A Changing American Landscape

Monday, July 27, 2009 by Roger Kerrison , under

The change was obvious, it was like not seeing your 3 year old nephew for 18 months. The difference is striking. Maybe it was because the last time I travelled to North America everything was about the election and nothing much in between, but during this stay in North America it has been obvious that sustainability has become a core subject.

The first thing that led me to this conclusion was during my usual round of google news-ing (is there a term for this I wonder) which has developed over time into a well refined amount of keyword searches. Having gnewsed "carbon label" a barrage of results ensued around Walmart making the
announcement that it had decided all its products should display an environmental measurement at some point in the future. This was the big news of the day and as I turned on the hotel TV a number of news channels were running it as a story.

After watching TV for a while and seeing adverts for such goods as green bags and hybrid cars,
Martha Stewart's cooking show came on. She had one of her staff members cook a family classic, a sort of mexican spice infused fish stew. At this point having had little to time to digest the sudden onslaught of sustainability propaganda just put in front of me the second thing occured, and this was the knockout punch, Martha turned to her TV audience and told them that the only fish they should use in this stew should be certified sustainable.

These two moments gave me an insight into the changing (or maybe changed) green market in North America. If supermarkets and the media (as well as advertisers) are now actively promoting sustainability as a choice, how long will it be before environmental credentials such as carbon, water, resource usage, land stewardship, agrochemical use and social equity become soft market entry requirements - or as put
here, trade restrictions.

As always with sustainability this change offers both risk and opportunity, but really it is a
wake up call for producers to start measuring their (and their supply chains) environmental impacts, understanding how competitive they are and how these impacts can be reduced. Of course it will also allow early adopters to take the high ground and potentially build new markets for their products.