Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What is the Secret Green Sauce? An interview with author Bill Roth

Last November we announced here on a new collaboration with Bill Roth on his new book - THE SECRET GREEN SAUCE™ : Best Pr
actices being used by actual businesses to grow green profits. Eco-Libris is planting one tree for every copy sold! Readers will also receive with their copy our "One tree planted for this book" sticker they can put on the book (except when the purchase is made via Amazon).

This is a very interesting and recommended read for anyone who wants to get a better understanding of what is the green economy all about. Roth's book is even more important nowadays when companies begin to think of the challenges they will face in post-recession era. Therefore we decided to interview Bill Roth and learn more about his Secret Green Sauce.

Hello Bill. What is the Secret Green Sauce and what makes your recipe uni

The “secret” is that there are actual companies growing green revenues even in this economy.

The Secret Green Sauce is the best practices (“secret sauce”) on how they grow revenues providing customers with “cost less, mean more” solutions.

The key ingredients of The Secret Green Sauce are:

  1. Align value with values.

So many wonderful green companies begin with values as their focus. What market research says is price is still king in terms of consumer decision making. The successful businesses I profile have both eyes focused upon competitively pricing their sustainable products.

  1. Prove it, Conclusively:

Consumers are totally confused on what to buy and who to buy from. This is a tremendous opportunity for companies that can “Prove It, Conclusively” to the customer’s satisfaction that their product is beneficial to the customer and the environment.

  1. Know it, Embrace it.

Consumers are using the internet to figure out what to buy and who to buy from rather than relying upon advertising claims. They are engaged in a learning, experimentation and then procurement process. The companies I profile are marketing in a manner that aligns with, and enables, this customer process.

What brought you to write this book?

In the summer of 2009 I was attending a major national conference where I kept hearing attendees wishing there were speakers talking about how to grow green revenues. I had this “a ha!” moment where I realized that my national network of companies developed while serving as the Green Business Coach for Entrepreneur.com had the answers to this question.

From this insight I founded Earth 2017 (http://www.earth2017.com) to host free blogs and tweets cutting-edge research/results, I wrote The Secret Green Sauce to provide “how to” case study examples, I am designing a training seminar that will provide instruction on how to price, brand and market sustainability to grow revenues and, of course, I continue to provide strategic green business coaching to businesses and entrepreneurs.

In your book you write that "As early as 2017, a tipping point will occur where going green no longer means paying more." Is it still true with the failures in Copenhagen and DC to regulate carbon emissions?

Green is emerging as the least cost solution even without the needed action of governments.

Peak Everything is a great term that, while not correct in terms of classic economics, conveys the salient point that with world consumption growing faster than world supply, the prices for carbon-centric goods and services will increase dramatically.

As sustainable alternatives gain manufacturing economies of scale their price to the consumer will drop. The “tipping point” is when “unsustainability’s” price increases reach price parity with sustainability’s declining prices. My current economic analysis projects that by 2017 the price competitiveness of sustainability will support a $10 trillion annual global revenue economy!

If the U.S. government were to reflect the true cost of “unsustainability” at the pump, meter and cash register then this will accelerate things. But the key point is that the economics of supply and demand will eventually do what governments can’t seem to achieve in advancing the adoption of sustainability.

Your book is full with examples of companies that make money due to the adoption of green strategy and practices. What is your favorite one?

Amanda’s. It is maybe the first healthy fast food restaurant. But the value of Amanda’s story is that it encapsulates the entire potential of what is happening. The company’s founder is Amanda West. She has an MBA from Stanford and worked in Silicon Valley. But her passion is human health. She is a great example of the type of business pioneers that are growing green revenues. Super smart and very motivated with a strong vision that she can make a lot of money producing a positive difference.

Her restaurant has two key product characteristics critical to growing green revenues. She is price competitive and her food is truly healthy for people and the environment. I strongly encourage every business person to read Chapter Eight of The Secret Green Sauce on Amanda’s best practices. Even in these economically challenging times for restaurants, Amanda’s is achieving year over year sales increases!

You're talking in your book about the Awareness Customer that is leading the Green Economic Revolution - why do we see so many of those in surveys and so few (relatively) in reality?

One of the great misconceptions in business is that consumers are not buying green. There are two reasons for this. The first is that consumers really don’t talk about buying green. That’s why I coined the term Awareness Customer. The Millennial Generation talks about cool, interactive and their future. They buy iTunes because it is cool, interactive and it doesn’t have the emission/waste stream of CDs that includes manufacturing plastic disks, plastic/paper packaging, and truck deliveries to stores requiring heating/cooling with lots of electric lighting.

Their moms, Concerned Caregivers, talk about wellness for their loved ones. And the Sustainable CEOs (over half of the Fortune 500 companies now track their CO2 emissions) express “green” by talking about compliance along with some vague marketing appreciation that going green aligns with their customers’ values.

The second major reason is price. Except for The Millennial Generation, consumers won’t pay more for “green.” But, market research says if the price of a more sustainable product is at least equal to the price of the less sustainable product almost very consumer will buy the more sustainable product.

If going green is such a great business opportunity, why don't we see a critical mass of companies going green? What's the main obstacle here?

Price, price, price. What I started seeing this past summer was green company after green company focused upon price. Before this summer so many green companies thought their product was so valuable to the environment that customers would pay more. The maturation of green business understanding on the requirement to be price competitive is a huge step in the mass marketing of sustainability.

Do you think that the principle of "Cost Less, Mean More" can apply to every company, no matter what it sector it belongs to?

Absolutely. My favorite example is my small town (Moraga California) and one of our local Chinese restaurants. We have this little group called Sustainable Moraga that helped pioneer community use of CFLs and tote bags to carry groceries. Some of the members reached out to this wonderful restaurant owner who really wanted to grow his business and do right. They educated him on organic food.

Long story made short, last night when I picked up a to-go order he kept saying, “Too busy, too busy.” There is much more depth to this story than this brief paragraph but one key point is that if a first-generation American starting his first business can apply these best practices to the point where he is “too busy” then that says every business has a similar path toward being “too busy.”

In the book you discuss the question "Is sustainability a path for building stockholder value?" - What is your answer?

YES. Financial research is now documenting that more sustainable companies are outperforming less sustainable companies on their stock valuations by over 400 basis points (100 basis points equals 1%, so if a mortgage is 5% then it is 500 basis points).

The business principal for this result is pretty obvious based upon the best practices in The Secret Green Sauce: Sell More At Lower Costs. Chapter 7 on Increasing Stock Value explains why more sustainable companies are achieving this competitive advantage. It is a must read for every CEO and CFO.

What do you tell a company that asks your advice on how to go green? What is the first step?

Design a sustainable strategy that prices through aligning value with values, helps your customers figure out you are really green through Prove It, Conclusively branding and that reaches-out/aligns with your customer through a Know it, Embrace it marketing plan. A key tool for developing/executing such a strategy is what one of my profiled entrepreneurs calls “Getting To First Base.” It is a process that answers these two questions, “Which way to first base?” and “How do I get to first base?” This is one of the major elements of my consulting practice.

Are you still optimistic?

110%! America is in pain right now. When Americans are in pain we become highly motivated and our freedom allows us to develop innovative solutions. Laws and tax policies that support doing right would really help. But the bottom line is that America’s entrepreneurs and pioneering businesses are figuring out how to deliver “cost less, mean more” solutions that will restore our jobs, economy and environment. It’s all in The Secret Green Sauce.

Thank you, Bill!

Bill Roth, Green Business Coach for Entrepreneur.com and the founder of
Earth 2017, partnered with Eco-Libris in the past to green up his important book, "On Empty (Out of Time)".He is offering a FREE 1st chapter on Earth 2017 website. The book is available for sale both in a paper and electronic versions on the website at www.earth2017.com/free-the-secret-green-sauce

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!