When it Comes to Sustainability, Are Companies Really Listening?

Fortune Green executives at Ritz Carlton California

Sustainability thought leaders gather in a courtyard at the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel, Calif. The real question: Are they talking about you? Photo: Jennifer Berry, Earth911

LAGUNA NIGUEL, CALIF. – At the Fortune Brainstorm: GREEN, sustainability executives from a myriad of companies gathered to discuss transparency in the digital age.

With all the noise that social media and readily available consumer feedback platforms create, it’s hard to think that individual opinions are being heard over the clamor. But, in the case of some, customer feedback is not only vital, but shaping internal decision-making.

Starbucks‘ system of aggregating customer feedback is considered so important, the company won’t even disclose how many people are on the monitoring team, citing competitive advantage. AT&T has a team of 38 members who monitors its Facebook page alone – and will typically respond  to complaints or questions within 15 minutes. Best Buy has a network called “Twelp Force” consisting of thousands of employees to be “first responders” to customer feedback and issues. Dell cites its sustainable packaging initiatives as direct result of consumer desire.

Read: Dell to Use Mushroom Packaging

Sunny Nastase, vice president of customer solutions for UPS, highlights an example of where one customer suggestion led to the creation of one of UPS’ latest developments in their sustainable action plan.

“Individual consumers understood from reading our CSR that we knew about our carbon footprint,” Nastase tells Earth911. “So consumers were asking ‘can you can tell me how much of this carbon has to do with my package, and if you can, can I offset it?'”

This question gave birth to the company’s carbon-neutral shipping program, which allows for affordable offsets for any package (sometimes as low as 5 cents per package). According to Nastase, 1.3 million shipments have gone carbon neutral, representing more than 80,000 customers “and it would have never occurred to us to present that as an offering had we not been asked by consumers.”

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