Sustainability: Special report

Will non-green brands survive? Just a year ago, it would have seemed foolish to think the likes of Marks & Spencer, HSBC and Sky - household names and part of our everyday lives - would eventually fizzle out because they chose to avoid doing anything about the environment. Now it's a serious point of discussion and one the research body Esomar is debating at its London congress in September.

Of course, oil companies, faced with a limited amount of the black stuff to sell, have no choice but to seek greener alternatives and tell people about them. But retailers, banks and (who'd have thought it) media companies?

As James Murdoch, the BSkyB chief executive, says (page 29), whether or not your company pumps out billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide per year is missing the point. Sky's decision to go carbon-neutral, he says, was a commercial decision based on what he thinks his customers think is important. It is not, he insists, about Sky "putting on a hair shirt" and preaching to its staff and the eight million people in the UK with a Sky set-top box.

It isn't about sacrifice either, he says. It's about giving people positive choices, a "sense of purpose instead of burden". Green products and companies are more efficient, more clever and better designed. More brains, less resources. "You aspire to this stuff," Murdoch says.

And more people are starting to share his views. Julia Hailes, a consultant and author who wrote the Green Consumer Guide and a speaker at the Esomar congress, tells Campaign: "This year is a tipping point. Companies are starting to create a vision of a greener world and are designing products that can be part of it. Sustainability is not about the same brands with a 'green' label. It's a totally different approach."

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