Core Industries on the death of PR stunts and the “Age of Consequence”

10 03 2009

Green Printer speaks with Corey Szopinski, Principal and Founder of Core Industries.

Your firm has worked on some pretty cool projects like Live Earth and Pepsi, 1% for the Planet and the Volkswagen Carbon Neutral Project. Tell us what your clients come to your company for and what makes Core Industries different from other interactive strategy, design and development firms.

We’re the next evolution of a boutique interactive marketing firm. We are one of the few very high end development shops that has a clear mission of focusing on the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. Clients come to us because they know that we get invested in their projects, their company, and their people, because we care about what we’re doing… we not out to make a quick buck. In fact, our overall mission is to help foster the emerging green economy. Our way of doing that is by using graphic design, computer science and marketing strategy to help our clients be more “sustainable”. And for us sustainability has a dual meaning: it means being responsible for our environment, but it also means making sure the business is sustainable. In other words, we help our clients thrive, not just survive.

If a client comes to you saying that they want to market themselves as a green company, what kinds of advice would you give them in terms of identity and design?

Most of the companies we talk to are already walking the walk, and are actually hesitant to talk the talk. There’s a green backlash that has happened in the last two years that our clients are conscious of. Many clients are doing incredibly interesting things internally and externally, but want to play down the green message because the general feeling is that it’s counter-productive. My advice to clients is to make sustainability a core attribute of doing business, not something that is a PR stunt. By focusing on sustainability, companies benefit in very real and tangible ways: they’re respecting the health of their customers and employees, they are being good stewards of the planet, and they are reducing costs due to increased efficiency and less waste. The added benefit to all this fundamental retooling, is that they have a real value proposition to offer their clients. We help them craft that message so that it is honest and resonates with their demographic.

What would you advise against?

We advise against talking green without actually making fundamental changes. If it ever comes to light (and it will), that a company is being disingenuous about their efforts, the backlash against them is much worse than if they just kept green marketing off their agenda.

To clients that listen I always recommend reading Cradle to Cradle (by William McDonough and Michael Braungart) and the Ecology of Commerce (by Paul Hawkins). Both books point out how modern industry is headed down a dead end road, and offer suggestions on how to craft businesses with ecology in mind. Basically, we’re at an inflection point where the economy, government and customers are putting increased pressure on business to make smarter, more intelligent, and long term strategic choices.

What cool trends in terms of interactive green strategy and design are you seeing now?

I listened to a keynote address by Saul Griffith (from Wattzon.com) where he mentioned that we’re entering the “age of consequence“, where we can start to see cause and effect relationships for the choices we make.

Before the industrial revolution, societies were largely agrarian and you could easily see the cause and effect relationship when a chicken was slaughtered, or a tree was cut down to build a house. Because of the industrial revolution, the full cause and effect of the goods and services we buy are no longer visible or understandable to one person.

As a result, we are simply not able to make smart, informed choices about all the products we buy. For example, the average food product travels over 2000 miles before it reaches us, the transport of which releases CO2 into the atmosphere.

However, new interactive tools are becoming available that let us have insight into this product lifecycle. As more informed consumers, we can purchase less harmful products and make a huge difference. Two main opportunities that I’m waiting to take hold: using your cell phone to scan bar codes and get a real time green rating, and home energy monitoring systems that chart how much energy you’re using and encourage you to shut devices off when not in use.

These new tools need to be beautiful, useful and fun in order to really take off. Exciting stuff!

What corporation or brand would you most want to re-design and why?

We have a list of several hundred companies across many market segments that I’d love to work with. A couple of years ago (before starting Core), I would have said Nike or Coke, because they have a history of great interactive projects. However, I’ve worked with both of them, and now I want to focus on the companies that are just below the public consciousness… the companies that have the ideas and the business models that enable them to be the leaders in the green economy. We want to help them break through, and displace the current big players in their industries. We hope to use design and technology to drive a wedge into the carbon-based economy, and make room for a new breed of business to take hold.

What do you wish more green clients were doing in terms of design that was bold and out of the box?

I’m very encouraged by Nike’s internal sustainability division called “Considered“. Two products from them really caught my eye this year: one is a shoe made from factory scraps. The other is the Flywire which uses less material than a normal basketball shoe by using suspension bridge-like fibers.

Basically, the bold idea going forward is finding ways to use less. But doing it with design in mind. As any designer will tell you, having some constraints can be useful. I’m hoping that more companies, and more designers will find ways to make their products more efficient and last longer. Designers need to be respectful of their long term impact.

Core Industries also runs a kick-ass blog at GreenSearch.ch.

Design Goes Green – The first of a series of articles by Green Printer on the cross-section between the environment, business and the creative communications industry on Green Printer’s blog.


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9 responses to “Core Industries on the death of PR stunts and the “Age of Consequence””

18 03 2009
Green Printer Blog » Junxion Strategy: Eleven tips to effectively market green (11:24:18) :

[…] green now”. No one will buy that you’ve had an overnight corporate epiphany and nobody likes PR stunts […]

18 03 2009
Junxion Strategy: Green marketing grows up : Ecopreneurist (14:45:38) :

[…] green now”. No one will buy that you’ve had an overnight corporate epiphany and nobody likes PR stunts […]

9 04 2009
Green Printer Blog » Green Printer’s top picks for ‘meaningful’ Earth Day marketing (14:11:47) :

[…] evolved over the last 50 years. In the spirit of the fabulous Core Industries, the age of the ‘PR stunt’ is dead. Your most valuable audiences are watching – make this Earth Day […]

9 04 2009
Green Printer’s top picks for ‘meaningful’ Earth Day marketing : Save a Tree - Print Green - Green Options (14:15:16) :

[…] evolved over the last 50 years. In the spirit of the fabulous Core Industries, the age of the ‘PR stunt’ is dead. Your most valuable audiences are watching – make this Earth Day count. Recommend this […]

9 04 2009
Earth Day marketing without the one-time PR ’stunts’ : Ecopreneurist (14:21:59) :

[…] evolved over the last 50 years. In the spirit of the fabulous Core Industries, the age of the ‘PR stunt’ is dead. Your most valuable audiences are watching – make this Earth Day […]

14 05 2009
Green Printer Blog » Three coolest tech tools to shake-up your green marketing…. (11:53:07) :

[…] it! We told you it would be short. Stay tuned for the blog-blitzrieg next week through our “Design Goes Green” […]

14 05 2009
Three coolest, new tech tools to shake up your green marketing…. : Save a Tree - Print Green - Green Options (15:48:25) :

[…] it! We told you it would be short. Stay tuned for the blog-blitzrieg next week through our “Design Goes Green” series. Recommend this […]

25 05 2009
Green Printer Blog » Core Industry’s MacMurray on ‘Garden Electric’ and making the invisible visible (16:10:00) :

[…] Printer has interviewed rockstar interactive and strategic marketing, design and development firm Core Industries before (who clients include Live Earth, Pepsi and 1% for the Planet) and has been in touch with […]

25 05 2009
Core Industry’s MacMurray on ‘Garden Electric’ and making the invisible visible : Save a Tree - Print Green - Green Options (16:15:54) :

[…] Printer has interviewed rockstar interactive and strategic marketing, design and development firm Core Industries before (who clients include Live Earth, Pepsi and 1% for the Planet) and has been in touch with […]

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