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Influx interview- sarah rich- worldchanging

July 13, 2007

Sarah Rich is one of the speakers at our conference, Influx Ideas 07 held on October 19th in San Francisco. Sarah is currently the managing editor at Worldchanging; one of the most influencial “guides” to the issues surrounding the environment and sustainability.

Here’s a short interview we recently did with Sarah.

1. How has the issue of the “environment” changed in the last 18 months?

Well obviously it’s become the concern of a much wider swathe of the population, and has infused all aspects of culture and politics. This is a result of things like An Inconvenient Truth, scientific reports blowing previous assumptions out of the water and holding humans responsible for planetary destruction, and of course, actual weather disasters. It’s become valuable from a marketing and a social perspective to demonstrate awareness of environmental problems. The “green theme” is ubiquitous everywhere — fashion shows, music festivals, magazines. There’s some sweet spot where environment as a cultural symbol and environment as an issue that motivates people to action are at their most effective, and I sometimes think we’re in a somewhat precarious place near the peak of that; on the other hand, while that’s a common perspective from deep inside the field, I think the public at large hasn’t passed or gotten over the critical point of adopting and acting on environmental concern.

2. Do you feel most companies understand the importance of the issue?

I do. Many companies have had environmental statements for a while that enhance their brand value (at least for some consumers), but now not having one is a real reason for criticism or for choosing a different brand. Even those who’ve been “environmental” for a while have polished their statements and clarified their positions. The financial benefits for business are much clearer now, both in terms of actual savings from things like increased energy efficiency, and in terms of consumer preferences and priorities shifting.

3. What brand efforts stand out for you?

Wal-Mart (minus the negative social/community impacts they still cause), Nau, Interface, Tesla…I don’t know enough to say with certaintly, but I read and hear a lot of interesting stuff about Nokia.

4. Do you think consumers are prepared to act?

I’d like to think so but I guess I’m somewhat cynical or skeptical about the power of consumers to take the lead in making change. Generally consumers follow trends and precedents set by brands they like or leaders they admire or simply advertising, which means that while consumers are capable of creating change because they are such a large population, I think it’s harder for them to be mass catalysts. I hope I’m wrong, though.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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