Why the green sector needs to get better at Social Media and web communication — part two, sustainability & social media explained

In the last post, I explained why social media and an internet presence is so darn important, and what green companies and organizations have to gain from getting online. Now it’s time to dive into the great examples out there and have a look at how sustainability & social media can play together.


If you post it, they will come — Sustainability & Social Media are not enemies

sustainability & social media


Besides being a cornucopia of cat pictures and updates about your friends’ kids, your news stream is also an indicator of the world around you. If there’s an earthquake on the other side of the world, it’s in your news stream.

If there’s a local political scandal it’s in your news stream. And, if there’s a big environmental problem, it’s in your news stream.

Sharing is caring, and the things you choose to post about and interact with – and guess who’s paying attention to that. Big companies.

A few years ago I wrote about how Coca-cola serves as a good indicator of social change, but recently, our favorite supplier of oddly named furniture drove home my point.

Goliath awakens – because of 1 billion Davids

I’ve had the privilege of chatting with several people working in IKEA’s sustainability department. The Swedish giant has seen the writing on the wall and is following the demand of the customer, by committing to phase out single-use plastic products by 2020.

What caused it? Well, social media. A wave of videos and photos of plastic pollution, partitions, and articles showed us just how bad oceanic plastic pollution is. As IKEA’s spokesman said:

‘The latest move comes amid growing concern over plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, where it can harm and kill wildlife such as turtles and seabirds.’ 

Social Media holds enormous power and can, when used with a purpose, be a drive for social and environmental change.


LEGO and sustainabilityLEGO, McDonald’s, and IKEA – The cool kids are already doing it

Big companies have heard the roar of social media and are ready to follow their customers. IKEA is not alone in answering the call of social media.

LEGO is joying the field of sustainable heavyweights’ with an aim for 100% sustainable packaging by 2025. Disregarding my love for LEGO, this is impressive.

Finally, the golden arches know that consumers are fed up with the food giants negative impact on the environment. So, in a bold move, McDonald’s decided to promise a global switch to sustainable packaging including an aim to get 100 percent of its packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2025.

Furthermore, the burger pusher will make recycling available in all of its restaurants by 2025 – Today that number is around 10 percent.


All of this is a consequence of Social Media and the power of the internet. It’s easy to share information about the negative impact of big companies. And, for companies, it easy to promote themselves in a green light if they know how to navigate on these platforms.

Let’s look at what actually works on the internet. The answer is crap.

Who gives a crap – interview with founder Simon Griffiths

The internet is full of amazing things and if you can harvest the power of social media, you can bring your green product or cause into the spotlight within weeks. Let’s take a look at company Who Gives a Crap.

In short, the Australian based company sells toilet paper. What makes these guys special is, that company is a cover-up for a do-good organization.

The founders started it with the very basic – and noble – goal in mind:


‘We started Who Gives A Crap when we learned that 2.3 billion people across the world don’t have access to a toilet. That’s roughly 40% of the global population and means that around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That’s almost 800 children per day, or one child every two minutes.’


Besides being one of the most inspiring companies I’ve ever come across, they also know how to rock the internet.

In July 2012, the founders launched Who Gives A Crap with a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo. The CEO, Simon, sat on a toilet in a warehouse while being live-streamed!

This is what viewers saw when they tuned in to the live streaming of the last 50 hours of the fundraising.

I the final 50 hours of the campaign, they raised over $50,000 (watch the video here), and now had the capital to start the company.

The campaign has been praised in countless media and gathered a crowd of loyal supporters that would stay with them in years to come.

Why it worked — Social Media is fun!

This campaign had it all. It was fun, it was daring, it had an element of urgency, a great cause, a huge share-factor, and toilet humor, literally.

Crowdfunding has a built-in element of share-ready, meaning the entire platform and impact is based on you sharing your campaigns on social media, and then your friends and followers share it. Then, their friends share it, and so on.

The campaigns need to have a creative element, and this one potty-hottie sure did.

It placed itself in the spotlight by using an everyday activity and taking it to the extreme.

“Sitting on a toilet is relatable – sitting on the toilet for 50 hours is something no sane person would do, so obviously, you had to see it for yourself.” – Simon Griffeths, CEO

Who Gives a Crap is set up around (toilet) humor, a happy positive language, and a good cause.

2,3 billion people not having access to a toilet isn’t a fun fact. It’s a depressing fact, that’s so far been portrayed with pictures of sad and sick people. But too much bad news about the state of the world fosters apathy. This is the Backfire effect, which I wrote about previously.


Who Gives a Crap took a heavy, and in its nature negative subject, and made it something to care and laugh about — their website’s filled with jokes and perky, bright colors. It just makes you happy.


“But I can’t do that? Who’s gonna take us seriously?”


This response is common. There is, in general, a fear among green professionals to appear unprofessional if they make their content fun.

Like I said earlier the internet is a different place, and being a green professional is very different now from what it used to be.

The Who Gives a Crap campaign is an example of many business owners worst nightmare. You have to let go of control and let the internet swallow you.

What would the company itself say to this notion? I was lucky to get in touch with one of the founders, Simon Griffiths, and ask him. Simon says:


“Being able to use humor/irreverence in the brand depends on the industry you’re in, for example our charity partners probably couldn’t get away with it since the subject matter they’re dealing with is serious, but we sell toilet paper… there’s nothing too serious about toilet where we need to worry about treading lightly.”


While this is irrefutable logic, I still want to challenge it.*

Think about it, how many other toilet paper companies have you seen doing funny things? Ever?

I’ve seen none. Toilet paper commercials always feature puppies and babies, and that strange blue liquid to show how absorbent it is. Why do they assume I have blue pee?


Your turn — Here’s your 3-step homework

Yes, I’m giving you homework. We need to see your green work out there, so saddle up and let’s ride.

And yes, you can “cheat” and hire someone to do social media and web-presence for you, because what matters is, that you tell the world how you’re changing the world, why you’re doing it, and what your audience can do to get involved.



Step 1: Find you why

If you haven’t done this yet, now’s the time. Write down WHY you are doing the work you’re doing.


Why are you selling organic beauty products? And why are trying to get people to care about ocean pollution? Why do you want to stop climate change?


Whatever line of work you’re in, set aside at least 20 minutes to think hard about this. What are your values, why are you doing what you’re doing?


Don’t take the easy route. If you’re asking yourself, why do I want to stop climate change, and the only answer you come up with is, ‘because it’s important’ then you need to dig deeper? Why DO YOU think it’s important?

Do we have a moral obligation to future generations? Do you want security when you retire? Are you afraid that global climate change will mess with cocoa bean farming, resulting in shortages of chocolate — I am.

Dig until you get to the core of why you are in this particular niché, in this particular job.

This is, of course, the WHY of your business or organization.

If you’re the CEO of a small business, then it’s likely lines up with your personal WHY. If you’re a communication manager for an organization that deals with recycling (like I was), the WHY has to be formulated by your team and given the green light by upper management. And nope, 20 minutes is not gonna cut it.

Ready? Awesome! You get an A.


Step 2: How?

How is YOUR COMPANY making the world better?

It should be an easy question to answer, but often it’s not.

I go through this process with almost all my clients, to really dig out what they do, what sets them apart from conventional products, and where they add value to the lives of their customers.

Basically, you get soooo sucked into your work, that you grow blind to how awesome you really are.

Again, I recommend the Grandma test. If you were to explain what you do to your 80-something-year-old grandma, what would you say?

Got an answer? Great, now explain it again to your grandma’s 90-something-year-old friend.

Don’t get discouraged. This exercise does take some try’s, especially if you’re trying to see your blind spots.


Step 3: What now?

Yay, last part of the homework — high-five!

What can your audience do RIGHT NOW, to support your work, and make the world better?

Reuse a plastic bag? Buy your biodegradable cutlery? Sign a petition?


Did you tell them?

Just like any other relationship in your life, you need to tell the audience what you would like them to do. They’re not mind readers.

In fact, we desperately want to be more sustainable, but figuring out how is hard work. Just like you consult your cookbooks when you want to make tasty things, we’re looking for a guide to a greener way on living — help us out

*Hi there, Mr. Troll! Yes, you are absolutely right, of course, Simon’s point is, that their charity partners can’t use the same humor. But Simon is comparing Who Gives a Crap to a charity, not a toilet paper company. They are both, which allows for all the potty-related jokes you can squeeze out.

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