By Simon Droog — a Dutch self-taught brand and graphic designer
About two weeks ago I was taking the subway to a conference about Design here in Barcelona and there was something I noticed while I was on my way back up after getting off at my stop. There was a poster that grabbed my attention. It was a Ray Ban poster from their Never Hide Campaign. Never Hide... On the poster I saw a woman in a white t-shirt that said -quite profoundly and outrageously:
"Speak the truth. I'm an ex convict."
Of course this is intentionally. To get me to notice her and the ad for Ray Ban. But what striked me the most was the fact that she was completely honest about herself. Normally this is a topic you normally don't talk about. People tend to be embarrassed or even ashamed about such things. And here she is walking on a busy street in the city in broad daylight with that text on her t-shirt. Broadcasting it to the world. Totally owning this usually embarrassing fact.
And I must admit that I really dig her honesty and authenticity. I'm fascinated by her courage and to me it feels like she is taking responsibility for her past —not hiding any of it, while walking towards her future. Aspiring to create a better life for herself, learning from her mistakes and go ahead and make that change.
This poster got me thinking, because I believe when we talk about sustainability and business this is exactly the same. Being transparent about your business, your past and present and your aspirations for the future, is fascinating. It makes you real or human and encourages trust. Which is crucial for business! It's ok to have made (or still make) mistakes. As long as you're trying, making progress and getting results, you're going in the right direction. You’re authentic and people dig that.
Lately I've been reading up on green marketing and one thing that keeps popping up is: Transparency. When we talk about sustainability, everybody keeps saying: "They are just greenwashing." And "How do we avoid greenwashing?"
Greenwashing (a compound word modelled on "whitewash"), or "green sheen," is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization's products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.
—Greenwashing on Wikipedia.org
As sustainability is getting more and more important in the business world —through e.g. new regulations, public demand and of course willingness to make a difference— many companies are struggling to get a handle on this. And just being transparent about your business helps a lot to avoid greenwashing and builds trust at the same time.
In her book The New Rules of Green Marketing, Jacquelyn Ottman talks a lot about transparency. From a related article on the seven strategies for green marketing success:
"4. Establish credibility for your efforts by communicating your corporate commitment and striving for complete transparency."
—J. Ottman, The New Rules of Green Marketing
Or Sanne van der Es at PRé:
"Transparency is the key to a successful green product. Without transparency, results don’t mean much. [...] let the product’s benefits speak for themself, build a solid sustainable business and reach out to the customers with honest communication."
—S. van der Es, Avoid Greenwashing
Or Cecilia Lu in her article about Corporate Social Responsibility best practices at Greeneconomypost:
"Transparency is key in sustainability branding."
And from the same article:
"Transparency builds trust, while greenwashing will alienate your consumer base."
I can hear you thinking: "Nice words, but how do I implement this in my day-to-day business?"
SHOW AND TELL
Be authentic. Don’t hide your flaws. Be open about them. Own them. And take steps to improve. Steps to become more sustainable. Show your potential and your willingness to grow. Being authentic and transparent sets you apart and makes you stand out from the crowd.
I believe that if you go and implement this approach of no more hiding and making an effort to create a better world —a world that is sustainable, a world that is flourishing— you will become a business that is sustainable, a business that is flourishing.
Are your ready to show and tell?
Share something about one of your flaws and how you’re taking steps to improve. And what have you learned? I’d love to hear your story! I know sharing your flaws can be intimidating, but in business we learn most from our mistakes. And we all want is to learn, improve and flourish.
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