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Is It Easier Being Blue Than Green?

Posted by Barry Silverstein on March 16, 2011 12:00 PM

Just as we were getting used to the "Green Movement," there's a new movement emerging.

The so-called "Blue Movement" is the brainchild of former environmental activist Adam Werbach, who espoused the term in a 2008 speech. Author of the best-selling book, Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto, Werbach was the youngest person ever to be elected president of the Sierra Club.

He subsequently joined Saatchi & Saatchi to launch its "green" (sorry, blue) advertising division. Three years later, Werbach still works for the firm, where he is global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S, its sustainability practice. Saatchi's website promotes Werbach's ideas with a section titled "the birth of blue."

Another website, thebluemovement.com, quotes Werbach and might appear to be affiliated with Saatchi or Werbach, who is mentioned in a section labeled "Green Turning Blue." But it turns out this website is not affiliated with Werbach or Saatchi, and its Blue Movement is a more of an individual initiative, as we discovered in a chat with its creator.

That website belongs to Angelo Campisi, whose LinkedIn profile describes himself as a life coach and sacred activist. He spoke to brandchannel from Europe, where he told us he's working on a book about the Blue Movement, an idea he say he came up with before Werbach, "about twenty years ago," as what he sees as the next stage of the sustainable movement.

"Green is mostly identified with environmentalists and Earth Day," says Campisi. "The next level of awareness in sustainability for humans is to embrace a more holistic sustainable lifestyle. I'm branding this as the 'blue movement' because branding makes things happen quicker."

While Werbach is more about "Saatchi S" these days than his "blue movement" mantra — although Werbach's Saatchi unit still uses "blue" to brand its work, and its internal sustainability drive is called True Blue — consumers (and bloggers) who stumble across Campisi's website may be confused that there's a bigger "blue movement" afoot. 

Further confusing matters: There's a Blue Movement in the UK, but turns out it's a music promoter. Grammy winner Patti Austin is pitching a "blue movement," but as part of her personal initiative to address domestic violence. It's also a term that has been used to cover ocean and marine activism, and a political movement in Africa.

So is the green movement passe — or in need of rebranding, or a color-based image overhaul from green to blue with a new positioning and platform?

Werbach himself has said, "I'm done with convincing people that the world is going to end. This is how the world is going to begin again. When you look at planet earth from space, you don't see social problems, you don't see economic problems. What you do see is blue. It is the color and the future of our planet."

His Saatchi bio today notes, "As Global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S, Werbach guides sustainability work from China to South Africa to Brazil, advising companies with nearly $1 trillion in combined annual sales, including Walmart, Procter & Gamble, General Mills and WellPoint. Werbach worked with Walmart to engage the company's 1.9 million Associates in its sustainability effort, creating the Personal Sustainability Project ("PSP")." 

In a 2008 column for the Guardian, Werbach described why he wanted to rebrand the green movement: "The 'blue movement' is a platform for sustainability that goes beyond the beautiful green of environmentalism. Green puts the planet at the center of the discussion. Blue places people at the center."

A reaction to the anti-materialism and anti-consumption mantra of the original green movement, his vision of the blue movement put the focus on people (consumers) over the planet.

Now, through his work at Saatchi, Werbach is recasting green to blue in order to woo brand marketers who want to pitch the "new consumer" — an informed, engaged shopper who makes sustainable choices.

Call him a pragmatic optimist, one committed to the idea that he can make a difference by rousing companies and advertisers to do the right thing, versus lobbying politicians on behalf of the Sierra Club. Werbach identifies three "Ps" that consumers who want to be blue can follow to "reinvent" their shopping habits:

Price: "We need to democratize sustainability and make it available to everyone. You shouldn't have to be rich to contribute to a sustainable society."

Purpose: "What's the purpose of what you're buying? Do you need it? Does it fit into the healthy practices in your life?"

Process: "What was the process used to make the product? Was it energy intensive? Did it use pesticides or petroleum? Were the workers paid a fair wage? How will it be disposed of?"

What do you think? Is blue the new green, or is bluewashing the new greenwashing?


Tom Parrett United States says:

Hard to say if "blue" will catch on. There is color fatigue to cope with: every revolutionary new movement adopts a color.  So far it's vaguely defined, unlike "green." Possibly fatal is that it's invented and being imposed rather than born naturally and emerging virally. Surely distracting is its association not with an altruistic movement but a profit-making strategy surrounded by a global advertising enterprise, its own "sustainability" meaning "sufficiently well-funded."

But the biggest problem may trump all the others: the powerful and richly intertwined associations already attached to "blue." They include an emotional state, a form of indigenous music, prurient behavior, and a social class (the aristocracy). All of these are in conflict with Mr. Werbach's stated  goals for "sustainability." (For an authoritative treatment of the term, consult On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry by William Gass.)

March 17, 2011 11:12 AM #

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