Gary (right), Clean Currents President with Rich (left), Owner of wind powered Gryphon Cafe in Wayne, PA
The challenge of our times is finding authenticity in the midst of so much that's contrived or outright phony. From lip-syncing inauguration performances to "green" products pushed by polluting companies, consumers are bombarded daily by examples of inauthentic behavior and greenwashing corporations. It's so easy to throw up your hands and say "a pox on all of your houses." The harder route though is the one our children and future generations are relying on us to take. We need to understand and support authenticity in all of its forms.
Authenticity for a company starts from within. Look at who the founders are, at the people that make up the key positions. Do their backgrounds convey values that align with their company or don't they match the green shine on their logo? Perhaps more importantly, authenticity comes from third party verification. It's not enough for a company to claim to operate sustainably. A company has to prove it is sustainable in a transparent, inclusive way.
Being certified as a B Corp is right now the best way for a company to prove its sustainability bona-fides. Look at the list of B Corps in your area and make them your top list of businesses to shop from. Green America certification is another good measure. At Clean Currents, we're proud to be both Green America certified and a B Corp. We started the company to show that business can be a force for good (in part due to the fact that our two founders - myself and Charles Segerman - come from environmental and sustainability backgrounds). We've built a culture at Clean Currents that attracts people who want to change the world while building a business.
Sometimes, though, good authentic businesses can get derailed after they are bought by a large corporation. A recent legislative battle in California illustrates the importance of companies adhering to their mission, even when purchased in an acquisition. Health, environmental and consumer advocates joined forces to try to pass Prop 37, which would have simply required companies to disclose on a label if they use Genetically Modified (GMO) food. Kellogg food joined other big corporations in pouring millions of dollars into the effort to defeat this bill. No surprise there.
But the fact that Kellogg owns Kashi, an organic food brand that states on its Facebook page, "At Kashi, we believe in the power of positive change...." should make consumers think twice. Yes, the product may be organic, but if the company behind the product is killing bills that make for a better, healthier world, then maybe there are better places to shop.
On the other side, you have companies like Clif Bar, which create healthy products and donated money to support Prop 37. In the end, the mega corporations outspent supporters of the bill by about 6 to 1, and were able to defeat the measure in a close vote. The point is applicable to many kinds of industries.
In the clean energy world we have companies like Clean Currents, that walk the walk, supporting positive environmental initiatives, and we have some large corporations that make their money from fossil fuels, but create a shiny green product to market to consumers. The question these consumers have to ask is, "is my energy supplier as green as I am?" In most cases, with a little digging, the unfortunate answer is "no." Discerning consumers can figure out the truth. It just takes a little more work.