for what it’s worth

stories and stimulus from a consumer insight consultant


switchedonlondonSwitched On London is a lighting festival in the capital that aims to highlight the importance of sustainable lighting design in the night-time urban environment. For the second year running, a number of sites will be lit from February 7th – 14th in an energy efficient way to show the power of light in the city. 15 locations including the Tower of London, Southwark cathedral, Tower Bridge, London Bridge and the Design Museum are being illuminated from 6pm till midnight with stimulating energy-efficient installations created by the joint forces of leading lighting designers and manufacturers. The event will be audited for its energy consumption and its overall environmental impact whilst at the same time highlighting the gross wastage in unnecessary lighting of office space at night.

The festival has widespread support from the architectural lighting industry as well as some of the city’s key institutions including the Mayor of London, City of London council, Southwark council, Visit London, New London Architecture, The Pool of London and the Arts Council.

According to Paul James, editor of architectural lighting magazine mondo*arc and director of the festival:

Although we understand that energy use is a ‘burning issue’, we need light to live and as our lifestyles evolve, the benefits of good urban lighting are undeniable. The perception is that architectural lighting leads to wasted energy and light pollution. However, the majority of the lighting industry continually strives to tackle the issue of energy. From luminaire design that avoids light pollution to the promotion of lower energy and more efficient sources, the lighting industry is well educated in recycling, waste issues and the misuse of our natural resources. Our hope is that Switched On London will have value beyond simple decoration. It is an opportunity to use light to educate the public and newspaper journalists alike. It is essential to illuminate better, not less.

Switched On London

download a guide of locations here

Filed under: creative ideas, evironmental insights, stuff on the streets


Inspired by the most traditional of water-travel methods, SkySails aims to get cargo ships using wind power once again. With oil prices rising considerably, and industry increasingly interested in searching out cheaper alternatives, SkySails’ ‘wind propulsion system’ claims to be attracting a considerable amount of interest and it’s no great surprise why.


Essentially the system is two giant kites that act as sails that are connected through a towing rope rather than on a mast directly attached to the ship, plus a wind-optimised routeing system to get the best puff possible. According to the company, using the system average annual fuel costs can be lowered between 10-35% depending on the wind conditions, and up to 50% under optimal wind conditions. They estimate that at the current price of oil that could equate to a saving of 1/3 of a ship’s diesel costs. This has yet to be proved, though the company aims to do just that through it’s first commercial pilot, which launched on Tuesday.

‘A newly built cargo vessel was towed by the innovative wind propulsion of the Hamburg-based company SkySails on the North Sea near Bremerhaven, Germany for the first time. The 160m2 SkySails supported the main engine of the 132m long Multi Purpose Heavy Lift Carrier MS “Beluga SkySails” of the Bremen-based Beluga Shipping with approx. five tons tractive force at low wind.

The cargo ship will set off from Bremen to Venezuela and gain first experiences with the new system during the maiden voyage. “The maiden voyage marks the beginning of the practical testing during regular shipping operations of the SkySails-System. During the next few months we will finally be able to prove that our technology works in practice and significantly reduces fuel consumption and emissions”.


Filed under: evironmental insights,

The Great British Light Switch: Energy Saving Light Bulbs for All

Another weekend, another energy-saving light bulb giveaway, this time endorsed by the Prime Minister himself. The Great British Light Switch sees energy provider Southern Electric teaming up with national daily The Sun to offer two free light bulbs with every Saturday newspaper. A total of 4.5 million light bulbs are due to be given away, which according to their calculations equates to a total electricity saving of 41GWh per year: enough to power 10,000 households and apparently save a whopping £20,300,000 per year!

greatbritishlightswitch‘On Saturday January 19th The Sun is teaming up with Southern Electric for the Great British Light Switch – the biggest campaign ever run on a single day to giveaway 4.5 MILLION energy saving light bulbs. If all of these bulbs are installed we will cut total C02 emissions by up to 387,000 tonnes over the lifetime of the bulbs – that’s enough greenhouse gas to fill Wembley Stadium 49 times, or the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road for a whole year!

Never before has an energy efficiency campaign of this size and scale been undertaken on one day, but we need YOUR help to make a real difference. There is no voucher to cut out – simply buy your Sun on Saturday January 19th at one of the 17,000+ retailers participating in our campaign and you will receive a twin pack of energy saving light bulbs ABSOLUTELY FREE!’

It’s an impressive stand for a newspaper more associated with breasts and football than current affairs to be involved in leading a campaign on climate change, and has the potential to create a real impact on general public attitudes towards making changes for a greener lifestyle.

The Great British Light Switch

Filed under: evironmental insights, good

London’s Light Bulb Amnesty

Over the weekend UK home improvement and garden centre chain B&Q, in partnership with British Gas and the Mayor of London held London’s first light bulb amnesty, where Londoners were invited to exchange a traditional light bulb from their home for a free, energy efficient one (or two).

According to Mayor Ken Livingstone:

‘For those people who have made a New Year’s Resolution to go greener, taking part in London’s first light bulb amnesty is an ideal way to start. This scheme gives Londoners the chance to cut harmful emissions and save money at the same time, by swapping their old, energy guzzling light bulbs for free, energy efficient bulbs. Small lifestyle changes like this really do add up – if all homes in the capital used energy efficient bulbs, we could collectively help reduce emissions by over half a million tonnes, and save £139 million every year.’

Despite some worries over the health warnings around low-energy light bulbs announced last week, the UK government are planning to totally phase out the sale of all conventional bulbs by 2011, following closely in the footsteps of Australia who are bringing into effect a legal ban on all incandescent bulbs by 2009-2010. No word yet on how many bulbs were brought in, but the amnesty and the impressive accompanying website are a very positive start to a better 2008.

Filed under: clever promotion, evironmental insights

Jamie Oliver Serves Up UK Coffee Beans

Looking for a less guilty morning cappucino? Opened in May last year, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall restaurant is extending it’s local sourcing to coffee, having just served up the first cups to be made from UK-grown coffee beans. Robusta and Arabica beans are being grown at the nearby Eden Project and Fifteen is the first restaurant to get their hands on a limited harvest- so far managing to procure 2kgs, which produced fifty cups of what bar manager Tristan Stephenson described as “astonishingly good” coffee. Though it may not have a realistic future in the coffee market, it definitely fits with the restaurant’s commitment to minimizing food miles, and possibly even opens the door to new innovative possibilities for UK agriculture.

[via This is Cornwall]

Filed under: evironmental insights, food n drink

Greenpeace gets Gamers to Battle for a Greener Future

clash of the consoles

With games consoles top of many Christmas lists, Greenpeace are taking their fight to the gamers themselves and asking for their help in forcing the gaming industry to get greener. The campaign, known as Clash of the Consoles, pits the three key players- Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft- against each other with a scoreboard rating each on their toxic use, toxic policy, recycling credits and energy use.

“In gamespace everybody wants to save the world. But back here on planet Earth, your favourite games console contains deadly agents of real destruction: toxic chemicals that shouldn’t be there and may be contributing to mountains of e-waste when thrown away. Clash of the Consoles is the website where you can check out how your favourite game heroes stand up against their rivals, and how you can help battle the boss monsters to green their game”

Within the website Greenpeace have created a a 90-second video featuring three of the most iconic game characters – Microsoft’s Master Chief, Nintendo’s Mario and Sony’s Kratos – competing for the prize of a greener games console, and calling for gamers to “Jump in…Tell your game console company wii would like to live and play in a toxic free world.”

According to BBC News, Greenpeace’s campaign to persuade the whole electronics industry to eliminate hazardous chemicals has found that “Game console manufacturers are lagging way behind the makers of mobile phones and PCs who have been reducing the toxic load of the products over the past year”, and from a survey conducted by the organisation on Habbo hotel last month found that of the 50,000 teenagers who responded, 74% rated global warming over drugs, violence and war as the issue they were most concerned about.

see more at Clash of the Consoles

Filed under: clever promotion, evironmental insights,

Nokia Launches Eco-Friendly Evolve

nokia-evolve At the annual Nokia World conference yesterday, the company announced it’s new environmental initiative: the 3110 Evolve phone. Having fallen from first to ninth place in Greenpeace’s Greener Electronics Guide last month, Nokia are bouncing back with this eco-friendly version of the traditional 3110 which has ‘bio-covers’ made from over 50% renewable material, comes in a smaller box with less packaging all made of 60% recycled content, and is powered by Nokia’s most energy efficient charger yet which uses 94% less energy than the Energy Star requirements (the energy-efficiency guidelines set by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy.)

Speaking yesterday, CEO and president Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo explained Nokia’s viewpoint:

“We are at the dawn of a new era in mobile communications driven by the rapid convergence of the internet and mobility, and Nokia is setting the pace of change. But with market leadership in an industry of this scale also comes responsibility. We are committed to taking a leading role in increasing environmental awareness and performance right across the industry, creating further products and services that help people make more sustainable choices. It is both the responsible thing to do and it makes good business sense.”

No word on the launch date (though apparently is it’s due out early next year) or price point, but with the highest eco-credentials of any new phone we’ve seen actually coming to market, could this become the Prius of the phone world?

Filed under: evironmental insights, mobile lifestyles,

Actics: Aligning Ethics with Actions

acticsA name sure to be on everyone’s lips very soon, Actics is a brilliant new networking system that helps all companies and individuals to align their ethics with their actions. The first online ethical rating tool, and the first ethical system to implement feelings as an important gradient, the software enables truth and transparency throughout a company, highlighting its understanding of social responsibility far beyond any eco credentials, and further than that, helping align its ethical strategy to make the company better. The system works similarly on a personal level; offering anyone the chance to define themselves through their ethical values, state how they act these out, and then allow their friends to rate in numerical terms how true they are to these and help them to live these values more completely, in what has been dubbed ‘the ethical Facebook’.

With a background in macroeconomics specialising in monetary economics and the Euro, Actics founder Nicolai Peitersen has worked as JP Morgan’s Euro Area expert, creating new trends and vision-based formulas for the bank, and it was whilst working for the Central Bank of Denmark that he founded Kesera, a Danish Think-Tank for scientists, artists and philosophers. The aim was to find people with similar thought process outside of his own discipline, and what he discovered was that despite their different tools and languages they were all working on the same fundamental questions, and all had a similar outlook on life. Excited by this, Nicolai together with his Kesera colleague Jens Martin Skibsted decided to formulise one of these questions it into an academic theory, which gave birth to the three fundamental statements of what has become the Actics ethical system: Proximity, (understanding that ethical action is sparked by a feeling of emotional / personal closeness), Maximisation (optimising the ethical happiness of those in your proximity), and Expansion (actively caring for more and more).

Initially published as an academic working paper, Nicolai decided to pursue this further by establishing the Actics company with the aim of developing a system for people to implement and use within their lives. The Actics technology and software is the resulting system, which you can see as a social community on the web, but which encompasses so much more as well. I sat down with Actics founder Nicolai to find out all about it:

-Can you please explain the Actics system further for us?

The Actics system is about living your ethics in better alignment with your stakeholders. It gives individuals the empowerment to have an ethical dialogue and build a community around a business profile of values.actics cloud

It’s not about environmentalism and sustainability, that’s just one way of living your ethics. Actics is about opening up for pluralism, you can do ethical good in tons of ways, and being nice to the lady at the counter is just as important as offsetting your CO2.

For us the Actics system is a multi-stakeholder tool which helps to optimise all stakeholders’ legitimate ethical demands on a company. Every stakeholder will have different demands on the company, so how do you as a company with limited resources optimize your own ethics with these different ethical demands? And how can you compare them? Because we have quantified ethics in numbers as a quality rather than a truth then that allows us to able to compare each ethical value and see how to improve a company’s ethical impact.

For the first time in history we will have empirical evidence of what works and what doesn’t work ethically. It will be extremely interesting to see the data we can collect over time once we can expand to millions of users across the globe- because then we can get extremely interesting comparative data and give us new understandings.

-What are the applications for Actics? How does it get integrated into the company?

The problem with company values is that people might have it on their website and it’s static, or they might have it on their mousemats or on the walls and then have workshops once a year on how to understand them, but it’s not really integrated into the operations of the company. Our software is a widget like a Skype application that each employee can have on their computer so they can, on an ongoing basis, now share their thinking and their values, and share best practise in living these. We do workshops to help our clients to understand the maximisation principle, explaining not to think of your values or ethics as something static, but as a quality around yourself and the company that you can improve on and optimize on.

What we are hoping is that companies use the Actics system internally first as an educational system into understanding the wisdom of the crowds. All research shows you win by opening up, but our role-out model with clients is to start internally with the intranet and once they get a successful feeling from that we suggest to include their trusted partners in the extranet- and eventually onto their website and into the Actics community online. So in the end all the stakeholders will be taking part in the Actics community.

This gives them a tenable feeling of how they are living their values- and a number to quantify it. With this companies can look at how to grow this number, and can see which stakeholder group has had the most impact on a certain rise or fall of a value, and even what type of suggestions they have given to the company. On the dashboard you can do all sorts of things with data collected- you can break it down into values, focus on brands, look at specific time periods, anything you want. I as a company can see if I reduce packaging what happens to my score? If I give more leisure to my employees what happens to my score? So I know exactly what I can do, to whom I can do it, and on which value to improve my overall score. I can look at the numbers and see what the ethical issues are, and can action them immediately.

-What are your aims for Actics?

There are two sectors in which we want to innovate: one is the CSR sector, we want to revolutionise the CSR sector; in fact our aim is to make the traditional CSR consultancy obsolete – removing the middlemen between the company and the people. We‘ve developed an algorithm and a system so all that feedback is structured, so why do you need the people in-between?

The other is the stock exchange, because the price of a company today is determined by one stakeholder- the investor. What we are saying is that actually all stakeholders ought to have a say in the price of the company through how much they rate the company, because the value of a company is very much determined by whether they can attract talent, and the understanding of employees, future employees and customers.

We are trying to say that it is not only the economic value of a company that is the real value of the company- so by drawing in all stakeholders and assessing the value, and by having quantified it, then it becomes as important an indicator as an economic one. By quantifying stakeholder value you can use it and make it part of your decision-making. Hopefully by quantifying it this way we can contribute towards replacing the mere financial indicator, and at some point we hope to become an actual value pricing of companies that will be on the Reuters monitor.

We want to be guiding consumer choices- so that ultimately when you stand in the supermarket and try to decide which brand to buy you could download the ethical rating of different options onto your mobile. We also want to be guiding jobseekers, guiding investors in which companies to invest in etc- we want to be the indicator that influences choices, whatever they might be. We are currently working on introducing a widget to job portals so as a way of finding a company, or the company finding a candidate they can use ethical values.

-The Actics widget you talk about for companies to have on their website etc- will this also be a widget for individuals to use on their social networking sites?

Yes, you can already put the widget into your Facebook page or blog easily just through a copy/paste of our simple code, and can then get feedback from those who know you or read your blog. You can also assign weights to people’s ratings, as within any situation some people matter more than others – so you can decide whose opinions and recommendations matter more. For example the public might not be as important as your partners or your employees or whoever it might be – so what you can do is assign people a high, medium or low weight which will affect how much their rating changes your overall score.

-What are the plans now for Actics moving forwards?

We are developing a whole load of new technologies- whilst now we only have the and the widget/ plug-in, we are getting distributed applications through Facebook which you can use as a monitor to follow your friends and your chosen companies, creating a micro plug-in/ search box on your browser instead of Google, and offering a ticker, like the stock exchange; giving the company’s ethical quote alongside their financial one.

We’re currently making it so that Actics can be integrated with your company’s help, so on-the-spot whilst you’re getting help you can also give feedback, instead of getting an email 2 days later asking if you were happy with the service!

On a personal level we are also implementing zip code alerts so that if I put up an action then everyone in that zip code will get an email about it, telling you what people are doing in your physical proximity and bringing Actics offline too. Oh-and we’re talking about integrating Actics on your mobile so you can rate a service on the spot wherever you are, giving instant feedback to experiences. So we’ve got tons of things in the pipeline!

Wow- thanks, Nicolai!

To explain the system further, the concept founders also wrote a book around the theory- as a practical novel that they use for corporate clients, but which they hope to publish to the general public soon. Contact Actics to find out how you can get your hands on a copy!

Filed under: evironmental insights, products with a purpose,

John Grant explains his Green Marketing Manifesto

the green marketing manifestoI was lucky enough to get given an early copy of the lovely John Grant’s new book The Green Marketing Manifesto thanks to PSFK. The book is an insightful understanding for marketers and brands into meaningful green marketing, and, as well as being hugely thought-provoking, offers a practical and ingenious ‘roadmap’ guide to help marketing do good and deliver on it’s green objectives, or rather: ‘it’s not about making normal stuff seem green, it’s about making green stuff seem normal’. John very kindly took time out of his super-busy schedule to answer a couple of questions for me (well for PSFK!) and explain his book, his beliefs and his future plans:

Can you briefly explain the ‘roadmap’ that underpins your book?

I wrote the book (originally it started as a paper for a potential client project) to try to make sense of the torrent of recent green marketing initiatives. I wanted to sift out what was greenwash and what had substance – and also try to get to what was actually working, and why; and to map out the terrain a bit.

The structure that emerged from this research into the main types of approach turned out to be a 3×3 grid.

One axis simply describes what is being marketed; is it a public/corporate task, a brand/social identity/community sort of thing, or is it about products, practicalities, inconspicuous consumption and everyday habits? It becomes much simpler to talk about green marketing when you don’t mix up these different levels. Corporate, brand and product marketing are always different. The only thing Du Pont, the Toyota Prius and lagging your loft have in common is the aim to reduce carbon emissions; but in different contexts, and obviously with very different types of marketing, in different media, to different audiences.

The other axis discriminates between three broad types of objectives:

– Green: a company or brand or product, which is setting new standards. It might be a corporate programme like M&S Plan A; a brand conforming to an eco-labeling scheme; or a product which is simply made in a better way. The marketing in this category tends to be quite straightforward and factual. With Green & Blacks for instance, a lot of their marketing has consisted of giving away sample bars (on places like the cover of Good Housekeeping Magazine), so that people who wouldn’t necessarily have considered Fairtrade/organic chocolate can taste for themselves just how good it is.

– Greener. In many markets the main impact comes from how the product or service is used. Hence the potential to work with customers to achieve a bigger result together. The most prominent example in the UK has been Ariel asking people to ‘turn to 30’. That’s a very simple, common sense request. But in other cases, getting people to cut or switch can require education. Did you know that 1/3 of food bought in the UK is wasted. Apart from all the resources that went into production and transportation, food waste produces methane (a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2). Wasted food is reckoned to be equivalent to 1/5 of all car use. There’s a big education campaign called WRAP that launched in the last few weeks to tackle this, and retailers and manufacturers are getting involved too. It’s a really interesting cultural issue and incidentally points out how limited the ‘leave it all to us’ attitude taken by some brands is.

– Greenest. That’s all very well, but gradual improvements and efficiencies are not going to get us to the 90% reductions in carbon emissions that many are now saying are needed. There are going to have to be much bigger changes.

Some will involve giving stuff up. Low cost flights for one. People will still fly, for sure, but not at the level described by in their “Take5aYear” advertising (which incredibly just picked up an award as ‘the best’ travel industry poster campaign of 2007!) Some recent research found that 80% feel guilty every time they fly. And also that 41% are already using their car less. The message is getting through, and splurging carbon is becoming about as socially acceptable as a fur coat, just look at all the stuff levelled at celebrities.

There will also be instances where people’s needs can be met just as well or better, while doing dramatically less damage. Home grocery delivery is a much greener option, if it becomes widespread enough to drive out-of-town shopping out of business. Tough stuff for Tesco, but when it can save a lot of money, time and also a huge amount of carbon wasted in car trips, heating, lighting, open refrigeration and so on…? Home delivery is becoming quite well established, but what about sharing clubs, libraries, rental and so on, for most consumer durables. How about making it normal to go back to the launderette? (which could reclaim nearly all water and soap, and use expensive low energy machines). This is where we need bold ‘trojan horse’ ideas to help us all over our greenophobia. What if every gym had a launderette, and the treadmills generated some of the electricity?

The bulk of green marketing campaigns have been in the first category so far. Ecoblahblah slogans and all that. In future we need to see more collaboration (beyond ‘pledges’ which so few take, and fewer stick to) and a LOT more innovation. There is a barely a market that couldn’t be reinvented if you started again, thinking about planet, people and profit together. We don’t need sustainability communications, so much as an avalanche of inventions.

How far behind this understanding do you think the advertising industry is?

It varies, there are some very switched on agencies and individuals and then there are the other sort. Also it simply depends on the brief. Advertising is great when you have something scarily new to mythologize and bring to the mainstream. It’s also good at simple collaborative actions. It’s often a disaster waiting to happen when you are ‘communicating your green credentials’. There’s also the question of advertising’s place in any media mix, its credibility, authenticity. The utility companies (some of them) have a good story around their green energy tariffs. But I need to read about this on Treehugger, not see it in an ad break, surely?

We know the title of the book was under debate and you got lots of input from your blog readers, but what made you decide on the Green Marketing Manifesto?

The Green Marketing Manifesto was the original title for the project, and my publisher liked it because it was straightforward and also connected with my previous books called The _ _ Manifesto. I just wasn’t totally sure about it. Was ‘green’ too narrow? I quite liked the idea of something less ‘trade book’ for instance The Beautiful Coincidence (ie when breakthrough ideas were equally good for people, planet and profit). In the end I ran a poll on my blog – PSFK were very helpful by the way in directing people to this – and over 300 people voted. The Green Marketing Manifesto came first. So that stuck as the title.

What would you like to see as an outcome from your book / for the industry moving forwards?

I’d like to see much less greenwash and much more innovation. I’ve spent more time in the last year talking to people in agencies and public forums 2 or 3 times a week, than on writing the book. Lots of people have said it all now makes a bit more sense. That’s what I’d hope for anyway. Radical common sense.

What is next for you??

Myself and several friends are getting together a forum where people in the creative industries can meet green entrepreneurs and hopefully help them by donating ideas, support, advice.

I am also working on a report and event on the big green opportunities – beyond cleantech – for investors and entrepreneurs (with Glasshouse, in December).

I have some big plans for next year, mainly working with sustainability experts on innovation programmes, and with some exciting g-commerce start-ups. Less writing and talking, and a lot more doing hopefully!

Thanks John!

Green Marketing Manifesto

Read John’s blog, and definitely go buy the book

Filed under: evironmental insights, worth buying

Lets Green San Francisco

Picture_2_6Inhabitat has some great pictures of the grass couches that appeared around San Francisco last weekend.

Part of a series of interactive green installations celebrating the launch of, a community-based website aiming to help San Franciscan businesses and individuals go green, the couches were placed at landmarks around the city.

Sponsored by Pacific Gas and Electric Company and ReadyMade magazine, the event was a clever ecologically-friendly guerrilla promotion, and looks like it was pretty successful- lets just hope people didn’t end up with grass stains!

The name of the new site expresses perfectly the dramatic swing towards environmental concerns in the public consciousness- fed up of the Pimp My Life culture; it’s time for ‘Green My Life’. Can’t wait to see MTV’s interpretation!

Filed under: collaborative working, evironmental insights,