Dell offers example of solid corporate sustainability marketing, sans greenwash

Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

It's gotten so that if a week goes by without some sort of green IT, corporate sustainability or environmental announcement from Dell, I start worrying.

OK, so I'm exaggerating a little bit, but in all seriousness, other companies could take a cue from the breadth and depth of Dell's marketing and public awareness statements when it comes to its position on various green issues.

This week, as an example, there have been two highly visible proclamations. We started off with an update about its posture when it comes to renewable energy, and we ended with the company's move to commit more resources to combatting rainforest destruction AND an update on how other companies are using its products to reduce energy consumption.

Dell is now a member of The Prince's Rainforests Projects, founded by the Prince of Wales, which focuses on exposing the link between climate change and rainforest destruction. Here's a bit more background.

Dell uses the development to remind us about its own policies toward decreasing its use of paper, a topic that is receiving more and more air time this year as companies look outside their data centers for ways to make a meaningful impact on sustainability. Here's Dell's Forest Products Stewardship Model policy. Dell says that it uses an average of 50 percent recycled paper for its publishing needs in marketing materials, up to 90 percent in some cases. The company hopes to avoid using about 35,000 tons of virgin fiber annually by sticking to this strategy. In its offices, it now defaults to double-sided printing where possible. The company also is on a path to cut the size of its product packaging up to 10 percent by 2012 and to increase the amount of recycled content inside.

I've seen enough of Dell's releases so that I don't always look at the oodles of background that it includes in every one. But that background is what is so impressive. Every one of these public proclamations has some meat behind it either in the form of a policy or relevant statistics. That is what helps this company's frequent communications about green IT and corporate sustainability stand out. Sure, there are exceptions. But they are easily filtered out. In my mind, here are some policies you should use to guide how you talk about your company's sustainability goals and progress:

  • Look for concrete information to share such as a milestone reached (or not) or a new policy that has been adopted (especially if you can communicate exactly what impact that policy will have on your company or community).
  • If you can't find evidence within your own company, think twice before saying anything. (In the world of sustainability, bad press is really bad press.)
  • Use as LITTLE paper as possible to communicate your message. Big thumbs-down to a press kit.
  • Let your employees do the talking. By keeping them closely involved or, actually, by encouraging them to set the strategy in the first place, you'll establish good will in your community without even issuing a press release,

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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