SIMA Green Boot Camp Recap
I (Bill) attended SIMA Green Boot Camp yesterday and have to say I enjoyed the experience. Since we are pretty entrenched in the PR world for surf and the action sports industry in general, I thought it was something I should at least check out. It was definitely worth my $75 non-SIMA membership fee, even in these tough economic times.
The event was held in three stages, minus the networking breakfast and address by Sean Smith, SIMA’s Executive Director. I’ll give you a quick run-down and my thoughts as well.
Sean is a pretty solid speaker and presenter. I’ve only met him once at ASR and… well, that’s ASR, so I was impressed by what I saw on stage.
He made the point that since day one, surfing has been tied to the environment. So while it hasn’t always been a focus, the surf industry does need to keep it in mind if we expect to have a continued existence. Otherwise, we can just let Hollister take over (my thoughts, not Sean’s).
I disagreed with Sean on one point, and that comes to his statement with regards to cause related marketing. To paraphrase Sean’s opinion, he’s just not a fan of CRM, or rather, claiming CRM. He seemed to feel that if you’re doing something for a good cause, you shouldn’t market or brag about it. That’s a good thought, but I disagree.
CRM, while we tend to consider it a charitable/consumer benefiting term, really relates to a broader spectrum of marketing, especially in surf. For example, Billabong puts on the XXL Global Big Wave awards every year. They’re promoting big wave riding and at the same time, giving surfing more exposure. That’s a cause… with the benefit being the surf industry.
When it comes to more charitable or green initiatives, I feel brands should do what they can to promote their endeavors, if at the least, to get other brands to do something similar for the benefit of all. Regardless of if it’s Boarding for Breast Cancer or an environmental initiative such as project BLUE, CRM is a point of differentiation for brands and should be promoted.
Just my opinion and not a slag against Sean.
Step by Step: The Why and How of Carbon Footprinting – Jenny Bravo, tax leader from Deloitte’s Enterprise Sustainability Group
Lots of key learnings and questions for Jenny. Turns out there are numerous incentives to taking eco-steps with your business, not to mention looming legislation that could cause some tax headaches if you’re not on top of it.
The Future of Green Products Panel Discussion:
This was moderated by Rob Campbell, publisher of TransWorld Business and included the following panelists:
Vipe Desai / Founder, Project Blue
Rob McCarty / Senior Design Director, Billabong
Derek Sabori / General Manager, Volcom V.Co-Logical Society Environmental Affairs Division
This is probably what the most panelists came to check out.
Overall, the discussion was pretty lively and informative.
Someone from Vans commented that they had consumer research stating that contrary to popular belief, consumers won’t want to pay extra for eco-friendly products. Someone else commented on a Piper study to the contrary. Derek Sabori hit it on the head though, and I know this first hand from experience.
Derek mentioned that Volcom has produced eco-friendly boardshorts in the past, but due to manufacturing needs, these were typically brown or black in color… not super sexy to a lot of surfers. From working with both project BLUE and IPATH, I can tell you first hand that for a product that’s eco to sell well in this industry, it has to perform and look like everything else. If it looks too crunchy, it’s only going to appeal to the hippy set. Tyler Callaway from Surf Hardware / FCS made a similar statement about some recycled fins they’re making now. Unfortunately due to production issues, their “green fins” are actually green. While that’s ok for some, a lot of people still want the clear/translucent/colored products, regardless of eco-impact.
Rob McCarty seems to feel the same way I do and their Eco-Supreme Suede boardshorts mirror that design. More than three million plastic bottles have gone into the design of these and they look anything but hippy. That’s good, especially, as Rob Mignogna of Mignogna Consulting mentioned, there’s a giant garbage patch in the pacific filled with plastic containers.
Ryan Divel from …Lost made a good point that it’s hard for some medium sized brands to change their ways with limited resources. Vipe was quick to point out that you don’t need to have a patented fabric such as Billabong’s Eco-Supreme Suede to begin taking eco-steps. You can do it in small doses, maybe by limiting packaging or simply auditing energy waste internally at your company.
As what happens sometimes during the Q&A phase, some people make statements instead of questions. Lots of people accused the industry of blowing it, including someone sitting next to Bob (sorry, couldn’t see his name tag), who stated basically that Patagonia was going to take over the surf industry. His rationale was that because of their advanced state of eco and team members that include the Malloy brothers, Patagonia is poised to take over surf.
Offline, I spoke with some colleagues that thought he couldn’t be more wrong. While Patagonia is a fantastic brand, they’re far from poised to take massive bites out of Volcom, Quiksilver, etc. Why? Marketing. Patagonia kills it from an eco and outdoor perspective, but the Malloy’s don’t appeal to everyone. Action sports is both a product and marketing driven world, probably more about image than performance in some instances. If Patagonia were to take over the surf industry, either there’d need to be a huge shift in consumer taste towards the Patagonia style or Patagonia would need to shift their style closer to what’s selling in surf. Not to say it couldn’t happen… I just think it’s unlikely.
Overall, solid panel. Rob Campbell kept everyone on track, even when some people wanted to ask more than their fair share of questions. I’ve seen Rob moderate similar events and he seems to have a solid balance for letting people speak their minds, but also steering the conversation back to what the panel is actually about.
Overall, another theme was the lack of education regarding eco, from the employee level to reps to retailers. Vipe mentioned that most shops don’t have an eco-area and if they did, maybe consumers would flock to it. Throwing an organic cotton t-shirt in with all the others on the rack does not bode well for differentiation.
Save Trestles – Stefanie Sekich, coastal campaign specialist
(pic courtesy of OB Rag.org)
Stefanie gave a great presentation on the Save Trestles campaign Surfrider put together. Most probably know the campaign, but Stefanie gave some great key learnings not just on what the capaign accomplished, but on how they accomplished it with a very limited budget.
Well, that’s it. If anyone has comments about their experience at the Boot Camp or questions, please feel free to drop us a line.