GreenBiz Group Feature

Method, Deutsche Bank, Bloomberg Among Firms Betting on WindMade

by Adam Aston on Friday, January 6, 2012 in Features

Would knowing that more wind energy was used to manufacture a cell phone lure you to buy it instead of a similar model made with regular power?

The wind industry hopes so. It’s making a high visibility bet that most consumers will be swayed by a new WindMade label that will start appearing on products in the coming year.

The strategy has plenty of precedents. Remember the iconic “Intel Inside” branding campaign? In the course of a few years, by pasting a simple label on practically every PC, Intel transformed its brand image from just-another-chip-maker to that of an industry powerhouse.

The wind industry is hoping its new label — a circular blue swirl — will make visible wind’s growing, green impact on business and the economy. To that end, WindMade.org, a nonprofit debuted backed by WWF and the Global Wind Energy Council, last week unveiled its first class of companies that will use the mark.

At a press conference in New York, WindMade revealed that — led by the likes of Bloomberg, Deutsche Bank, LEGO and Motorola Mobility — more than a dozen companies had signed on to new logo. (Find the full list here.)

Companies can qualify to use the mark by documenting that they source at least 25 percent of their power from wind energy. The wind power can come either from company-owned turbines, a long-term power purchase agreement, or by buying high quality Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) approved by WindMade.

The label will show the precise percentage of the wind energy share in the product. And companies have the flexibility to certify global, regional or facility level operations, a distinction that will be also clearly displayed on the label.

Companies see the label’s potential to burnish their brand’s green reputations. The wind industry, meanwhile, is betting the allure of the mark will drive more companies to opt for wind, spurring demand for wind power, and leading to increased investment in new wind capacity.

“It is Motorola Mobility’s intent through our participation in the WindMade initiative to encourage greater use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar around the globe,” said Bill Olson, director office of sustainability and stewardship at Motorola Mobility in a statement.

WindMade has evidence that consumers will be drawn to the new symbol. In a survey of 31,000 consumers, two thirds “told us they would favor WindMade products, even at a premium,” said Morten Albæk in a statement. Albæk is senior vice president of global marketing at Vestas, the Danish wind turbine manufacturer spearheading the initiative.

Does the world really need another eco-label?

In the wilds of real-world retail environments, plenty can go awry with eco-labeling, however. There’s growing of confusion over the number of labels. According to Ecolabel Index, 426 labels circulate in 246 countries and 25 industries.

In the organic food space, for instance, a proliferation of standards and authenticating bodies — some independent, some industry backed, others from by government — has left many consumers confused and skeptical. In the UK, despite costly, complex efforts to track the CO2 footprint of select groceries, consumers proved only mildly interested, if at all, in the CO2 “nutrition label”.

The precedent suggests that consumers may simply tune out from abstract numbers. A sample of the WindMade label a hypothetical product could earn is below.

That said, wind energy looks less vulnerable to these sorts of confusion. It’s certainly easier to verify wind content than, say, how sustainably a given fish was caught. And wind energy is less abstract that CO2: windmills are widely recognized, and as an energy source have positive, broad public support.

There’s also plenty of precedent: a growing number of big companies have made renewable energy a public priority. Last year, for instance, Intel was the nation’s largest corporate buyer of renewables, with 1,493 gigawatt-hours of electricity, enough to meet about a third of its total worldwide needs — and equivalent to the annual demand of about 150,000 homes. Kohl’s food markets and Whole Foods stand out for meeting 100 percent of their electricity demand with renewable energy.

Intel’s leadership in renewables begs the question: Someday, will all those Intel Inside labels on computers carry another label showing the chips are WindMade, too?

Until then, check out WindMade’s complete first class of corporate pioneers and founders:
BD (Becton, Dickinson & Co.): medical technology
Better Place: electric vehicles
Bloomberg: financial news and data
Deutsche Bank: financial services
Droga5: advertising agency
Engraw: textiles
G24 Innovation: solar energy
LEGO Group: toys
Method: home and personal care products
Motorola Mobility: mobile device and set-top boxes
PwC DK: professional services
RenewAire: energy recovery ventilator
TTTech: communication and control platforms
Vestas Wind Systems: turbines
Widex: hearing aids

Wind turbine photo via Shutterstock.

Originally published on GreenBiz Group