The new standard for innovation requires sustainable products to be superior in the ways that matter to customers. Better, faster and cheaper motivations trump the "green" aspects of sustainability, environmental-friendliness and political correctness. There should be no need to rely on guilt or shame to promote an environmental option.
There is a widely held perception that green products are inferior, more expensive or both. They should be neither. At trade shows, customers have learned to expect disappointment when viewing various products being promoted as a means to change the world to make it a better place. Many green technology and product marketers caught swimming upstream against these quality and price barriers have felt the pain as their businesses fail to benefit shareholders and investors. Consider how much better things would be from the seller's perspective to sell a product that is an environmental game-changer, while being better, faster and cheaper than the competing products?
Consider an historical example that has gained recent relevance -- windmill power generation. The Dutch have been using windmills for hundreds of years to generate usable power against the main competing alternative of the time: oxen. These old windmills were costly structures to build, operate and maintain. However, the oxen were just as costly and difficult. Windmills are currently being erected in large numbers throughout the world. A big difference is that the now the main competing option is coal, a much more reliable and less expensive option per unit of energy produced than our modern windmills. Many investors, policy-makers and industry leaders have learned to appreciate the difficulties of pushing this environmental option against the lower cost coal option. Investors have lost their shirts, politicians have created complex schemes to contort the economics in favour of wind while industry leaders are paying higher amounts for electricity. The early Dutch experience was a less painful one because the innovation was not made swimming upstream against negative economics and a more reliable product.
|Peter P. Roosen, CEO, Castagra Products, Inc.|
Another example of such an innovation is our recent development of Castagra veggie-plastic (video below) building and construction materials. The concept is a fairly simple one, marketing plastics that are produced mainly from recycled gypsum wallboard and natural oils. The product is less expensive to produce than competing conventional plastics that are produced from petrochemicals, longer lasting due to properties of the natural living oils while being green and sustainable. This stacking and alignment of values from the customer perspective has been making it quite easy to market this new technology and the products derived from it.
It also resulted in the innovation having earned a $100,000 cash grand prize in front of millions of viewers of Canada's national greenvention competition featured in a one hour special episode of the top reality series Dragons' Den and the presenter named Canada's Top Eco-preneur. This stacking of positive values has made it unnecessary for policy-makers to create skewed economic schemes to create special conditions to allow the business to develop. Leading universities in Sweden, Canada, and the U.S. have come out to support the further development of Castagra's veggie-plastic technologies. Ironically, the technology has been gaining acceptance as a tank, pipe and infrastructure protective coating product in the oil and gas industry.
Industry leaders who strive and succeed in developing sustainable technologies that appeal to traditional customer values rather than offend them can expect to earn excellent rewards in our complex and dynamic marketplace. Those who are not able to do so and find themselves pushing their sustainable innovations in a quixotic fashion can expect lousy outcomes. Cramming inferior and costly green products and technologies down a customer's throat is not going to be an easy process. It should not. Nor should it be necessary to arbitrarily rig our economic system through complex regulations and schemes to determine winners and losers.
I wrote this article electronically, without paper or couriers and it has been published online. There is no shame in that.
Peter Roosen is the President and CEO at Castagra Products, Inc., a company focused on converting recycled gypsum wallboard into veggie-plastic building materials. He has worked in a number of industries including: automobile distribution, steelmaking, locomotive manufacturing, plastics processing, computer software and marketing.