Green or "green"?

By Stephanie Rico
June 28th, 2012
jim henscheid

Jim Henscheid

Environmental Forum readers, today I’m pleased to introduce you to Jim Henscheid from Wells Fargo. Jim reviews and approves our environmental marketing materials.

While reading the blog, you may have noticed that we’ve been using quotation marks around the words “green” and “greener.” Since this isn’t a common practice with other companies, we asked Jim if using the quotation marks were necessary. For his response to our question, I turn the blog over to him! (—SR)

Hello everybody! First off, let me say that I understand how cumbersome it can be to use quotes around “green” and “greener” in our communications (like here on the blog) and marketing documents. But after a thorough discussi

on—that leaned in both directions at times—with other people in our Legal department, we believe it’s best to continue using quotes to point out to our readers that Wells Fargo understands the terms can still have a vague meaning and that there is no clear understanding of their definition.

A good argument against the use of quotes is that “green” and “greener” have come into general, public use as they relate to descriptions of matters beneficial to the environment.

Even so, there’s been a push from those in the heart of environmental issues that green and greener (without quotes) are being over-used and have actually begun to be meaningless. In fact, there even appears to be somewhat of a backlash from environmental groups against people who over-use those terms without any clear consensus on the meaning.

For example, if a company enacts a program that reduces its water consumption by 5%, is it a “green” company? Can two companies be labeled as “green” when one reduces paper consumption by 3% and the other reduces paper consumption by 25%? Wells Fargo clearly supports environmental issues, so it would be a shame to use the terms without quotes and have people be critical of us for not understanding the controversy around there being no clear definition of “green” and “greener.”

Does "green" still have meaning?One suggestion going forward is for us to be clearer about WHY we’re “greener,” rather than just using the word, and to be as specific as possible about our environmental activities. So instead of simply saying our stores are getting “greener,” we can specify exactly WHAT the environmentally-friendly activities are—such as installing solar panels on rooftops, or reducing greenhouse gases, etc.

At the end of the day, I believe telling our readers more specifically what Wells Fargo is doing to benefit the environment may give us more credibility than just claiming to be “green.”

Do you agree? Is the use of “green” to describe positive environmental initiatives acceptable to you? Please tell us what you think!

Tags:   backlash   Environmental   green   greener   initiative   language   legal   
Stephanie Rico

Stephanie Rico

Stephanie focuses on helping Wells Fargo achieve its goal of accelerating a transition to a “greener” economy via finance and support of our customers who are looking to take advantage of the benefits of renewable energy and clean technology. Stephanie has a BA in Social Science, Interdisciplinary Studies from San Francisco State University and an MBA from DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business.

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Kenton Franklinon July 3, 2012 at 9:56 am:

Both “green” and “sustainable” are beginning to lose all intended meaning. Personally, I try to avoid them altogether and go straight to what is better and why. If someone decides that what I’ve described is “green” or “sustainable”, that’s fine.

Graham Sinclairon July 9, 2012 at 7:04 am:

I agree that the word “green” and “clean” has been enormously abused. Indeed, if we had licensed and trade-marked “green” or “hybrid” around the time of Earth Day, we could have raised billions of dollars for funding sustainability research.

@WellsFargo does well wherever they are frank and honest, from the words they use, to the language they communicate through, and the benchmarks they do/do not hit.

When working with investors, we are always clear that we only work with investment cases that, to the best of our [informed] knowledge, check out as authentic.


MODERATOR’S NOTE: Just so you know, we’ve removed a URL from Graham’s post in accordance with our Community Guidelines. Nothing else has been changed or altered in any way!

GonzoGreenon July 22, 2012 at 8:31 am:

Wells Fargo may pretend to support environmentalism. But in truth they invest their clients’ money in hydraulic fracturing and mountain-top removal mining. These two destructive practices undo any efforts they make to decrease waste.

Stephanie Ricoon July 30, 2012 at 3:53 pm:

@GonzoGreen – Thank you for sharing your view with us. We are also concerned about the environmental impacts of certain industries/sectors, and we have policies in place requiring elevated levels of diligence in sensitive sectors—please see our Environmental and Socially Responsible Lending Statement for more information. A “greener” economy is not going to happen overnight, but we are constantly working with our customers to accelerate a transition to one. Stephanie

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