Friday, October 8, 2010

Making Things Happen: Complaining or starting a movement?

Hello again! Yes, it's been quite a while. We've been busy launching our new recruiting service GEM ( And now that it's off the ground we are back to putting all our attention into Sprout, and making things happen in the world of social responsibility and well being.

And while we're on the topic, there's quit a lot going on. We've just learned about Alex Bogusky's newest Fearless venture, "The Least You Can Do", from The Denver Egotist

This new venture is in cooperation with Justin's Peanut Butter. Here's what their up to (a few excerpts from their website):

"Justin's is a company committed to healthy eating, active lifestyles and of course - delicious nut butter that comes in handy portable packets. Their packaging is extremely convenient but unfortunately the plastic is not very "green." Still passionate about the environment and not wanting to leave a footprint, Justin's is on a crusade to get the entire packaged food industry to hop on the compostable train, increase awareness, demand and make the world a better place one deliciously squeezable packet at a time."

The site sets out the mission for visitors to Like their Facebook page and become "Inactivists":

"Your Mission:

Join us in the fight to get more companies using greener, compostable packaging instead of oil-based plastic in their packaging. Get started by clicking "Like" over there on your left. Wasn't that simple? You're well on your way to becoming an Inactivist. Click below to see the rest of the activities we have for you. You'll be doing next to nothing in no time."
I love Justin for having a mission and attacking it head on, and I would absolutely love to help in any way I can, which is why I did all the activities they suggest: Like Facebook page, signed the petition, and sent a letter to ConAgra. But I have to admit that I'm really struggling with the manner in which the desired outcome is being messaged/packaged. 
While I admire Fearless, Justin's and all those that contributed their work to this cause, specifically because I'm a big believer movements and their potential affect on the evolution of the American Dream, I'm truly not so sure about this. On the surface I think it's great, but when you dig into the possible repercussions is where I start to scratch my head.

Obviously the power of complaint, given the recent Frito Lay/SunChips loud bag action, can move companies to change.

But is this how we want to change the world? By complaining? By "doing nothing" in hopes of gaining a lot? Maybe I'm an idealist but what happened to the idea of taking real action, of actually doing "something" to affect change? For some reason this just feels like we're empowering a bunch of lazy complainers who think that all they should have to do is write an email in order to affect change. I think it's a great first step, but can this really truly change an industry?

We always say that the message is, or is wrapped in, the medium, and while perhaps this is the best way to address this specific issue, could this medium/mechanism be sending the wrong message? It's kind of like Whole Foods being the ambassador for the planet but wrapping their single use utensils in plastic. Is this the message we really want to send?

And if the industry changes will this be because it was already moving in that direction (eg., Pantene sugar cane packaging) or because we asked people to "Like" a page, sign a petition and write to the mega-oil using, trash creating entities like Heinz and ConAgra?

I'm really excited to see the results and will do anything and everything in the meantime to help the cause, and we encourage you to do the same. We'll be sure to keep tabs on it and let you know their progress.

Melissa Mizer
Chief Brand Cultivator

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