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What if it were cool to care about climate change? What if we branded climate change in a way that inspires hope and empowerment? #codeblue



The time has come to shine a new kind of light on climate change; a light that turns our love of products and gadgets into a teachable moment; a light that makes people want to amplify to their consumption choices to friends, family and the world around them; and, finally, a light that drives companies to out-innovate each other with products that turn traditional into transformational, and that inspires a race toward a low-carbon economy.     

What would it take for climate change to be cool?  Better yet, what would it take for people to want to engage on climate change and mobilize into action? 

Introducing…  CODE: BLUE

Most of what passes for climate change activism today focuses on the negative elements of the issue and pits the individual against “the system.” If we are ever to make true progress, we need to build a sense of shared community and positive messaging that focuses on the solutions side of the equation.

In the past 20 years we have seen how personal connections to cancer have spurred globally-recognized non-profit/corporate collaborations like the Pink Ribbon and LiveStrong. 

We need to connect with people on a level they understand. We need to connect with people through buying behavior.

What is CODE: BLUE?

CODE: BLUE makes it easy to recognize:

o   the companies that are taking a leadership role on climate change

o   products and services that are transformative in accelerating the pace toward a low-carbon economy

CODE: BLUE is an effort to drive the climate discussion mainstream by rewarding positive behavior of companies and individuals 

CODE: BLUE is more than a label, it’s a badge of solidarity that brings the world together as one people in a positive and inspiring way

CODE: BLUE  is an opportunity for innovative consumer brands to increase brand loyalty and market share for ‘low-carbon’ alternative products and services

CODE: BLUE  is a way to educate consumers at the point of purchase


Category of the action

Changing public perceptions on climate change

What actions do you propose?

How it works for corporations: Only companies that have demonstrated an adequate commitment to addressing their climate footprint can be eligible to participate in CODE: BLUE.   Eligibility criteria:  80 points or better on the Climate Counts scorecard or Performance Band A on the CDP Climate Performance Leadership Index (CPLI)

How it works at the product level:   Each CODE: BLUE product embodies at least one significant attribute addresses at least one significant attribute related to climate (energy, water, waste, etc.) in how the product is made, how it is used, and how it is disposed of, recycled or reused.  Each product is somehow transformational when positioned against a traditional version of the same product (for example, Levi’s WasteLess jeans, or FedEx carbon neutral shipping).  To be eligible to brand a product CODE: BLUE the company must first qualify by attaining 80 points or better on the Climate Counts scorecard or Performance Band A on the CDP Climate Performance Leadership Index (CPLI)

How it works for individuals: 

CODE: BLUE  is meant to be a lifestyle commitment that leverages the need for people (millenials specifically) to be part of a community.  This effort positions climate change in a new light; one that elevates the status of climate change beyond a conservative vs. liberal issue by turning it into a fixture of pop culture. 

It is easy to feel overwhelmed in our fast-pace global society.  CODE: BLUE gives you the chance to feel empowered to change the world through everyday actions.

CODE: BLUE enables you to stand and be counted as someone who believes climate change needs to be addressed, and is willing to alter their behavior as evidence of their values. 

People who support CODE: BLUE instantly become part of a community that is willing to reward companies leading the transition to a low-carbon economy through their operations, their suppliers and through innovative product design.

Here are just a few ways CODE: BLUE can empower the individual:   

Ø  Seeking out the CODE: BLUE label.  Each CODE: BLUE-branded product addresses at least one significant attribute related to climate (energy, water, waste, etc.) in how it is produced, how it is used and how it is discarded or re-used at the end of its useful life.  Each product is also vetted to ensure it is comparative to traditional products in price and quality. 

Ø  Visiting our ‘performance’ website to see why the company you’ve just purchased from is certified as CODE: BLUE.  Only companies that have achieved 80 points (out of 100) on the Climate Counts company scorecard can be eligible to sell  CODE: BLUE-branded products

Ø  Giving through Getting!  10% of all purchases of CODE: BLUE products will go directly to:

  •   climate change education in schools
  •   victims of climate-related disasters


Ø  Tell the world that you’re a “Change Agent”  by visibly wearing, using, displaying CODE: BLUE  products and by sharing your with your commitment to code blue across your social network

Ø  Pledging to vote for/engage with policymakers who are pushing for carbon policy

Ø  Committing to one extra step that will lower your personal carbon footprint

o   Committing to washing all your CODE: BLUE gear in cold water

o   Pledging to bike to work for a week or take public transit instead of driving


Specific components of CODE: BLUE:

Ø  CDP and a group of independent 3rd party partners determine exactly what is acceptable as a ‘significant attribute’ and ultimately gets first right of refusal for determining whether the product can be licensed as CODE: BLUE

Ø  To qualify as a CODE: BLUE product it must be comparative in quality, price, fashion/taste and performance.

Ø  Each CODE: BLUE product will have multiple digital components attached to it.  Examples include:

o   QR codes/labels to educate and inform someone exactly why the product has been certified as CODE: BLUE  and how it

o   Digital sharing options will be a primary component: with people shown wearing/using/consuming CODE: BLUE  to demonstrate that they’re aligned with the principles of a low-carbon economy

o   Point-of-purchasing data harvesting to understand which type of people are buying CODE: BLUE products and how they may be willing to expand on their purchase behavior by taking additional actions (writing policymakers, commuting via public transportation, signing on to petitions, using GoodGuide in their daily shopping routine)

Ø  “Nutrition labels” that explain exactly what materials were used to make the product, the level of embedded carbon in the product and the amount of waste produced in making the product.

Ø  Product resilience is a key – products that in any way demonstrate properties of ‘built-in obsolescence’ will not be considered for CODE: BLUE

Ø  All profits from CODE: BLUE sales will be donated to victims of climate-related disasters OR to organizations who focus on climate education

Ø  CODE: BLUE products will be available for purchase through retail partners (online and in-store) which have a proven track record of being dedicated to sustainability and addressing climate change.   Other outlets include kiosks at events/concerts/races etc. that are aligned with the climate movement. 

What’s the “ASK”?   

Of companies:

o   Engage with us to set the bar on what qualifies as a CODE: BLUE licensed, branded, certified product

o   Commit to developing CODE: BLUE products that articulate that we are all accountable to addressing climate change as companies, employees, consumers, educators, policymakers, and above all else, members of a global society

o   Work with us to amplify and scale the message  

Of the citizen:

o   Seek out CODE: BLUE as an alternative to products you would normally shop for

o   Read the label to understand what makes the CODE: BLUE product you’ve purchased unique

o   Amplify your decision, buy sharing your purchasing decision across your social network

o   Commit to additional actions that drive the movement toward a low-carbon economy

Who will take these actions?

CODE: BLUE is at once a top-down marketing approach driven by companies, celebrities and pop-culture icons, while also being pushed from the bottom-up as a grassroots effort to spur demand for greater corporate transparency and accountability with respect to GHG emissions.  

This is an opportunity for people with very little understanding of the science of climate change to learn more through purchases of Code: Blue products (What is embedded carbon?  What is the greenhouse effect? Why does the majority of the carbon footprint associated the shampoo I just bought come from when I heat the water for the shower?)

Meanwhile, Code: Blue gives companies with a long-standing track record of being outspoken advocates of climate change (Unilever, Stonyfield, Levi's) a platform for spreading the message at the brand level as part of a shared community.  

Some may feel that this approach may lend itself to 'gaming' or to companies making insincere claims.  The trick is to make it so the certification process is extremely transparent insofar as which companies and products are eligible for Code: Blue. Moreover, it is important to consider the baseline year of Code: Blue as a starting point for gaining popular support for climate action, the real meat in terms of carbon reduction will come once people make the connection more readily between consumption and carbon footprint.  The thought is that demand for 'low-carbon' products will be driven by consumer appeal.

Where will these actions be taken?

Because Code: Blue hinges on co-branding, the companies that want to be involved will have a say in where the effort is initially launched. Market research, however, indicates that developing countries are most concerned about how their purchasing behavior affects the environment, with Latin America being most concerned of how climate change will impact their livelihoods.  

With this in mind, it makes sense to consider test marketing Code: Blue in 5 initial markets around the world to: 1) obtain feedback and 2) identify markets that are most receptive to the concept.  In general, to ensure scale the 5 test markets will be urban in nature and will have a strong representation of millenials/young adults. 

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

Should the initiative be successful, there are numerous areas where emissions will ultimately be reduced across multiple sectors. CODE: Blue would indirectly lead to absolute emissions reductions of 10% by 2025 compared to a 2010 baseline. 

Examples of how:

1) CODE: Blue pop culture -- the real emissions reductions come when it clicks for individuals that we all need to support carbon policy, clean energy and we need to hold companies responsible for their environmental footprint by voting with our dollars.  

2) CODE: Blue companies -- the companies committed to the effort will be held to a continuously higher standard with regard to emissions standards and performance.   This will drive low-carbon innovation across operations, supply chain and at the product level. 

3)  products -- perhaps the least impactful in the sense of carbon reductions, these products will embody at least one significant 'low-carbon' attribute that makes it more appealing than other products on the market. 


What are other key benefits?

Expanding the CODE: BLUE universe:

CODE: BLUE – on Campus, getting students involved as champions of the movement

CODE: BLUE – Kiosks – giving retailers an opportunity to display all CODE: BLUE products in a centralized locations

CODE: BLUE – Low-Carbon Concert Series to Bring Awareness to Climate Change

Can small companies be involved in CODE: BLUEYou bet!  Our primary focus is to get the world’s largest companies speaking together to amplify the message that we need to address climate change as a global society.  That said, any company that embodies the CODE: BLUE spirit will be welcomed into the community with open arms.

Do I need to buy stuff to be a member of the CODE: BLUE community?  Absolutely not, your voice can be heard in a number of ways through the CODE: BLUE platform depending on what’s right for you.   You can be part of the community without spending any money at all.   Sign up using your email address or Facebook account and VOILA, you’re part of the community.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The only true potential negative implications to the economy would come from 'consumption avoidance.'    If we are truly successful in mobilizing people to be conscious consumers, it means that one day instead of consuming low-carbon alternative products, they will avoid needless consumption altogether.   The hope is that by that point we are no longer measuring the economic health of a country by GDP, but rather through the ability of a nation to sustain itself, its people and its natural environment.

Actual costs to support the initial development of Code: Blue we've calculated to be ~ $1 mm  for the following: 

Funding requirements:

Ø  Staff time to develop relationships with potential brand partners that would comprise our CODE: BLUE  charter members

Ø  Resources to develop a comprehensive digital experience for consumers of CODE: BLUE products, including social sharing applications, educational

Ø  Resources to develop a comprehensive turn-key marketing plan for CODE: BLUE brand partners

Ø  Resources to develop a rollout strategy for initial launch of CODE: BLUE

Ø  Resources to contract legal help to assist with crafting licensing agreements 


Time line

Our goal for CODE: Blue in the short term is to essentially make the brand as recognizable as the pink ribbon of cancer, to the point then when someone mentions climate change, it conjures images of the CODE: Blue sash. 

If we are successful in bringing ten or twenty of the world's largest consumer goods companies together on this, the hope is that within 15 years we've effectively created a race to the bottom in the best possible way -- companies internalizing carbon and out-innovating each other to get as close to zero carbon as possible in how input materials are sourced, how the product is made and packaged and how the product is used/disposed of by the end user. 



Related proposals


Step 1:  Assess climate change attitudes and beliefs on an international level

·         Pew Research – Climate Change Global Threats Report (2013)

·         UK Public Attitudes on Climate Change (2013)

·         Gallup Poll: Climate Change 2nd to Last in List of National Concerns - U.S.  (2014)

·         World Bank Report – Public Attitudes on Climate Change (2010)

·         Awareness/Attitudes on Climate Change – Global (2009)

·         Infographic – public attitudes on climate China, US, Sweden

·         Yale Project on Climate Communication -  American Attitudes on Climate (2013)

Step 2:  Identify elements of successful movements, campaigns, platforms, etc.

·         Fostering Sustainable Behavior - Community-Based Social Marketing

·         Making Change – How Social Movements Work (2009)

·         (PDF) Social Movements – A Handbook of What Works

·         Greenpeace Campaign Strategies

·         The Guardian - Top 10 climate campaigns

·         Cause Marketing - Most influential campaigns

Step 3:  Research behavioral aspects of consumerism and investing

o   State of the YAYA – Engaging millenials

o   Nat Geo Global Consumer Green Index

o   NMI – Global Review of Green Consumers (2010)

o   General Consumer Trends - Trendwatching 2014

o   McKinsey – Trends that will shape the next decade in consumer packaged goods (CPG)

o   (PDF) Nielsen – Who is the Globally Most Socially Responsible Consumer

§  website here

o   Accountability – What Assures Consumers on Climate Change (2007)

How do we attract more citizens to adopt this type of behavior?

o   How to Turn Consumers Green - Decision points not data (Dan Ariely)

o   Regeneration Roadmap- Re:thinking Consumption (Apirationals) 

o   Talking Climate

§  Values and Frames

§  How to Go Beyond Social Marketing

o   Mainstream Green – The Green Gap Ogilvy Mather

o   Interventions to Break and Create Consumer Habits


Step 4:  Analyze current climate advocacy landscape

§  Pitch: Give Insight to Consumers

o   Company CSR Dashboards – geared toward socially responsible investors


§  Aditus

§  Thomas Reuters – ASSET4

o   Sierra Club- Beyond Coal, Beyond Oil, etc.

§  Action = letters to EPA

o – Fossil Free (a subbrand with no direct link to

o   Greenpeace International          

§  Victories Timeline—very specific

§  Climate – Oil, Arctic, Cool IT Leaderboard

·         Action – Email Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, Steve Ballmer

§  Rainforests

·         Action – Email His Excellency of Forest and Wildlife

o   Climate Reality project

§  24 Hours of Reality

§  What I Love

§  People vs Carbon

o   Coca-Cola WWF – Arctic Home

§  Action – Donate 

o   BICEP Climate Declaration

o   Protect our Winters

§  Get Political

§  Talk to Businesses (GoodGuide)

§  We want to be the thing that people point to…

o   Friends of the Earth – Ireland

§  Address policymakers

§  Count and Cut – Carbon

o   Climate Coalition – UK

§  Push for European Climate Action – Open Letter

§  For the Love of…