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  • HSBC: the scene behind the green.

    Environment, Communication Design

    Hsbc-statement_432_

    The Set-up. HSBC has a marketing campaign out called "There's No Small Change". You've probably seen it. Beautiful close ups of leaves. I liked it visually more than almost any green campaign I've seen, but remained very skeptical of their commitment to the environment.

    Then I saw Nicole Rousseau, the VP of Retail Marketing at HSBC, in a panel discussion hosted by the Columbia Business School Alumni Club. The topic was the development of their campaign. I expected stats about the target market, profiles, growth of green marketing, data, data, data.

    What I learned was totally different.

    Nicole worked with green marketing consultant Jacquelyn Ottman and advertising agency JWT. They created a plan to empower individuals to make a difference. The campaign offered little things that customers could actually do, right now, and have an impact on the environment.

    Is This Enough? Is e-billing enough to conquer our environmental problems? No. But it takes the conversation out of "THE ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS" and into "I am working for change". Big first step, and much props to HSBC.

    Now they could just roll it out, but they didn't. They committed to get the whole organization on board. No small feat for a company with 2000 branches in the US. The understanding was that it doesn't work if your customer is empowered with e-billing while your branch is printing thousands of pounds of single sided paper on laser printers and tossing it out.

    So they came up with a play book for all the branches. The guidelines covered everything from printing habits and offices supplies, to cleaning chemicals and electrical use. They also started an environmental program that sends employees on educational nature retreats to deepen the connection and commitment to the environment. Additionally, informal internal environmental groups sprung up to champion activities started by branch associates. There were more dynamic results as well, I just don't remember all of it.

    All the environmental campaigns I have seen popping up in the last few years have focused on reporting about how AMAZING this or that company is with regard to the environment. Even though HSBC had good things in its history, they never focused on them. This is first time I've heard about a multi-national company pushing so hard to activate environmental awareness both inside the institution and in the hands of its customers.

    Get Real. Two things took this event beyond being just a convincing presentation for me.

    1. There were many branch associates in the crowd. I actually overheard a manager from Corporate Real Estate telling a bank associate that he was sending a new environmental checklist to gage the progress of the branches.

    2. Later, the same manager from Corporate Real Estate spoke up about a new test branch in upstate NY. It was built according to LEED standards. They are using it to calculate what technologies they can cost effectively apply to optimize existing branches, as well as developing a model for new branches.

    A Glitch in the System. So, I had to admit that even without all of this background, the campaign had worked. I had found the little suggestions on my bank statement engaging, and it shifted my perception about HSBC's environmental stand. Enough so to choose their credit card over other banks with better rates. (I don't intend to carry a balance.)

    The first bill comes hits my mailbox. Ooops! I forgot to sign up for e-billing! My bad. I open it, and what is there? Like ten little pieces of paper advertising things I REALLY don't want (photo above). I see how e-billing would make a difference. Yikes!

    I brought up this conflict of messages to Nicole and the panel. They assured me I wasn't the first to point it out.

    ;)

    This really highlights the challenge of transforming any large organization. There are so many systems in place that serve single principles, like maximizing returns, instead of sustainable principles, like minimizing material impact.

    In the End. I love that the moves they are making inside the organization are highlighting conflicts. Awareness is something that tends to infect holistically.

    Well, supposedly they are going to rectify the parallel marketing in paper bills some how. I will stick with paper for now, just to witness the change. I will also keep in touch with Nicole at HSBC about how they are evolving these paradoxes.

    I'd like to know that more big companies are really taking it on from macro to micro. I can just see all the personal bankers at home, staring at the garbage can, thinking "I could probably get a smaller trash can and squeeze the recycling bin next to it." That is really where it starts.

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