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Easier Eco Standards Matter

Easier Eco Standards Matter

Here's why: This is the story behind how pivoted in the campaign to make it easy to support higher eco standards.

As we nudge toward the launch of our single eco standards here at, we have come to realise that one of our responsibilities is to get the consumption discussion on the table. 

We aren't scientists and neither are lawyers. The thing is that we don't have to be, because when it comes to the actual goodness of pretty much any product, there is plenty of science to tell you if it's any good and plenty of law to give us all the facts. In fact, we are in a veritable fact bonanza and that is precisely how the science gets skewed and the law leveraged in the delivery of selective facts to achieve manipulated truth. And the funny thing is that we all know it. 

Compelling consumer consumption is embedded in the heart, soul and mind of our economy, therefore in business and therefore in us. And that is how our consumption behaviour and personal truths have come to be so driven by marketing levers. is working to unlearn us by packaging what already exists in the science, the law and the marketing; into an algorithm that makes buying decisions simple. Easy for every day consumers to understand.

As in no bullshit, easy.

Our strategy is fundamentally about making it easy for eco businesses to promote their eco heart and for consumers to know what's good, quickly and easily. 

I have personally thought a lot about whether to share our journey and have resisted for a long time. Now, as thousands of businesses join us, our community is strengthening, and climate change is starting to resonate more and more with every day people, we have a responsibility to share what we have learned - and keep getting feedback. I think the journey can provide a little clarity and help make sense of some of the questions you may be asking, either as a business or as a consumer (or both).

This is the first part of our story. About how we got to the logic of our business model through one big pivot.

We started working on over 7 years ago. It  used to be called Across the Fence. Now, is a platform, designed to pragmatically influence the behaviours of everyday Jo and Joes on any first world street by introducing him or her to better planetary consumption habits. Things like how to do, be and buy eco products, find farmers markets, give loyalty to local business, readily recycle anything – including animals, hair, food, batteries and humans too; as well as eco tips, tricks & hacks.

As continues to gain steady momentum, our capacity to achieve our driving ambition to promote all things eco and refine the eco sales pitch is getting stronger.

For context to the story, I need to share a couple of things. Before, I was a serial business woman, CEO and total Jo. I used to think that all this do good, whale kissing, planet saving rubbish was for people who never quite passed that hippy stage in their late teens. (I say this as someone who was a hippy and who then went on to spend 2 years working on a prawn trawler.)

Like so many people, I started to change my world view when I had my son and became a mother. Then there was the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 and slowly but surely, events piled up over a few years. One of the final straws was at a business event I was running, when a random woman I didn't know, came up to me, pointed at my chest and said, “The problem with people like you, is that you have so much influence, but you don't use it to create anything. All you do is increase the velocity of wealth and make it harder and harder for working people to afford anything.”

Well, as you can imagine, I was completely stunned. At the time, all I could think of was what the hell she was even doing at a finance function if she felt like that.

In the months that followed, her words ate away at me and I eventually came to realise she was right.  And she really got me thinking about both what I buy as a consumer and sell as a business person. Not long after that, I sold out. I am still a business woman, and more a leader than a manager. Having grown up in sales and sales marketing, my leadership speciality is making sense of ambiguity.

I am competitive, assumptive and I am way better at improving something than I am at starting something new (yet here we are). I am also an aggregator of what is available, and I hate waste of any kind. Time. Research. Lives. Food. Money. Air. Water. Resources. And I really don't like being lied to.

Hopefully this little history explains why I set about making

When we started, we figured that our everyday Joe would surely become a more responsible person if he just understood his impact on the planet and what better options were around. As began to gain traction, we started to realise that a lot of everyday Joes simply didn’t seem to care to change so much as we thought they would.

Going eco was and still is among the hottest trends on the planet, and despite that trend, most Joes seem to be trashing the planet faster than ever, buying and stashing more and more of whatever dream is being sold by Central Marketing. They just added eco stuff to the stuff pile.


We tracked buying habits, attitudes, trends, media & rummaged through every piece of eco consumer research we could find. and we discovered a few pieces of puzzle, which, when pieced together, began to make a heap of sense. (Including one piece of indirect evidence every eco business on the planet should pay attention to. Most of the best research available into eco purchasing behaviour is from companies like Unilever. A heap of the supply chain realignment work has been undertaken by companies like Unilever and Walmart.)


To realistically influence the planetary diet of 1st world consumers, there are 3 undeniable things we have to be ok about.

  1. Consumerism is a hapless addiction
  2. Guilt is inevitable  
  3. Eco Leadership has to be useful in the context of Joe himself.

The Hapless Consumerism Addiction.

The Consumerism addiction is fed by sophisticated, precisely targeted, relentless marketing, generally underpinned by experts, who know a crap load more about what they are doing than any one of us stirring a pot of deodorant on the stove or stitching together a coffee bag chair cover. And their expertise is marketing addiction to instant; to the latest; the greatest; to more; addiction to disposability. 

Imagine being a reforming alcoholic and every day on your way to Alcoholics Anonymous, there is someone on each corner you pass, offering you alcohol. Not just offering, but plying you with the stuff. That is actually the reality for everyday Joe trying to be more eco, under siege from relentless counter marketing.


Guilt is Inevitable.

It took the longest time to understand why eco guilt is so pervasive. The thing is that there isn’t just one addiction. There are hundreds of addictions. And as you fix one, there’s always another. And the more you fix, the more you know, the guiltier you get.(And all the while, just to pile on the trouble, central marketing is rolling in new must haves like the surf on a summer's day.)

Which leads to decision guilt. A great example of decision guilt is anything reusable. Say you decide to stop taking any kind of plastic bag. The first question is what to replace them with. So, you go online looking for a reusable bag and find yourself paralysed at the keyboard because suddenly the alternatives look as bad as the thing you are giving up.

  • Cotton bags uses a crap load of water, including the organic ones
  • Bamboo fabric uses a crap load of chemicals
  • Synthetic bags don't break down
  • Recycled bags made of ex plastic bottles use a crap load of chemicals and still don't break down

There is literally not a bag that is 'all good'. They are all bad-ish and that is where guilt sets in and many people give up. It's counter intuitive to simply go for the least worst option because for many people a sin is a sin, big or small.

Leadership by those who can.

Not by those who we think should. To be clear, the leaders we need aren’t our political leaders as they are busy doing other things: Like boxing on for who's got the captain's hat this week or looking further afield, negotiating world peace. Which, even if it is achieved by some reality TV show host and a dictator in a meeting facilitated by basketball player, we all still need somewhere to live.

If you are a leader, you would know that often, it’s about finding ways to make complex issues simple rather than simply lecturing about issues. In this case, we really need to make sense in ambiguity.  And to do that, we need new leaders, influencers & connectors to join the legions of scientists, crusaders & inventors to divert more focus to Joe’s responsibilities and away from consumerism.

We need leadership that collaborates. This is not about being bigger or better or dominating. It’s only about one thing. Our shared survival. 

And from here it gets really interesting. Who do you believe? Who do you back with your wallet? Who is legitimate and how do you know?  Let's have a look at the agendas of big FMCG manufacturers with a serious green agenda next. 

Image: Pupile Gustative, via Unsplash
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Gauri Marni
Wicked Scrub

Jen thanks for sharing this story. You are doing amazing work and like you, I too have been a recent convert after being a thoughtless consumer for many many years! I think the turning point for me was when 8 or 9 years ago I pitched to do a "advert" for Olay. What a scam! So happy to have found you since your Across the Fence days. Friday, 14 September 2018

Simone N

You Jennifer are a true leader and I love your work. Thursday, 6 September 2018