Deadlines are necessary, I know, but sometimes inconvenient. I concluded with a bunch of questions: “I’d like to know just how far from ‘greenwashing’ it really is, and assuming it’s on the up-and-up, how it’s set up. Are there levels, like LEED, where the better your actions the higher the certification? What was its impetus? How did it start? How big is it, what is the distribution of Partners, and how big would they like to become?” Wouldn’t you know it, almost the moment I put the article to bed my hoped-for source called me back! Roy Schumacher, of Green Shield, called and emailed and after much to-do he finally improvised a way for me to see the presentation every Green Shield Partner sees.
The first questions he took care of right off the bat. “…just how far from ‘greenwashing’ it really is, and assuming it’s on the up-and-up, how it’s set up? What was its impetus? How did it start?” Green Shield is hosted on Thermofluids’ website, but is an independent not-for-profit. Thermofluids had for years been bucking high levels of ignorance and apathy in the auto industry on green issues and eventually found other companies sympathetic to the cause. Green Shield was founded in September 2011 by five automotive service and product companies with similar environmental outlooks. Each contributes two members to its Board of Advisors. Schumacher says “We had it ready to go three years ago, but then the recession hit and people had more immediate financial concerns.”
“Are there levels, like LEED, where the better your actions the higher the certification?” No. While they have talked about a similar idea, their focus is fairly tight, dealing with recycling and best practices within the auto service industry. It’s possible as more companies covering a wider range of products and services joins Green Shield more recycling and reuse potential will develop but for now that’s it. LEED starts at current building practices and sets progressive levels of achievement in efficiency and other parameters to give higher and higher certifications. Green Shield has a more limited mandate, more all-or-nothing: do you recycle all your used oil? Yes or no. Do you use remanufactured antifreeze? Yes or no? So it’s a simple ‘if you do at least four of these six things you can be a partner’.
Green Shield certifies practices, but there’s more to it. It’s not enough to know about ‘green’, not enough to do something about it in your shop, it’s about taking it to the next level. ‘Next level’? Publicity. It seems anticlimactic, shallow even, but, in fact, it’s vital. A major point of the program is to assist shop owners in maximizing both their pro-environmental actions and the economic return they can see from them. Partners see an introductory video that talks in some detail about why one would be concerned with our environment and then what to do about it. It goes on to demonstrate how a Partner can tell his customers about what they do and how by doing it this way the customer is helping the world.
The Partners’ package includes a number of posters, pamphlets, and the like one would display in one’s shop and various scripts one can include in one’s daily business to educate customers. As Schumacher said “We’re trying to teach shop owners how they can teach the public about the good they do.” That’s a big deal, because a large and growing number of citizens care deeply about making the world our great-grandchildren will live in the best it can be, but it can be complex, and few are deeply familiar with all the ‘green’ details.
That’s where certification comes in. When properly set up a certification allows one to have confidence that a shop or building or company is using the best materials and practices in their field because a group of competent, independent people is telling you so. Think of it like state licensing of, say, doctors. Few are knowledgeable enough to tell at a glance whether a medical professional really is, or is just a quack, so the state takes on the responsibility of ensuring that anyone who calls herself a doctor truly has gone through a real medical school and has passed all their tests so the average citizen can be confident the MD they visit has at least a minimum proficiency.
To advance sustainability a certification can be a great tool. That plaque or sticker tells the customer she can be sure the shop is up to snuff. If the customer already cares about green stuff he can feel good about giving the shop his business, and can look for the sticker elsewhere as need be, causing those stores or shops to consider getting certified. If he doesn’t, maybe the sticker will cause him to ask about it and both educate him and cause him to feel good about the shop’s commitment to quality.
On a broader scale, as the shop uses the certification and Green Shield materials in advertising (the package includes a press release template and instructions on press interview dos and don’ts) they will grow their customer base as those who care but didn’t know they existed or didn’t know they used best green practices will come in for service and those who just don’t care much will feel additional social pressure to care and to do something about it. You can see how it is a positive feedback loop, where the more right one does and tells people about the more right will be demanded and done, to the betterment of all and the enrichment of those who did right earlier and longer.
“How big is it, what is the distribution of Partners, and how big would they like to become?” “At the launch of the organization, Green Shield Partners had 26 certified companies part of the team and aims to increase that number to 1,000 by the end of 2012.” Most Partners are in the Northwest and Southwest, but they intend to go nationwide. As the “Backgrounder” of the Partners’ site states “They hope that as consumer awareness and support heightens about recycling petroleum products, more automotive service companies will begin adopting additional recycling initiatives and become Green Shield Partners certified.”
Just a note- you’ll see few links in this piece, because much of what I saw and have quoted from is on a password-protected site for Green Shield Partners, so I don’t feel right releasing it all to the general public, and more particularly to non-partner shops.