The question most people ask me is, "How can I determine what are the best companies to buy from an environmental perspective?"
As an expert in conservation and environmental protection, I am a very discerning customer when it comes to choosing companies that demonstrate corporate social responsibility. I am looking for companies that follow a "triple bottom line" model. In other words, I am looking for companies that focus on the environment, the people and have a for-profit business model. I am also looking for companies that have a positive message. I don't particularly care for people, organizations or companies that are extremist in a negative context.
As one of the largest skeptics around, I am also suspicious of what can be construed as "greenwashing." What I mean by this is I am weary of the companies that offer lots of good sound bites, but don't really prove they are doing anything of substance or truly tangible. Don't get me wrong---many companies are doing many great things and are associated with great causes. However, I don't understand what they are accomplishing when they say 5 percent or 10 percent of profit is donated to this or that cause. While the cause might be great, their contribution might be small if their accountant tricks the system so they report only small profits.
What inspires me is when a company has a clear and concise message that is easy to understand. I am looking for a positive net benefit that is tangible. Don't tell me you are going to do something---tell me you are doing something right now. I want to know the result I am going to attain for the environment if I buy a product from a company. Call me crazy, but I want to know what I am buying.
One good way for me to know if a company is truly doing something good is to look closely at its Web site. If the company details how it achieves its environmental or charitable objectives in a clear and concise manner, then I want to do business with that company. Again, I don't want to see some wishy-washy ambiguous claim that doesn't result in any benefit today... right now.
I also look at who the company is associated with to determine if a third party has done any verification as to what the company is claiming. For companies that are doing good for the environment, I look to Co-Op America's Green Business Directory (www.coopamerica.org/pubs/greenpages). Beginning in 2009, Co-Op America will be known as Green America.
I also look to see what charitable organization the company supports. If it is a well known organization that has been around for a while, you can feel comfortable it would not jeopardize its good reputation by endorsing a company that was not walking the walk. For example, Conservation International (http://www.Conservation.org) was rated one of the 10 best charities everyone's heard of by Charity Navigator.
Scott Cecil is President and founder of Save Your World (www.saveyourworld.com), a company that produces a line of all-natural, organic body care products. In addition, for every product sold, they save an acre of rainforest in South America for one year.