Thursday, 18 June 2009

Draft Article for Mediacat (Turkey)

Nokia: The Power Of We

When recently researching what brands have been up to in the two years since I wrote The Green Marketing Manifesto, I was particularly impressed with Nokia.

Firstly, being green is not just a marketing matter. Either a company is committed to it and leading the way, or it is not. One of the reasons I chose to look into Nokia is I already knew about their “Power of We” programme that started with internal change, as a judge at last year’s Green Awards, where Nokia won the overall Grand Prix.

Here’s what their CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvio says on the subject of sustainability:
“Thousands of Nokia people have made sustainable, environmentally sensitive practices an integral part of our day to day business. With more than a billion people using Nokia phones globally, we feel we have a responsibility to make a difference. Even in these tough economic times, environmental sustainability is not just the right thing to do, it is the only thing to do and makes good business sense.”

If you look into what Nokia are doing as a company you will find all the usual good stuff; like dramatically reducing their energy and waste. The company set targets for CO2 emissions since 2006 and they report publicly how they are doing on reducing their footprint. Their phones are certified as free of conflict metals, such as tantalum from the Congo (whereas with some other phones you are basically paying to arm soldiers or rebels). Nokia has consistently been named the number one electronics brand in Greenpeace’s Greener Electronics Guide. And it has won the phone industry (GSMA) first CEO Award for Outstanding Environmental Contribution.

Given all of this it’s pretty impressive that Nokia have not been shouting about their green credentials in advertising. Rather than claiming green they have been doing green. For instance in basic initiatives like encouraging people to unplug their charger (in some popular models Nokia also fitted a ‘finished charging’ alert) and putting recycling collection points into retail, including a major new push in India this year.

Sustainability isn’t only about energy and carbon. Mobile phones have been playing a leading role in African development projects. And Nokia have been in there since 2005 working with Grameen, founded by Nobel Prize winner Mohammed Yunus, helping to ensure they can build an accessible mobile network in countries like Rwanda.

Mobile applications have been big news in the last few years and Nokia has been behind some nice green apps. Green Explorer hives you green travel tips and helps you locate local green services. Freecycle is a 6.5 million member web phenomenon whereby if you are about to through something away, you can give it to someone else instead. Nokia just helped them provide the same service on mobile. They have also introduced a home management system (currently being trialled) using the mobile to monitor and control your home energy along with a host of other smart home functions.

We also live in the age of the social network. Nokia have for some time operated a partnership with the WWF and IUCN in the connect2earth community site, on the web as well as mobile. Here you can learn about environmental issues, exchange ideas and content like video and ask experts about key themes and actions.

Like many of the smartest corporations, Nokia has been embracing open innovation where instead of assuming they have all the answers they brief ‘the world’ to come up with solutions too. They held a $150,000 prize challenge for phone apps which could ‘improve life on this planet’. Just one example of what came out of this was an Green Phone app to manage all the settings on your phone to minimize its power use.

As far as green phones go, the Nokia Evolve is one of the best around, in energy, materials and so on. But Nokia have also been experimenting with some more advanced concepts, which are also highly appealing if you are a bit of a tree hugger. Like the Remade concept (made out of old tin cans and all sorts of other waste material) Or another concept phone where the case is made from reclaimed wood.

Nokia recently gave a glimpse as well of some of the innovation programmes they are working on: ways to make chargers use zero power except when the phone needs it; and developing ways for people to upgrade phones digitally rather than buying new devices. The most fascinating and high tech was that their researchers may have found a way to do away with the phone charger already. Instead the phones can draw waste power from ambient electromagnetic radiation (like Wifi and TV signals) – a trickle but enough to keep a phone topped up. It’s a good example of a green benefit, which is also just a great consumer proposition; you will never need to remember to charge a phone again.

Why I like Nokia’s efforts is that firstly they have got the basics right. Despite being the biggest they are also by far the greenest. And they have got this good by helping every employee see this as a central part of their job, not an add on. Their focus externally is on innovation, education, community and great green utilities. And they are not too proud to partner, getting many of their best ideas from outside inventors, NGOs and consumers. Of course they are not perfect, they are still a big business with a huge impact and still a little too addicted to the business model where we treat phones as throwaway fashion. But given where we are starting from they are making big steps in the right direction.

(Declaration of Interest: I don’t currently work for Nokia – I think the last time they paid me for any advice was 2001 – I just think they are doing a pretty good job without me).

1 comment:

Nick said...

Hi John

Having worked with Nokia in the last year, looking at - amongst other things - their green credentials with consumers, I have to agree that they're doing a great job as a company.

The one thing I don't understand is why they AREN'T making more noise about this.

I understand that this could open them up to criticism and isn't without risk.

But by not showing their true colours are they missing an opportunity to boost their image but also set a good example for the rest of the industry to follow?