BUSINESS


Going blue -- and behind enemy lines -- is all part of Adam Werbach’s plan to change the world.
By Sam Machkovech


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In the 1990s, Adam Werbach was considered one of the green movement’s most prominent upstarts. The youngest-ever president of the Sierra Club (at age 23), he was dedicated, hardworking, and vocal. But Werbach raised eyebrows when he declared environmentalism dead in 2004 (its methods, not its goals) and then created an eco-conscious consulting firm called Act Now (which joined the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising firm this past January ) to help corporations clean up their acts.

If activists were concerned before, they were apoplectic when, in 2006, Werbach’s firm teamed up with Wal-Mart. Werbach owns up to the color change (he says we must go blue rather than green) and insists it’s the only real path to global impact.

You recently declared “the birth of blue.” Why the new shade? Sometimes we focus on green as the only end. Sustainability has four elements -- social, cultural, economic, and environmental. We need to integrate all these things for sustainability, and going blue means bringing [all four] into our daily lives in the way we live and in the things we buy.

With Wal-Mart, you’ve started the Personal Sustainability Program for employees. What is that? A PSP can be as easy as trying to take one less trip by car a week or eating one organic meal a week -- one thing that you do repeatedly that’s good for you, good for the community, and good for the planet.

How have you balanced your increased impact with the perception that you’re no longer an activist? I still serve on the International Board of Greenpeace, and I’m still involved in the activist world. But I’ll trade scale and impact -- we need to work with the most influential corporations in the world to solve the bigger challenges on our planet. It’s synergy, right? For these companies, it’s a huge business opportunity to save money, gain a new market, and make their workforce more productive.

But don’t green-friendly practices require huge short-term investments? That’s right. The businesses that focus on quarter to quarter, as opposed to building value, have a harder time. But companies that expect to be around in 10 years are choosing this. Three years ago, when I was doing this work, it was new. Now it’s conventional.

 

Drink Up >In late 2007, Weston, Missouri–based McCormick Distilling Co. launched the world’s first eco-friendly premium vodka, making the green movementa little easier to swallow. Just how green is 360 Vodka? Let us count the ways. -- Jessica Jones

McCormick uses only locally grown grain to produce 360Vodka, reducing the fuel consumption required to transport grain to the distillery.
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McCormick says its state-of-the-art distilling equipment is 200 percent more efficient than the commonly used pot-distilling method and reduces use of fossil-fuel energy by 21 percent.
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The distillery boasts a carbon dioxide reclamation facility and utilizes additional features that help significantly reduce volatile organic-compound emissions, sulfur-dioxide emissions, and pollutant fugitive dust particles.
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The 360 Vodka bottle is composed of 85 percent recycled glass (70 percent post consumer waste).
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All paper used in labeling, packaging, and promotional materials is 100 percent recycled.
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McCormick prints all promotional materials and packaging with water-based ink, which is less harsh on the environment than plastisol ink.
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The boxes used to ship 360 Vodka are made of 100 percent recycled cardboard. Equipped with a shoebox-style lid, the banker-box-size containers are sturdy enough to be reused for storage, shipping, or filing.
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Unique bottle closures can be sterilized and reused on future bottles to prevent waste. McCormick developed the Close the Loop program to encourage customers to mail in their used closures.
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A portion of sales -- and $1 for every bottle closure returned -- will go to recognized environmental organizations.