courts and football pitches.

"We believe our products still have value after they've been used, and would rather take them back for future use," Sarah Severn, Nike's director of stakeholder mobilisation, told Business Review.

Elsewhere, Nike has established the GreenXChange, an online hub allowing corporations and experts to swap suggestions and intellectual property supporting eco-friendly schemes, with partners like Best Buy and Yahoo.

"We're using this as a shift in our business model, to change the structure of our supply chain, and we need a whole ecosystem of people to do this," said Severn. "We continue to encourage the democratisation of innovation."

Toyota Motor Sales USA has followed a similar strategy through the "Ideas for Good" programme, challenging the American public to identify other fields in which its technology may be applied.

The carmaker will promote this contest with TV spots demonstrating how NASCAR, Yellowstone National Park and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center have employed Toyota systems.

"We're sharing a side of Toyota that many are not aware of and engaging the public in a way we've never done before," said Bill Fay, group vice president of marketing at TMS.

"The campaign inspires new thinking about what Toyota has already been doing for many years. Ultimately, with consumers' help, we hope to inspire new ways that our innovation can benefit society."

Procter & Gamble, the FMCG specialist, is endeavouring to reduce packaging by 20% and access more sustainable resources, with its Connect + Develop open innovation platform playing a central role in this process.

"P&G is the largest consumer packaged goods company in the world today, and we recognize our impact as a global company," said Len Sauers, P&G's vp, global sustainability.

"Innovation and external partnerships are key in making this work. Our suppliers have already been hard at work bringing sustainability innovation to the table."

General Electric, the conglomerate, also intends to buy 25,000 vehicles, including 12,500 units of GM's Chevrolet Volt, offering various advantages.

"By electrifying our own fleet, we will accelerate the adoption curve, drive scale, and move electric vehicles from anticipation to action," said Jeff Immelt, GE's ceo.

"We make technology that touches every point of the electric vehicle infrastructure," he added. "This transformation will be good for our businesses."

Clorox was an early-mover in this sector, and its Brita water filters have enjoyed renewed popularity as preferences changed.

"We said, 'Holy God, this isn't just a sustainability issue, this is an affordability issue," said ceo Don Knauss. "So our advertising changed. That's one of the things that's driven Brita in double-digit growth the last three years."

The firm's eco-friendly cleaning range Green Works has faced certain obstacles, but the financial recovery could yield equally favourable results.

"I continue to believe in the core proposition of Green Works," said Lawrence Peiros, Clorox's evp, North America. "And I think as the economy turns, this is one category that will probably turn disproportionately."

Data sourced from Business Review, Toyota, GE, Bloomberg; additional content by Warc staff