Andrea Learned's blog

The Unheralded Beauty and Power of Social Capital

What drives you?

This question emerges at key transition points in most career journeys. When that gets nailed down, the world opens up – and a person’s potential impact as a change agent is likely to explode.

So, what has made the difference and brought an ever-increasing sense of purpose to my own work? The combination of writing and connecting via social media with so many different kinds of people from diverse fields with a range of expertise. What a...

Why The C-Suite Needs a Chief Sustainability Officer

Does your corporation intend to be in business in another 100 years? Adding a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) to your C-Suite may make the difference. But do enough CEOs understand the sustainability role and why it matters? It’s not clear.

A new report from The Weinreb Group, CSO Backstory II: The Evolution of the Chief Sustainability Officer, should serve as a wake-up call on that front. Though there has been progress, with...

Social Media IS Professional Development

Communications has a bad rap. Long (and wrongly) suffering a “soft skill” or lower priority taint, it – at the same time – is considered a key leadership strength. What? The disconnect has harmed the practice, and even seeing it as a “practice” or separate role has harmed the integration of communication into EVERYONE’s job.  Not to discount at all the importance of deeply trained marketing and communications professionals, but the power of their work is only further enhanced by more corporate leaders who can authentically (and comfortably) contribute...

You May Lead, But Do You Influence?

Who are the leaders in corporate sustainability? When you hear that question, do you think of an individual or a brand name? The average business-aware person would likely spout brand names like Unilever or Coca Cola, given the coverage they get for various sustainability related practices. But, does knowing that these corporations “lead” mean they also influence others in learning and furthering sustainability in the broader sense? Not necessarily.

Individuals have much more power to influence....

Relational Skills: The Secret Sauce for Business Leadership

The definition of business leadership has changed, a lot, since the 1950s. The fact that there are many more women in leadership positions these days is rightly getting plenty of coverage now. But, beyond celebrating that women are bringing “it” to the table, what “it” is has yet to be been given its full due.

What I’m talking about are relational skills and traits. Things like practicing...

The Counterintelligence of Sustainability

One of the things that so intrigues me about sustainability is the way it forces a hard look in the opposite direction for just about every business topic.  For instance, you’d think “green marketing” would demand an overt or visible approach, but green or sustainable marketing seems to be most effective when it uses a transparent approach.  Or, you’d think that to build your organization’s sustainability leadership you’d go about it in the traditional way – creating executive level...

Consumer Sustainability Thinking: Making Stuff Last

In the category of sustainability “hidden in plain sight,” I spy another example.  According to a New York Times article by Matt Richtel, consumers are found to be holding onto – get this – even their cellphones and TVs(!) a little longer these days.

Do pigs now fly?

Not the last time I checked, but the numbers mentioned in Richtel’s piece are intriguing:

But in some important categories there are

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Sustainability Packaged Effectively

I don’t often post quick links, but this article in the U.K.’s Daily Mail spoke to me of my latest obsession – sustainability hidden in plain sight.  Except this time, it is sustainability packaged in a way that will resonate with a lot of previous naysayers.  If greed and the U.S. Navy won’t convince people about climate change, nothing...

Learned: Gender Evolution

(LEARNED) "The End of Men?" A recent article by Hanna Rosin in The Atlantic got me thinking.  And her words were not as inflammatory as you may imagine.  Instead, her article takes a sweeping look at how our culture has evolved from an organizing principle of patriarchy to a situation that looks much the opposite.  She makes the point that times have simply changed with regard to measures of economic success.  The talents of all adults - not just half of them - are the key.

So if time’s up for the patriarchy, does that mean we’re heading full speed to a matriarchy?  No. We need to equally value what men and women contribute, and to encourage them to do so using their own unique styles.  We can get there if our culture, and the media that covers it, stops emphasizing the extremes.

In my mind, what lies in the center of the pendulum swing between extremes is most important.  And this middle ground is key in both our gendered work culture and our sustainable business practices.

The "women’s era" seems to be all the buzz right now. But the truth may be that things have shifted to give men the opportunity to learn as much about "feminine" ways of thinking as women have already learned about "masculine" ways of thinking.  Times are indeed different.  But both men and women are adapting.  We are all settling in to that pendulum center.

Robert Cialdini is My Hero: Sustainability “Social Proof”

When people see that their neighbors have more energy efficient households, it GETS them!  My absolute hero (and someone whose work I am closely studying for my master’s thesis), Robert Cialdini, is now leveraging his “social proof” compliance technique for sustainability purposes.  A New York Times article by Saqib Rahim reports on Cialdini’s post-academic career in studying consumer behavior and energy efficiency as chief scientist for...

Sustainability Pledge: Walk The Talk

With a foot in both the academic and business worlds currently – I find myself intrigued that a lot of colleges/universities are taking such a lead in committing their facilities and community to new journeys in sustainability, while corporations are lagging way behind.   Some companies may be ramping up  marketing efforts, for certain, but what about the basics of first engaging the humans in their businesses with sustainability on a more personal level?   It goes beyond the recycling bin in the corner and the automatic lights in the restrooms.

Let’s learn from the many institutions of higher learning that have sustainability pledges, as they are all quite similar.  Harvard’s – which comes up first in a Google search, is a nice example.

Nothing too bold or scary here.  However, by putting such a list in front of your nose and occasionally glancing at it, you will – much more likely – stop and think a bit.  You may even start to change your own behavior.  Checklists are powerful stuff: Do you take the stairs as often as possible?  Do you unplug computers and turn off lights?  Do you walk, bike or take the subway more often than getting into a car or bus?

My question: Where are all the corporate sustainability pledges?

Know Women, Know Sustainable Consumers

There is more than meets the eye in what we know about how women buy (poetry not intended).  And, fortunately for us, that means we’ve got a lot of information at the ready to help better serve the sustainably minded consumer.

My argument has always been that marketing to women was not a “whole new, complicated thing” compared to marketing done before we acknowledged women’s particular ways of buying.  Instead, marketing to women encompasses an understanding toward fine tuning the smartest marketing to the toughest customer.  Today, marketing to women continues to be a foundation...

Working Women: Key to Promoting Energy Efficiency

How women buy and how they work/lead is big news these days – no matter what brand, category, industry or organization.  When you think about how to start to change the culture around sustainable life and business practices, women also appear to be worth serious consideration.  This is particularly the case when you examine the “household manager” role and how women keep those responsibilities in mind all the time.

Let’s connect some dots: One of the reasons people begin to think seriously...

The Green Mom Eco-Cosm

The Social Studies Group and Learned On recently partnered to study the women who are really influencing “green mom” consumer behavior online.   As with so many other issues, women exploring more sustainable consumer practices each begin an engagement with “green” for their own unique reasons. Our research found that these women have a definite hunger for products and solutions to help their families live more sustainably, and they are enthusiastically pursuing “green products” that fit the lifestyles they want to achieve.

The...

A Diatribe: Engaging Conventional Business Thinkers with Sustainability

Sometimes the inevitable is just too hard to get to. Misguided assumptions, traditions and all sorts of randomness can get in the way of doing good business. In both the case of the women's market and now, the sustainable consumer market, plenty of decision-makers still hesitate to make the effort - even when it is clear that there is no turning back. Yet,having to serve those markets is... inevitable.

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My 2010 Prediction: Sustainability Communication Will Vastly Improve

 A few years ago, the trend predictions were that consumers and businesses would start to go “green.” How true it was! Today, “green” has morphed into “sustainability,” and that concept is by no means a short term trend, but a much longer termmovement.  Because of that, many brands (but still not enough) are now 1) starting to integrate sustainability into all their practices and processes, and/or 2) starting to mention their sustainable ways more in their marketing, communications and consumer education efforts.  So, as 2010 begins, I predict that communication about corporate...

VPR Commentary: Psychology of Climate Change Denial

What motivates the average person to engage with the tough societal issues?  That’s a question I’m deeply exploring in both my work and master’s studies these days.  An article by George Marshall in Yes Magazine...

Flaunting Socially Responsible Consuming

We are at an interesting crossroads in consumer culture.  Where luxury purchases used to be the ultimate sign of affluence or, at least, aspiring affluence, more consumers now may be driven to make conspicuously conscious purchases.  According to research co-authored by Aronte Bennett and mentioned in her MediaPost article, corporate social responsibility (CSR) seems to be becoming a strong motivator influencing consumers today – even in these bad economic times.  As...

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