Welcome to the very first edition of Green Stories.
We’ll be looking at green business leaders who are making a difference in the environmental space, profiling their views and discussing their work.
First up is Vince Schutt, founder of Enviromentum. He’s a data geek and focuses on helping people adopt environmentally responsible behaviours through motivational interviews. This is part 2 of a multi-part interview and we’re talking about Vince’s personal journey and his deep appreciation for data literacy. You can find part 1 here.
Misdirection and deciphering intent
Akhil: Based on what you’ve said so far, it’s not just enough to understand the numbers, you need to understand the intention behind it, is that correct?
Vince: Exactly. There’s always an intentionality. It’s kind of funny. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a white man with an MBA and Facebook knows that, which they do!
They know everything!
As soon as Trump’s budget passed in the US, within 12 hours I got a series of ads from different banks. I thought, I’m going to watch this ad not because I’m interested in JP Morgan Chase or Goldman Sachs, but because, they’re telling something to people like me. I’m going to reverse engineer what they’re going for.
What they were trying to do was to bolster confidence in Chinese investment through their bank. What I realised was that the people in these banks, the executives, they know that trickle down is a lie. When you create a budget based on trickle down, the banking executives know where this is leading. When they’re trying to encourage Chinese investment, they’re saying, we need to be able to move out capital (of our clients) into a Chinese currency because of how much the Chinese economy has room to grow in comparison to the US. At some point in time, the Chinese dollar will raise to such a level that the entire global economy flips on its head and you realise that the US economy is no longer in the position that they are the leading economy. So that’s what I saw there.
I was looking through the story they were trying to tell me. To get at what was in their heads.
Enviromentum has been delivering programs focused on environmental education and outreach since 2015. Their work helps Canadians find their own motivations for Environmental Stewardship, and feel confident in their ability to share their successes with their networks.
They apply proven techniques from behavioural change science to motivate people to adopt environmentally responsible behaviours. Drawing from the health sciences, they have built programming drawing from evidence-based interventions like Normative Feedback and Motivational Interviewing.
The best example of Green Washing I’ve ever seen
That brings me to a little exercise we did about the Koch brothers. You went through the website and tackled about data literacy there. For a layman going through that site, which is incredibly well done and probably the best example of Green Washing I’ve ever seen, what are some red flags you can look at?
I have to say that they beat me the first time I checked out their site. This was before I knew about Koch’s reputation. They were talking about these awards that they got. It seemed like it might be some sort of independent audit. When I revisited the site after I got “woke” post my MBA, I looked a little deeper and factored in reputation. There’s data in reputation and we have to be able to integrate that. That’s what pushes us to look that extra little deeper and find the tiny little lies that make the claims invalid.
With Koch Industries, I first heard about the negative press on them with this liberal radio show called Randy Roads. And she talked negatively about the Koch brothers. Then as I started to learn more and be critical, I learned that they were highly politically invested to the tune of hundreds of millions. They’re a family of brothers fighting among themselves. All the brothers are estranged and fight over money constantly. But they all invest in their own sort of pro-oil and coal lobbying. Looking at all of that they’re doing makes you want to look a little deeper. And I think that without that desire to know the truth, you won’t find it.
Vince is a Co-founder of Enviromentum and an experienced sustainability consultant, trainer, facilitator, and “science guy”. Vince has Bachelors of Science in nuclear engineering technology and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in consulting. He is trained in Motivational Interviewing, and has conducted Climate Conversations™ with hundreds of young people. Vince has also provided skills training workshops for hundreds of environmental activators in the United States and Canada. His areas of expertise include: root-cause analysis, behavioural change science, human factors and sustainability, metrics and evaluation, and workshop design.
Separating the wheat from the chaff
A lot of companies nowadays swear by transparency. Koch Industries’ site when you look at it, looks like they’re transparent and they talk about the numbers. But when you look at it, their graph of 13% reduction in carbon intensity is made to look like a 50% reduction.
I guess these are the little lies you were talking about. It’s undercutting a lot of things that legitimately green companies do and put forward. If you were advising one of your clients who is putting out this data, and being highly transparent. Taking the Koch brother’s example, what would you have them change? What can they do a company like Koch Industries can’t?
This a really big question with no easy answer. Let’s take an example and drill down using that. Let’s do Dove soap.
If Dove was trying to be Green Dove, instead of giving me a flat number, like that 13% we talked about with Koch, it would be meaningful if they talked to me about something they actually did. Something I could touch and feel that would be meaningful for me. For example, packaging.
Packaging for products is one of the biggest sources for unnecessary GHG waste. So is a Dove bar soap being packaged in a plastic seal inside of a box, and then a group of boxes, boxed up through another plastic seal.
Is that how it’s being shipped?
I’m picturing a bar of Dove.
A bar of Dove is shaped like a 3D oval in a square box. So, you’re not using the full shipping capacity to deliver your product. If you made a fully rectangular but just with bevelled edges (so you don’t have someone get soap cuts!), it will enable you to have significantly less thin cardboard as your cardboard doesn’t need as much strength. When you stack it up, you can stack them higher and box them.
Your packaging footprint reduces dramatically. Not only is it a cost saving, but a GHG reduction. Telling that this is our previous packaging and this is our new packaging. And this is our new bar, and this is our previous bar. Maybe it doesn’t look quite as beautiful as before but as a result, you get more product and the GHG impact went down by 9%.
What I glean from this is that it’s not just enough for one aspect of the product to be green. If you’re serious about it, as a company, what will really convince you is at least for the factors that you can see, everything is green.
If you can see something and say, you are really thorough about it, I can clearly see from this one bar of soap, it`s packaging is made from recycled paper, it`s shape maximizes its packaging and use.
All these little details that make me realise you care.