Environmental Forum readers, today I'm pleased to introduce you to Jim Henscheid from Wells Fargo. Jim reviews and approves our environmental marketing materials.
While reading the blog, you may have noticed that we've been using quotation marks around the words "green" and "greener." Since this isn't a common practice with other companies, we asked Jim if using the quotation marks were necessary. For his response to our question, I turn the blog over to him! (—SR)
Hello everybody! First off, let me say that I understand how cumbersome it can be to use quotes around "green" and "greener" in our communications (like here on the blog) and marketing documents. But after a thorough discussion—that leaned in both directions at times—with other people in our Legal department, we believe it's best to continue using quotes to point out to our readers that Wells Fargo understands the terms can still have a vague meaning and that there is no clear understanding of their definition.
A good argument against the use of quotes is that "green" and "greener" have come into general, public use as they relate to descriptions of matters beneficial to the environment.
Even so, there's been a push from those in the heart of environmental issues that green and greener (without quotes) are being over-used and have actually begun to be meaningless. In fact, there even appears to be somewhat of a backlash from environmental groups against people who over-use those terms without any clear consensus on the meaning.
For example, if a company enacts a program that reduces its water consumption by 5%, is it a "green" company? Can two companies be labeled as "green" when one reduces paper consumption by 3% and the other reduces paper consumption by 25%? Wells Fargo clearly supports environmental issues, so it would be a shame to use the terms without quotes and have people be critical of us for not understanding the controversy around there being no clear definition of "green" and "greener."
One suggestion going forward is for us to be clearer about WHY we're "greener," rather than just using the word, and to be as specific as possible about our environmental activities. So instead of simply saying our stores are getting "greener," we can specify exactly WHAT the environmentally-friendly activities are—such as installing solar panels on rooftops, or reducing greenhouse gases, etc.
At the end of the day, I believe telling our readers more specifically what Wells Fargo is doing to benefit the environment may give us more credibility than just claiming to be "green."
Do you agree? Is the use of "green" to describe positive environmental initiatives acceptable to you? Please tell us what you think!