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January 14, 2006


Jason Graham-Nye

Facinating stuff Joel. We have just launched a flushable diaper on the west coast and are facing the 4/40 challenge ourselves. Will check out your sustainable consumption and production piece.



CEO - gDiapers

Rodney North

re: the "Trojan Horse" metaphor.
Without seeing the entire passage in context I'm not sure who is doing what regarding "Trojan Horses" but since it cited a sector my co-op focuses on (organic, Fair Trade goods) I'll weigh in.

In my 10 years in this field (CSR, natural foods, marketing) I know I've seen 2 versions of “Trojan Horse” efforts, and I've a strong hunch there's a third.

Version #1 - Committed entrepreneurs, almost always small businesses, with the occasional large company like Interface, introduce eco/socially responsible products to the conventional customer base, and try to educate them about the relevant issues, etc. (There's ALOT of this among small food companies. Nature Path and their cereal boxes are a good ex.)

Version #2 - Conventional bottom-line focused corporations introduce a few high-profile eco/socially responsible products as a Trojan Horse to cast a green glow that (they hope) blots out the other 99% of their unreformed operations.

Version #3 - (the one I THINK exists) progressive—but not senior—employees in conventional corporations introduce eco/socially conscious products or services into their offerings (maybe in a below-the-radar way) with the hope of engaging and gradually gaining support from their bottom-line minded bosses.

Do these 3 versions line up with your impressions?

Lastly, while some companies ARE trying to “make consumers greener despite themselves” I think just as often consumers are trying to “make corporations despite themselves”, too. Certainly in my business (organic/Fair Trade foods) a number of companies have been dragged into the category, often clearly against their will. Thankfully, most of them have come full-circle from openly criticizing organics & Fair Trade to actually promoting their commitment to the very same thing. Admittedly some of their advertising exaggerates that commitment – but that’s another story.



i think that it is hard to say considering i am an american citizen but good luck with it all


i think that it is hard to say considering i am an american citizen but good luck with it all

John Douglas Archer

Regarding, "Ideally, consumer product companies and their customers would engage in a robust conversation about how the former can profitably serve the latter's needs in a way that honors people and the planet -- and not simply sneak greener products into the mainstream."

While this is a lovely idea, I wonder where we could find examples and case histories of this strategy. In my limited understanding, I see the latter 'sneaking' of products and services into markets as the dominant market strategy through recent industrial history.

I have found novel examples of the ideal customer-company dialog mentioned above in "The New Principles of a Swarm Business" by Peter A. Gloor & Scott M. Cooper published in MIT Sloan Management Review, Reprint 48312:

"BMW posts numerous engineering challenges on its Web site, where customers and company designers network and collaborate to arrive at innovative solutions. After the company made a toolset available to help consumers design features of future cars, it received thousands of responses, and some of those ideas are now being implemented.”

“Migros owes much of its success to its swarm of devoted customers who have helped it expand into a wide range of markets, including banking, insurance, travel services and gasoline stations. In fact, the company has deployed the principles of a swarm business for decades to transform itself into one of the largest enterprises in Switzerland. Ironically, a growing number of high-tech and Web companies are only now rediscovering these same core principles.”

“MySpace.com of Santa Monica, California, became one of the most successful social-networking sites on the Web. MySpace allows users to create their own personal identities in the ways they want. This freedom is a large part of why the site has become so central to youth culture in the United States, allowing the company’s founders to complete a $580 million sale of the business to Rupert Murdoch’s New York-based News Corporation. Contrast this with Friendster Inc., a San Francisco-based company that began a similar site but with preset notions of how users should be compelled to create their profiles and what those profiles would have to include. From its launch, Friendster was a hot socialnetworking portal that grew rapidly, but it was soon eclipsed by MySpace. The difference: Friendster sought to control its users, whereas MySpace gained power by empowering them.”

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