The last things fans expected was for the Philadelphia Eagles to lead the eco-revolution on their not-so-green home turf. But that's the genius of Los Angeles-based The Sexton Company, the branding machine behind such environmental tours de force as Live 8, and more recently, the Eagles' eco-friendly reinvention.
The company is a study in irony: a little-known consulting business with a grass-roots mission that works with corporate giants to shape environmental policy. "We work with companies that have the opportunity to really move the needle in our culture," says co-founder Tim Sexton, 59. "If we can change the way people think by working with unexpected companies, that's what we want to target." The firm, which specializes in helping companies find the most marketable ways to advertise their socially conscious initiatives, spurred the Eagles to begin serving beer in corn-based cups and even plant a forest in the middle of Philly. Now, they're turning to their biggest project yet, morphing the second-largest utility company in the world, National Grid, into a green machine.
Lately, though, their future seems to hinge on whether they can keep the down economy from muddling their message. "Three years ago, when people asked us about the ROI for our services, it was hard to quantify beyond the intrinsic value your brand would garner from being a good citizen," says Sexton, who has seen sales double every year since 2006. "Now, as a result of our work, we're able to show customers that there is a real dollar value to add to that intrinsic value."
But co-founder Brendan Sexton, 63, is quick to point out the core of their business is about cultural change, not quick cash. "We don't preach an easy solution," he says. "We're very happy to help corporations reach a solution, but we're not into greenwashing."
Keep an eye on:
Aspen Skiing Co.: Aspen has put going green on its front burner and survived all the failed experiments and hiccups of going green so other ski resorts don't have to.
CSRware: CSRware's web-based Green IT software collates data from various departments to track a business's energy expenditures and carbon footprint.
Educate: Born with a mission to teach and empower the next generation of socially responsible leaders in Africa, Educate tracks ROI by keeping tabs on and mentoring students after they complete a two-year leadership program.
Inspiration Corporation: It started when a former cop began delivering sandwiches in her nephew's Radio Flyer. Now, the company feeds, houses and trains 2,500 Chicagoans a year.
One Laptop Per Child: The mission statement says it all: "To create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop." So far, 750,000 of the $200 XO laptops have been delivered around the world.
Pedal To Properties: This real-estate company leads house-hunting bike tours, letting clients visit open houses, get a feel for their potential commute and get a carbon-free workout at the same time.
Viesso: This California company makes custom "green" couches (and other furnishings) using recycled or natural fibers and incurring little to no waste.
Terra Plana: Terra Plana mixes high-tech manufacturing with artisan detailing to create several lines of shoes made from recycled materials.
TransFair USA: The only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S., TransFair audits transactions between businesses and farmers to make sure the seal stamped on 74.2 million pounds of coffee stays meaningful.