25 Jan 2011

“WindMade” as a trust mark: the uphill battle begins

Written by Jim Pierobon

Survey after survey in the U.S. shows renewable energy draws strong support. But the clean energy industries are fighting uphill battles in trying to translate that “support” into legislative and regulatory action and even better, retail sales. Getting households and businesses to purchase clean energy in states with retail choice is confronting numerous hurdles, not the least of which is a dubious sales pitch at times.

A related bid comes from Vestas and Global Wind Energy Council as they unveil a “WindMade” label this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Trying to improve the reputation of an organization or the perceived value of a product/service based on whether a manufacturer powers its operations with wind energy is a tall order.  Individuals are proving to be pliable ground. So this challenge is mostly about getting them to express their values using their pocketbooks. In the process they try to pressure organizations they buy from to change their energy purchasing habits, even when the raw economics don’t justify it.

This video from Vestas walks viewers through their rationale and provides some historical perspective on how consumers have been able to influence business practices. Perhaps choosing “brands that choose wind” can make a good run of it — at least outside the U.S.

Until the federal government puts a cost on the “external” costs of burning fossil fuels (aka “externalities”), the U.S. will remain in the shadows of more creative energy marketing. Yes the U.S. has its Energy Star label and GE is experimenting with “Ecomagination.” But the ‘Mad Men’ in New York City have little, if anything, on new-age professionals such as Morten Albaek, senior vice president of global marketing at Vestas Wind Systems, based in Aarhus, Denmark.  WindMade is his brainchild.

“I truly cannot see,” Albaek says, “why there should not be 1,000 corporations — and I mean that literally . . . that will join, that will be progressive enough, intelligent enough, modern enough to show the world that the corporate world can lead in fundamentally changing how we act and react to the challenges that confront us.” See his profile in in the upcoming February issue of Fast Company magazine.

Read this advertorial about WindMade in the January 24 edition of TheDailyBeast.com which opens by citing a Chinese proverb: “When the wind changes directions, there are those who build walls and those who build windmills.”

And here is a brief history of trust marks /certification labels and how they’ve struggled to gain mindshare among consumers, also from Fast Company.

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