A sustainability director for a mega retailer said that the Canadian approach to sustainability is a cautious: “Why, do we really want to rock the boat?” The American approach is: “Why not, let’s role?” Are Canadian and American green sensibilities really that different? I had a chance to explore this questions with green brand strategist and Vancouver BC resident, Marc Stoiber, yesterday during my weekly Twitterview.
Here’s what he had to offer.
Q1. What are 3 differences you see between the Canadian and American green consumer and their approach to sustainability?
Let’s start with defining characteristics of Canadian civil thinking vs US civil thinking. Canada …
- Canada – Peace, order and good government. USA – Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
- I believe we as Canadians are unjustifiably secure in our vast green / blue space.
- We tend to take credit for being green. We also tend to expect government to do a great deal for sustainability. And we’re shocked at how gov’t is dismantling green work
Second Canadian characteristic – History of greenpeace etc – a bit more about defining problem, not solutions.
Third Canadian characteristic – feel like bedroom community of US. Doesn’t matter what we do, US will lead.
Then Marc threw me a curve ball and asked, “What defines US green consumers?” My response:
In my opinion, the US consumer is defined by entitlement, ability to consume, and often trying to “look” green.
Q2. A 2011 Nielsen study said for Canadian consumers, the economy and personal finances trump green. Is that the same for US?
Economy and finances and hockey
Q3. Canada is viewed as being more progressive toward sustainability than US and other countries. Why, and is it true?
Great question. Anecdotal feedback from US visitors – Cdn’s are better educated on green. True? Or is it just window dressing?
Also received same feedback from Euro and Asian visitors. Perhaps there’s a role for Canadians as thought leaders?
Interesting east west issue – Toronto is green progressive, but in infrastructure – garbage, energy. Vancouver is more ‘outdoorsy’
West Coast perceived as green, but is it just the open space, ocean, forest and mountains? Are we too cocky?
Q4. Do you approach green messages to Canadians differently than you do to Americans, or are we all just in this together?
Good friend just moved from Van to Delhi to tackle huge sustainability problems. Disenchanted with Canadinan ‘micoproblem’ thinking
Microproblem – Big kerfuffle re: Vancouver bike lanes, keeping chickens (?!?) in yard. In India, waay bigger issues
Canadians are a bit like Europeans that way. Less persuasion, less hard sell in messaging than in US.
Then Marc asked, “Do US consumers see any relevance in Canada? Are we leaders, or kid brothers who tag along without asking?” and received this response from a peep, “I’d say the biggest impression I’ve had re: Canada’s sustainability movement is its “outdoorsy-ness” in Vancouver…”
Q5. Canada is resource-rich, and US is consumer-rich. How do these unique economic personalities color sustainability.
Oil is great example. Enbridge Northern pipeline to China potentially cutting off some US supply. Big US and Canada issue!
So do we sell oil to US, or to world? Sust lousy both ways. By same token, is money from our oil building sust in Canada? Nope!
Q6. Which corporations – Canadian or American – are more likely to lead significant sustainability & CSR initiatives?
US has ‘why not?’ attitude, much more comfortable with progress. Canada more ‘why?’ and not so comfortable with risk.
Canadian businesses, not so much. We’re a resource economy. Oil sands, mining, fishing and forest.
Interesting perspective – Venture Capital for green in Canada much smaller than US. Great ideas come from here, but go south
Comment from me: “Local company Global Water went to Toronto Stock exchange for their IPO. Canada more open to green investment.”
Q7. Is that to say US co’s are more brash about sustainability and Can co’s more shy?
Canadians are famously quiet about accomplishments.
That reminds me. BIG difference b/t Canada and US. In Canada, green isn’t as political. Not as ideological.
Q8. Which consumer is more cynical toward green messaging, CSR and sustainability initiatives: Canadians or Americans?
Our ‘conservative’ gov’t is much less ideological about dismantling green, much more dollars and cents (oil). US more ideological.
US consumer more ideological – hard to be republican now and be green. Canadians not as cynical.
Interesting anecdote – green mayor’s race. More similarities in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver than differences.
Q9. How can all North Americans work better together to create healthier communities and planet?
Speaking as a Canadian, feel we could be better at embracing change and thinking bigger.
My response: “Speaking as American, We need to remain committed to sustainability. Feels like lethargy is setting in as economy improves.”
Think ALL of us need to see a more clear line between sustainability and improved life. Still a big either / or.
Q10. What do you hope to take away from the Sustainable Brands Conference this year?
Sustainable Brands is the best confab of big brand brains I’ve ever seen. Great to see what these guys are DOING, not just saying
Why do you think? If you’re an American, how do you view the “Greenness” of Canada? If is you’re Canadian, how is American advancing on sustainability?