Brands invest an incredible amount of money into making us, the consumer, trust them as a business, buy their products and move on to be advocates of the brand indefinitely.

But what happens when you find out a brand you have trusted, bought, used and enjoyed for years turns out to be doing the wrong thing when it comes to sustainability and the environment.

Have you got a moral obligation to stop buying their products even though you love them, well I think you do.  You too can call to account those brands behaving badly.

It happened to me this week when I found out that John West’s fishing practices are unsustainable and that these practices are a threat to many fish species, dolphins etc. around the world.  Sure they have a reduction plan in place and are phasing down the unsustainable catch practices, but only after Greenpeace and WWF called them to account and for me it is still too long before a complete change will take place.

Now when I say I loved John West products I have been eating their Mackerel, their Tuna, their Kippers and their Sardines for as long as I can remember and since I became a vegaquarian, a vegetarian who also eats seafood, also known by the more common name of Pescetarian, they had become a staple part of my diet for breakfasts & lunches.

But no more, my values from an environmental standpoint have to far out way my enjoyment of their product and the convenience they offer.

So this raises a few issues, one is I have to find an alternative and that is not easy in the packaged seafood business, then how can I be sure the next choice I make haven’t gone down the same track as John West, all in the name of growth & profit.  This is just a problem that requires a few minutes of research and commitment, I understand it is a barrier to change, but a little effort can go a long way.

However the big issue here is what other brands am I consuming/supporting that are just not focused enough on good practice sustainability and doing the right thing by the environment?

For instance the banks I bank with, what are they funding, what are their values when it comes to the resource sector, do they have the planet or the profit at heart when the funding opportunities present themselves?

I guess any bank connected with the coal industry should have a cloud over them.  Not so much for the long term existing fossil fuel needs but more so the investment into new fossil fuel developments, and yes these investments continue to happen.  Whereas a progressive, stand with hand on heart bank, claiming the environmental high ground, could have a policy to invest only in renewable energy sources and not the outdated fossil fuel arena.  If any bank could  honestly do this I am sure the masses would applaud them with their business.

I guess the list of what we buy & use every year is so substantial that to run the check on the business practices of these brand owners makes it a pretty tough call to constantly keep our values in-line with our purchases.  But any improvement in this arena is better than none, all the small parts help.

If you want to ensure your habits aren’t adding to the poor planet management  just randomly pick brands that you use and have done for quite some time, and do a Google search using a ‘Boolean’ search method of the + sign between your selected brand and say the word ‘sustainability’ or ‘environment’ or ‘animal+testing’ i.e. Revlon+animal+testing as the search, or john west+sustainability.

Just be aware most large brands have deep pockets and can focus heavily on SEO,  enabling the message they want you to read has risen to the top of the search results, facts are sometimes say, clouded, if you want to know the true source of any story “just follow the money trail” , as such it is best to read the independent source sites.

My apologies for my environmental indulgence here but Branded Entertainment played a big part, very early in the tech age, for John West.

There wouldn’t be too many gen Xr’s that didn’t see the John West viral campaign with the man fetching salmon from the same river as a sleuth of Grizzly bears, when he gets into a slapstick fight with one.  Now I take my hat off to John West for that pearler, it was ahead of it’s time, engaging and hilarious.  No doubt it also completed a couple of the campaign objectives, lifting the brand profile (value) and increasing product sales (profit), but in hindsight, at what cost.

So the message here, to both consumers of products (all of us) and consumers & advocates of well orchestrated Branded Entertainment campaigns (a lot of us), is that we all have a responsibility to ensure, what might be funny, engaging & send-on worthy, that we are not being played by the puppeteers of profit for their gain but at too great a cost, I guess it’s time to play more an active part in the lifespan, reach & credibility of any Branded Entertainment in any form, it has also become our responsibility not just to go after bragging rights, first in your contacts with the ‘new’ campaign, but also to be your own private censorship board to help the planet, even in the smallest of ways.

Summarising the message – check it before you spend on it, send it or promote it… is it a brand behaving badly!

First Published – Sean Brown 2011